2 March 2018 By Chris Kotur

It’s easy to feel pessimistic about how far we still have to go before all women feel respected, valued, safe and free to make choices but this International Women's Day I’m celebrating how far my generation of women have come after sidestepping those childhood stories and images that created expectations of what a fulfilling life for a woman – our mothers - ought to be.

The stories of my childhood showed women in passive roles with a pathway toward marriage, children and full-time family responsibilities or the risk of feeling guilty about ambitions to pursue study, a career or expectations for real equality in our relationships.

There are more pathways now for women to lead fulfilling, guilt-free lives. The changes have been in the right direction. International Women's Day reminds us of how far we’ve come but also how hard we have to work to ensure gains are secured for women everywhere.

Chris Kotur (WCLP’14)March 2018

Women in Leadership - 3-Day Intensive 

Designed for C-suite, executive leaders, our Women's Leadership Program (May 2018) will take you out of your comfort zone and into a journey of self-discovery and development, exploring leadership across complex boundaries. Over three days, inspirational female leaders will come together to share their leadership experiences, their personal and professional stories and empower you to reach your full leadership potential. All in the setting of the iconic Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley.



CHRIS KOTUR (WCLP'94)Chris is Leadership Victoria's Leader in Residence, a role that is raising the profile and importance of emerging leadership issues and development across all sectors in Australia.

She has been an active and committed Williamson Community Leadership Program alumnus since 1994.

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2 March 2018 By Saara Sabbagh, Founder & CEO, Benevolence Australia

As an Australian Muslim woman, my leadership journey has not been mine to navigate or own. Rather it has been shaped by global events, political views, racism and prejudice that has framed my path. Adding onto it were my struggles within the Muslim community where the ongoing gender discourse continued. Misguided religious patriarchal systems which perpetuate inequality and thus injustice only reinforced the misconceptions that existed in the broader community. And like every other woman, I faced these challenges in the backdrop of a patriarchal world.

I traversed this path for many years embracing the challenges as opportunities which only solidified my convictions. Having a sense of purpose and knowing oneself was my foundation. I did not give permission for the outside world to define me, or to take away my power and agency.

It is this inner strength born of an unshakable foundation and built on ancient wisdom and tradition, that has made me the woman and leader I am today.

Saara Sabbagh (WCLP'17)Founder and CEOBenevolence Australia Saara is an alumnus of the 2017 Williamson Community Leadership Program

Women in Leadership - 3-Day Intensive 

Designed for C-suite, executive leaders, our Women's Leadership Program (May 2018) will take you out of your comfort zone and into a journey of self-discovery and development, exploring leadership across complex boundaries. Over three days, inspirational female leaders will come together to share their leadership experiences, their personal and professional stories and empower you to reach your full leadership potential. All in the setting of the iconic Chateau Yering, Yarra Valley.

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23 February 2018

Constantine Oscuchukwa doesn’t lack leadership. He’s the Anglican priest at St Paul’s Bakery Hill Ballarat.

But Constantine valued mentorship through the New and Emerging Communities Leadership Program (NECLP) because he says leaders “never stop learning”. Specifically, he wanted to improve his business skills.

Leadership Victoria paired him with volunteer mentor and Ballarat businessman Mike McCaw, and the local connection proved crucial to the establishment of the One Humanity Shower Bus.

The bus offers homeless people a secure, comfortable place to wash themselves and their clothes. The resulting sense of dignity is vital, says Constantine. From dignity comes opportunity and connections with people and services.

“That’s why we called it One Humanity. If one person is homeless in Ballarat everyone is diminished. We need to encounter people as human beings, not as ‘homeless’.”

Constantine says Mike helped “translate the dream into a reality”.

“He broke the project down into a five-step process. Mike made the process clear, he set timelines, he explained and he encouraged me. We became a team then we became friends.”

Mike, Chairman of Five Pillars Consulting, a professional management business, has expertise in all the areas project required: planning, setting goals, determining required actions and maximising resource allocation.

Mike sees the bus as a classic case of “a hand up, not a hand out”.

With Mike’s guidance, Constantine leveraged local businesses, who donated their time and expertise. He says the costs would have been ten times as high without local input.

Constantine urges anyone considering the New and Emerging Communities Leadership Program to “go for it”.

“It wasn’t just the good content of the program, it’s the people I met from all over the world, the stories of resilience... the generosity. The people of vision and influence with a commitment to making Australia a better place.”

With some help from a business savvy mentor, Constantine is certainly doing that in Ballarat

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20 February 2018 By Leadership Victoria

Meet Deb Cailes. Deb has a big job with oversight and accountability for the Capital Works stream at the City of Melbourne.

In this context, Professional Development often seems like something that you push to the side or wait until you have that ‘quiet period."


