Leadership for Social Change

17 September 2015 By Kerry Stubbings

Folio Community Leadership Program 2015

Our Leadership for Social Change session was a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in information, ideas, dialogue and reflections on the challenges of addressing deeply embedded social disadvantage, the persistence of significant inequality within Australia, and the way different values and beliefs create deep conflict about social inclusion and respect.   The day affirmed the power and the challenges of working in partnership with communities at the local level to build on their strengths and achieve positive outcomes.   

As we had 11 people presenting over the day on a diverse range of issues this blog will not pretend to summarise this breadth.  We were moved, challenged, inquisitive, outraged, and at times keen for more time to absorb things, to think and explore. 

Welcomed to Visy Care Hub in the heart of Sunshine, Karen Hart, General Manager of Youth Junction Inc., provided an overview of how the centre operates as a service/support hub for young people. We later had the privilege to hear from 3 young men using the centre who generously shared their stories.

Here are some of our learnings and experiences:

  • The life changing impact the support service hub has had on the lives of highly vulnerable young people – we were moved, impressed and inspired by the 3 young men who are working hard to have a good life in the face experiencing loss, disadvantage, low self-esteem, addiction and trauma.
  • The importance of good quality, time series social research was reinforced by Andrew Markus as he introduced us to data on public attitudes to social cohesion, including immigration and refugee issues. The data opened up a perspective on the reasons many people are more uncomfortable about people in arriving in ‘uncontrolled’ ways by boat across borders – in contrast to attitudes towards those who arrive by more ‘officially’.
  • The value of partnership approaches to addressing social issues and aspirations for a region. As a well-established formal partnership involving local government, business, community organisations working on shared priorities for the western metro region, Lead West is an impressive model for joined up strategic and practical action (Craig Rowley, CEO, LeadWest). The importance of local partnerships and community engagement were again reinforced by Lyn Morgain (CoHealth) and Kate Wright (Brimbank City Council).
  • The critical importance of access to secure and affordable housing, and the poor record we have in Australia of investing in this (Rita Lawrence -Salvation Army Social Housing). We heard of the courage and challenges for refugees and asylum seekers trying to find a safety and adjust to a new life in Australia. Unfortunately we also experienced the realities of how cultural and language barriers  are reinforced when the interpreter service did not turn up so we could hear from Mohamed from Myanmar who had made the big commitment to join us with Stelvio from Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre.
  • We had the privilege of visiting a Dept. of Justice Corrections Program in operation and heard from staff about their aims to link vulnerable people into pathways for employment, skills development and community re-engagement.
  • After many hours spent inside it was a relief to be outside on a sunny Melbourne day visiting the massive Buddhist Temple in Braybrook and meeting the centre’s Abbot to hear about their activities, including their role in the Community Corrections program.  
  • The Frost Group presented on a number of indigenous sporting stars and the significant social change leadership roles they have taken up as prominent indigenous people within the community.

The final session was with Daniel Nalliah and members of the ‘Rise Up Australia’. This was a confronting on a number of levels for many of us as Daniel shared his journey and the rationale the Party’s platform and existence, including their belief that the Islamic faith is a fundamental threat to Australia. Emotions were high as many of us endeavoured to be open to listening to a position which we saw as fundamentally in conflict with values of social inclusion and respect.  There were various responses to the session, but mostly people expressed it’s value in terms of exposing us to the inevitable conflicts which exist when we talk about leadership for social change where deeply held values drive how people interpret ‘free speech’ and how the fear of ‘other’ can have such deeply dangerous impacts.

Kerry Stubbings, Folio Community Leadership Program Participant

Friday 11 September 2015