Sydney Leadership 2016

Congratulations to our Sydney Leadership 2016 cohort!


Congratulations to our Sydney Leadership 2016 cohort who celebrated their graduation on Thursday 20 October!

We thought all SLA Alumni and colleagues will be inspired by the  speech delivered so eloquently by Heather Chaffey (Coordinator Neighbourhood Renewal Program, Penrith City Council). Congratulations to the contributors; Shanelle Newton Chapman, Greg Johnson, Martina Lyons, Eugene McGarrell, Jarrod Wheatley, Jon Bisset, Craig Hughes-Cashmore and Heather Chaffey - for this insightful and moving speech. This is testament to the rich learning gained through Sydney Leadership and the wisdom of those who participate. 


Sydney Leadership 2016 ‘The Way Forward’

"Welcome and thank you for sharing this occasion with the Sydney Leadership Alumni 2016!

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Gadagal People of the Eora Nation. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and future.

I acknowledge those Aboriginal people here with us tonight. And I wish to note that the sovereignty of Aboriginal people over this Great Land was never ceded. This land was stolen.

I have been given the honour of being the voice of the 27 people who started this journey together in February. We have travelled a challenging road together. For those of you here supporting us tonight, you may not be aware that this journey has required of us, that we develop our capacity for social leadership by wrestling with the wicked problem of racism.

We saw racism in ourselves. We examined racism in systems of policy and politics. We delved into historic abuses, and sat uncomfortably with current horrors.

But, the Australia I grew up in, was one of lofty ideals. Of a fair go.

Yet, while we grow and prosper as a nation, more and more Australians struggle with poverty, with criminalisation, with homelessness and with insufficient control over their affairs.

While we grow and prosper as a nation, the rich and rare beauty, of the Great Barrier Reef is decimated.

At least one woman is murdered every week in Australia by a male partner or family member.

And, Aboriginal children and adults are grossly over represented in our child protection and prison systems.

These are Australian ground truths. Our nation is failing to hold true to its ideals.

So, what can 27 white women and men learn about social leadership by reckoning with racism?

Well… Sydney Leadership is an extraordinary adventure. How privileged we have been to come together in this way and be challenged to grow so rapidly.

We started by grappling with our privilege and rank in Wisemans Ferry, a place symbolic of colonial settlement and the displacement of the Darug People.

As a group we heard from and were challenged by a broad range of voices. Aunty Jenny Munro – a Wiradjuri Elder, Tim Soutpomasane – Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, and Olga Horak – a holocaust survivor, to name but a few.

Through the stories of these guests we learned what it is to compromise. We heard about the power of vulnerability, the power of acknowledging loss, and the power of disappointing the system.

We learned to balance the risks in order to avoid being taken out as we push for change.

Our insights evolved from the diversity of the group. The heat rose as discussions about contribution and personality type and gender revealed factions.

We have read and examined theories of change, immunity to change, of communication, of listening, of questioning, of interpreting and diagnosing.
We have mapped our strengths and super powers.
Many of us have grappled with the demons of self-doubt.

And, we have shared great joy and many moments of laughter. Like when Anna took on the role of activist (and REALLY took that on), or when a group of middle aged tighty whities performed a rap song, and the moment when I accidently knocked poor Rosamund face first into a giant bowl of salad.

These moments have supported us to connect. One of the greatest gifts we take with us now are the relationships we have built here together. We can draw on these as we tackled the adaptive challenges ahead of us.

We know that good leaders inspire others and we were humbled by the grace and skill of our leaders in this intense journey.

Their purpose was clear; to push us to our learning edge without letting us plummet into chaos. We were protected by the neutrality and calm presence of Rosamund, Lisa, Sophi, Saul and Julie. What an exceptional example you have provided to us.

I could wrap this speech up with more golden arrows of appreciation, but instead I will put forward some powerful questions.

To SL16 I ask, what role do you need to take up in your system and do you have the courage to do that work?

And as a group of white people, who have dedicated time to better understanding racism, I ask;
What role will you play in a future where racism is destroyed?

As a nation, our strength is our hope. The hope and promise of an Australia which celebrates and protects the ancient culture of our first people.

The bright future of an Australia where there is no gap between the health and literacy of my children or your children and the health and literacy of Aboriginal children.

A strong Australia, which invests heavily in the wellbeing of its most vulnerable citizens, rather than investing in prisons.

A bold future, where we move beyond stopping boats, and bring more compassion to our global responsibilities as we settle refugees in Australia.

This next chapter in Australia’s story must be led not only with hope and compassion, but with honesty and courage, as we own the loss of the past and distribute the losses which will come with change.

As individuals, we have come to the end of this shared learning journey. Some of us will have felt big shifts in ourselves, others will have taken bits and pieces and will be struggling to articulate what, if anything, has shifted.

We are individuals. This has certainly been demonstrated by the process of 8 people trying to co-author this speech.

Sydney Leadership has supported us to develop and practice new skills, its given us new tools to experiment with.

But it’s not the tools which make change. It’s you and me, picking up the work. Struggling to be effective. Climbing up onto the balcony and taking up leadership.

It’s risky. We will face failure head on. There will be a million prototypes before any one of us creates a break through model. There will be shame spirals. Moments of weakness and regret. We will feel foolish and fragile. 

Brene Brown, an American social worker, has been made famous by her work around shame and vulnerability.

Her book ‘The Daring Way’ was in part inspired by a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. This quote exemplifies what our cohort takes away from Sydney Leadership. (I’ve gender neutralised the quote so bear with me).

He says;
“It’s not the critic who counts; not the person who points out how the strong one stumbles, or how the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends themselves in a worthy cause; who at best knows the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if they fail, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So, let’s get out there SL16! And strive valiantly.

Let’s just keep getting up whenever we are knocked down. Our privilege urges us to action.

To be brave enough to fail in order to know high achievement.

I have every faith that each of us will be part of something real.

I am so very proud and humbled to have taken this road with the likes of you lot.

Thank you."



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