So for Deb it’s not surprising that at first, taking part in the Folio Program felt like an additional 'thing to do' on top of existing workload. Plus the experience was quite intense: unlike many corporate leadership programs LV's Folio program is actually asking you to open your eyes and look at your role and work in new ways.

For Deb - the experience was one of expanded awareness and understanding: “it was about leadership but on a much grander scale, not just leadership within the corporate context.” Developing a deep sense and understanding of complex social issues and meeting leaders working within these contexts was a major part of the experience.

"The deep dives and site visits make this all the more compelling – seeing real leadership in action."

Working then on a collaborative challenge with a group of people Deb barely knew was also really worthwhile – it gave me a sense of the diversity of leadership experience and learning from others was invaluable – this is where the wisdom lies.

“I walked away realising that the willingness to unlearn, to not be the expert – was often the most useful mindset to adopt when working in complexity.”

If you are wondering whether you are ready – well in Deb’s words, - it’s not about what you have achieved so far, or how far up the hierarchy you sit…it’s about your willingness, openness and capacity to learn.

“At the end it did feel a bit like we’d been through a washing machine. Shaken up and challenged, yet coming out of it with insights that made everything clearer and sharper.” And in the process she developed some incredible friendships and networks. 

To sum up: “City of Melbourne were incredibly supportive – the time investment was great – but the rewards were greater.”








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12 February 2018 By Rebecca Lovitt

Dennis Banfield chat's with LV's Rebecca Lovitt on Life, purpose and living more simply.

“I would never in my wildest dreams have predicted the journey this program would take me on,” reflects Dennis early in our conversation. A grand statement about a development program’s impact  - most would agree. So how did this come about?

Dennis is a General Manager with International firm Tech Rentals. As with many of our program participants, it started with a CEO that really valued investing in the professional development of the team. He completed Leadership Victoria’s Folio program in 2017.

There is a wide variety of options for leadership development, but there are some things that really make a program stand out amidst the crowd – so why or how did you end up as part of Folio?

“My wife had done the Williamson program in 2012, so I had a sense that this could be a pretty impactful experience – but I really didn’t understand until taking part just how transformative this type of learning could be.”

“Never in a million years would I have expected to be in a work context or setting that would allow me to explore my own life experience or self in such a way.” For some this might sound daunting – do we really want experiences this deep within the realm of work, and do we want to share these experiences with people we barely know?

What sets programs like Folio apart is that a great deal of time and energy goes into setting the scene, and creating the environmental conditions or the holding space to support the group’s learning in program’s like Folio.  This is central to the vertical learning experience that Stephen Duns, describes is core to the LV Way.

I’ve never felt more comfortable, more welcome, more willing to be open and share than I did with this cohort.”

Like the Williamson content, learning as part of the Folio program is experiential, based on deep dives into particular social contexts – with the intent of broadening the perspective of participants. Building on the formal learning, and the experts in the room, participants learn more from each other– which combines to form a key part of the collective experience – and it is this shared experiential learning that allows it to be (for many) quite a profound experience.

 “It is hard to describe, it was extraordinary, call it spiritual maybe even magical… finding my true North…it’s just really hard to find a word or a phrase that adequately describes this experience.”

Dennis reflects: “I actually had the chance to really explore more about myself and uncover my purpose….and this for me is about working to help even keep just one child under the age of 5 avoid the experience of trauma of domestic violence.”

Daily life is really different for Dennis post Folio, “Everything feels much simpler. I still love my work, but it no longer solely defines me…if it ended tomorrow, it wouldn’t be the end of me and who I am.

In the professional setting I am able to apply the learnings mindfully, often my team won’t even know but I am able to step back more, not trying to control as much and I have a much greater sense of self-awareness…So I have a set of practical tools but also the confidence to lead the change.”

Actually it seems there has been an overall values alignment for Dennis, “Life is much simpler, I am less effected by material things, my diet has changed. Actually my family’s diet has changed.”

So what is the one experience you will always remember? “It’s meeting the people. Meeting homeless people. Looking people in the eye. Being human. Learning not to give money give, but give food and conversation.”

Nothing much separates us all after all.



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6 February 2018 By Tracey Dore (WCLP'17)

Williamson Community Leadership Program 2017 graduate Tracey Dore knew exactly what her leadership pledge needed to be.

During Tracey’s Williamson year, she went on a volunteering holiday to Cambodia with her 13-year-old daughter, Georgie. Tracey and Georgie were deeply impacted by the scale of poverty and limited access to clean water and basic hygiene that they saw. Whilst volunteering, Tracey and Georgie helped build a wash house in a Cambodian school just out of Siem Reap. Little did they know that this experience would plant the seed for their own social enterprise back home.

