Often, everybody knows everybody else in rural communities. It's closer to three degrees of separation in northeast Victoria, six and you'd cover most of the State. Not good when you mess up, but it makes it easy if you're looking to host a lunch for local graduates of the Australian Rural Leadership Program.
With only a few weeks notice, eleven of us met in Oxley on the outskirts of Wangaratta on Sunday 7 February. Ailsa Fox, a graduate of ARLP Course 4, traveled furthest covering 122km to join us. In Victoria, that's a long way.
THE COLLECTIVE WISDOM OF THE ROOM COULD HAVE BEEN INTIMIDATING, BUT IT WASN'T. EGO'S WERE LACKING. THE ADVICE BANDIED ROUND WAS GENUINE AND THE NETWORKING SUBTLE
A lack of formalities kept it casual as conversations happened in overlapping waves. We'd have looked like long-lost friends to other diners and we were-of sorts-with many of us already knowing one another or having heard of each other. One of us sat across from someone whose ARLP interview panel they'd been on many moons ago, another two sat near former employees they'd encouraged to do the program.
It would seem the abundance of respect and enthusiasm for the Australian Rural Leadership Program doesn't wane. From Sarah Crooke of Course 1 to Ashley Fraser from Course 21 and all between, eyes lit up with the mention of the Kimberley. Years on, there's still caving stories to tell and camping experiences aplenty. A few eyes rolled as we recalled the joys of writing a risk management plan. Some relayed the robust discussion they'd had drafting a vision statement. There was a hint of angst with the mention of group projects.
Course 14's Alana Johnson beamed reminiscing with Course 8's Brian Thompson and sharing stories with Chris Mirams. Paul Trevethan and Peter Ryan had much to share with Susan Benedyka. Peter Farrell smiled, chatting for three hours.
The collective wisdom of the room could have been intimidating, but it wasn't. Ego's were lacking. The advice bandied round was genuine and the networking subtle.
The Foundation's network is its greatest asset. Lunch was a simple way of connecting and reconnecting alumni in our part of the world. For those unable to attend, we hope to get together again later this year, perhaps in Rutherglen.
This piece was published here.
Tammy Atkins lives in Milawa, near Wangaratta and is undertaking ARLP Course 22.