A new vision in North West

Eight volunteers representing each of the four districts in North West Region attended a Regional Leadership Summit and Vision of the Region Dinner hosted by LEAD Loddon Murray in Bendigo on Friday 31 May.


Facilitated by the talented and amusing Jason Clarke from 'Minds at Work', the day's presentations covered three themes: change, influence and advocacy. The summit was inspiring and thought provoking, and all attendees left with lots of new ideas and new networks, as well as having has had their thinking challenged at times.

Merbein volunteer Chris Goudie said, "It was great to mix with not only fellow CFA members from other brigades and locations, but also professionals in other community-focused organisations. It was great to learn that many other brigades and organisations face similar challenges."

Jason Clarke set the scene with an enlightening session titled 'The Art of Change', using a powerful analogy to describe resistance to change and how it can sometimes take time, but you can’t force it. The example used was the renovation of the elephant enclosure at Melbourne Zoo. The designers and zoo keepers created what (they thought) would be a magnificent space that the elephants would love. However, they didn’t anticipate that when they opened the door between the elephant’s old enclosure and the new one, that the elephant would be so resistant to the change. 

The elephant had grown up in the 'old' environment and wasn’t convinced that the new one would be better. It took some convincing by the zoo keepers, who let the elephant, at its own pace, become comfortable with the change. They did this slowly and incrementally, until eventually the elephant took the step and then realised it was a great new change, after all!

Another powerful message was that "It is OK to fail, but try to fail as quickly as possible, so you can get on and learn from those mistakes."

The next presentation on the theme of 'Change' was by Jo Rasmussen from Murray Primary Health Network, who presented the brilliant Stop Mental Illness Stigma Charter. Jo was the driver of this idea and shared what she has learned:

  • A small idea can have a great impact
  • Don’t be scared to give it a go
  • Hold on to your ideas - you never know when the 'planets will align' and you can implement it
  • Maintaining drive can be an issue
  • Evaluation is important, so look at ways you can measure success from the start (bench marking, etc.)
  • Resourcing - look at engaging and collaborating with others on your project.

Many of the attendees committed to present this charter at their brigades and to the region for future consideration.

Sue Hobbs, volunteer Brigade Community Safety Coordinator at Woodend fire brigade said, "Attending the summit gave me the opportunity to meet an interesting and diverse group of CFA volunteers from across the state. We shared experiences from our own brigades on how each leadership team manages diversity and equal opportunity.

"The summit had a very interesting group of presenters they encouraged us to think about how to work with the teams we have - to recognise their skills and give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the brigade."

After morning tea, attendees were treated to another two equally incredible sessions as the day began with. Firstly, an enlightening 40 minutes with Carol Fox, author of 'Confident Communication for Leaders' and then a presentation by our local City of Greater Bendigo Youth Mayor and Youth Multicultural Commissioner, Khayshie Tilak-Ramesh, who has an impressive list of accolades and community involvement.

The next three speakers were young people - Becc, a youth social worker, was followed by two of the instigators of the school climate strike, Harriet and Milou, who many didn't realise are actually locals from Castlemaine. What stood out to attendees about all three was their courage, resilience and bravery. 

What attendees learned from the 'school climate strikers' was that they had all worked together, with the encouragement and support of their friends and parents. Inspired by peaceful protesters overseas (and with no voting rights due to their age) they decided to not stay silent and, rather than saying "someone should", they decided that anyone can make a difference. Now they have huge support! 

These young people are positive, extremely knowledgeable and passionate, and are enlightening others and sharing their knowledge. They even have had the opportunity to meet with politicians to advocate for change. Harriet and Milou are inspirational young people, who have decided "If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"

"Harriet and Milou totally knocked me out of the water with their passion for the environment and, for someone so young, their caring for everyone’s future," said Pastoria volunteer Cathryn Portelli.

The dinner provided a great opportunity to network, both with the other CFA attendees and the broader group. The evening speakers were just as thought provoking, and shared their insights and thoughts around the themes of our environment, our people and the economy.

Reflections on the dinner presentations included:

  • The key message from ACT Commissioner for Sustainability & Environment, Professor Kate Auty: Start where you are, start small and tell everybody.
  • Bendigo Health Assoc Professor Philip Tune's insights into the determinants of health and the role diet plays in mental health. Attendees felt this warrants greater exposure in our brigades.
  • The power of telling your story at every opportunity!

"The speakers and presenters of the day gave insight on techniques to help tackle and overcome the common challenges with delivering change in communities. As with a lot of organisations, CFA is not alone in progression and having to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. With all change, this often leads to great challenges, but in-turn, leads to great opportunities. These events in turn help mentor, motivate and support members to raise to the challenges with a support network behind them," said Chris Goudie.

Author: Louise Scott and Bec McDonald