On return Tracey assisted her daughter in establishing a social enterprise to fund future wash houses in Cambodia.  The business is called Arkoun, which means thank you in Khmer, the language of the Cambodian people. Profits from the sale of Georgie’s soaps will help fund the building of wash houses in Cambodian schools. Each wash house helps on average 400 school children access basic hygiene education and hand washing facilities.

Here are some concerning facts...

Over 9 million people in Cambodia don't have access to sanitation 380 children under five die each year due to poor sanitation Less than one-in-three Cambodian's have access to hand washing and toilet facilities Only 16% of Cambodians have a fixed hand washing place in their homes Hand washing with soap can prevent diarrheal deaths by 40% Despite a growing tourism industry, Cambodia remains one of the poorest nations in SE Asia with more than half the population lacking sanitation

With Tracey’s help and community leadership experience, her daughter has now set up an online store and social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram.

Georgie has since been nominated for the Berry Street Create Change Award, one of the ten categories in the Victorian Young Achiever Awards.

Reflecting on her Williamson experience, Tracey said “Sometimes you can get lost in the enormity of the social issues that you are confronted with on Williamson. I spent the first couple of programs wondering how I could contribute as I felt really underprepared. I realised quickly that if I was brave and used my lack of experience in challenging the status quo of global issues, maybe that was my greatest strength. Georgie and I nearly blew up our microwave trying to make soap but through this we’ve learnt so much about embracing mistakes, sticking to the cause and just giving it a crack.

“My Williamson colleagues have been incredible. When Georgie’s online store went live in November 2017, most of our first orders were from my Willy friends including Richard Dent OAM, CEO, Leadership Victoria. Thanks to them, Georgie has received media interviews and incredible business advice and support. I can’t thank my Williamson friends and Leadership Victoria enough for their support and professional generosity. It really does take a village!”

If you would like to support Tracey and Georgie’s cause, or have a business connection that may help spread the word, please contact them at or via Facebook

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19 January 2018 By Richard Dent OAM, CEO, Leadership Victoria

Catherine Walsh’s well-intentioned article in The Age (5/1) asked Australians to volunteer less. She gave sausage-sizzle examples and trots out the old saw that volunteering undercuts paid work.

Tell that to the volunteers who lead ICAN, the Australian organisation which has just won a Nobel Peace Prize for nuclear disarmament. Tell that to Dr Bronwyn King – the oncologist who voluntarily leads Tobacco Free Investments and has shaped a $6B industry shift. Tell that to the thousands of highly skilled professionals who lead countless boards of NFP organisations of all sizes and focuses.

Tell it to the thousands of mentors who share their wisdom and lived experience with younger Australians, recently arrived Australians, and under-resourced Australians. Tell it to the CFA. In fact, tell it to political party members!

Volunteers are central to Australian life.

But in one aspect though, Walsh is largely right: volunteering is undervalued. That’s because volunteering has a brand problem: in fact the very brand problem that Walsh’s own argument embodies. Volunteering is seen as narrow, local, and largely unskilled. That was probably false even in the 20th or previous centuries, but unfortunately it’s still a broadly held misperception. It’s a misperception that leads us to watch more Netflix and to forego voluntary civic engagement.

The truth is that contributions of volunteers are absolutely essential to our national identity and our national progress. And in future, volunteering will become even more important: as global wealth and productivity rises, Australians will have more opportunity to voluntarily lead progress in their fields of passion and expertise. This increase in activity will lead to strengthened social capital, increased innovation, increased health and wellbeing, and a better nation and world.

What we need is a national discussion on 21st century volunteering: we need Governments who recognise the highly leveraged investment which volunteers can comprise, we need a national strategy to unlock the amazing potential hidden in our communities, we need businesses and nonprofits who are thinking strategically about their connection to corporate and community purpose.

I accept the notion that perhaps sausage sizzles are economically inefficient: so volunteer less at them if you wish. But think carefully about your own contribution: be a leader and use your skills to do something good for someone. No matter how good your sausage-sizzle skills are, remember that Winston Churchill was an excellent bricklayer. If he’d spent the 1940’s bricklaying, history could be very different.

Government, business and community members need to support community contribution more strategically: civic engagement through volunteering is essential and will make Australia and the world a better place.

We shouldn’t should be doing less volunteering, we should be doing more and better.


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19 January 2018 By Richard Dent OAM, CEO, Leadership Victoria

Peter Dutton’s recent comments about a “gang problem” with “Africans” in Melbourne are very unhelpful to the demographic he’s targeting and to Victoria as a whole. Scapegoating a group is not unusual leadership (think Trump and the Mexicans), but it’s also not good leadership.

Perhaps he’s backpedalled somewhat in his subsequent comments, highlighting – completely appropriately – that a tiny minority of young men in a few locations do not represent an entire demographic. But nevertheless his statements are causing very public damage, allowing racists in the community to latch on to his comments to scapegoat an identifiable group, and causing fear and concern in that population and in Victoria more broadly.

But – perhaps perversely – his comments have helped good leadership emerge.

Leadership Victoria is proud of working with African-focused organisations such as the African Think Tank for almost a decade, and many members of the African Australian community have been actively building their leadership capability for years.

One of LV’s key messages is that “anyone can exercise leadership, anywhere, anytime”, and that’s exactly what’s been happening.

Over the course of the past week, time and again African Australians have been on the nightly news and in our papers and online (notably in the delightfully ironic #africangangs movement). We are seeing individuals like Haileluel Gebre-selassie, Kot Monoah, Zione Walker-Nthenda and many others with a direct or indirect LV connection exercising community leadership in the best possible sense.

The message of these leaders is clear: they are proud to be part of the diverse tapestry of the Australian community and they are proud to exercise leadership and to contribute to a modern, inclusive, increasingly safe Australia.

Criminal behaviours should not be excused, no matter who they are: people who break the law should be legally apprehended, tried, and if guilty punished and rehabilitated. We should support Victoria Police in both their excellent community liaison work and their crime-fighting work. And we should support every organisation whose purpose is to address issues that lead to criminality as well as those who support victims.

If we want swifter, better progress for Australia, then more Australians (regardless of background, ethnicity, ability, gender or religion) will need to engage in civic processes, exercise community leadership at all levels and work to create a diverse and inclusive Australia.

In Victoria all mainstream political parties support our very successful multiculturalism, and we should celebrate the diversity of everyone who helps create a better world through good leadership. At the upcoming Premier’s Gala Dinner in Cultural Diversity Week, the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition will walk together in excellent symbolism of our state’s shared commitment to diversity and inclusion: we should be proud of their leadership in this.

Negative comments by high-profile people who don’t really understand our Victorian multicultural successes are unhelpful, but with good community leadership excellent positive progress can emerge.

After all, anyone can exercise leadership, anywhere, anytime.


Richard Dent is CEO of Leadership Victoria, an independent nonpartisan nonprofit organisation which fosters leadership for swifter, better progress on complex social, economic and environmental issues.

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20 December 2017 By Folio 2017 alumni

The Folio Community Leadership Program 2017 (FCLP'17) Alumni are raising funds to support a community leader to participate in FCLP 2018.

Through the experience and exposure of Folio, FCLP'17 would like to support the community organisations who so generously allowed immersion into their wonderful work, through creating a scholarship fund.

The scholarship will support one community leader to participate in the 2018 Folio program, covering the program fees, providing the recipient the opportunity to build their networks and enhance their leadership skills. You can help give the gift of learning by donating funds now


Are donations tax deductible?


Will I receive a receipt for my donation?

Yes, as soon as your donation is processed.

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23 November 2017 By Dennis Banfield (FCLP'17)

"We could never, in a million years, have imagined Folio would test us and gift us so much.

At the opening retreat it was put to us ‘comfort really does end in failure’ and ‘success is hard work’.

On our very first evening together, our hearts began to beat faster, and blood pumped through many of us to boiling point, when we heard from an impassioned speaker whose message was as strong as his physical delivery – it was visceral stuff.

Here is where it probably began - the tipping point - when courage would, at some stage appear before us.

Leadership is a choice, and we were on the cusp of being presented with opportunies to choose, to let courage dive deep into our hearts and minds.

Coming away from the retreat we knew Folio would be a challenge.  So we leant in to seize the opportunity!

Engaging with a remarkable cross section of leaders we gained a greater awareness for the complexity of community issues in the areas of;

Aged care for the homeless Early childhood development Employment for people with different abilities Community housing Education for disadvantaged youth.

We were profoundly impacted by the many people we met and sat with in these groups and in the blink of an eye they became our teachers.

Our minds had started switching gear and reflection wanted to make way for action, but not to solution…not yet…wait, pause, gather, steel yourselves and go for the Big Ideas.

To become exceptional leaders, to make the world a better place, you need heart, empathy and passion as much as strategy and skill.

This is the feeling and the thinking. Through Folio we amplified both.

But, our secret ingredient, the difference between failure and success is that we are a very tight bunch, and, from this, we have seen, care, compassion and heart wrenching honesty emerge.

Mixed with our mindful listening and opposing views this has made our biases more conscious, our actions more purposeful.

Without this, our Big Ideas would be just – ideas.

We are the 2017 Folio Community Leadership team – committed to developing ourselves as exceptional leaders and making the world a better place through bringing our Big Ideas to life.

Thank You".

Dennis Banfield (FCLP'17)


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