What did we learn? A reflection on the first session of the WCLP 2012

23 March 2012 By Vanya Kumar

Vanya Kumar
Vanya Kumar

The first session of the 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program (WCLP) was Cities of the Future, hosted by LV's partner Places Victoria. 

The expert speakers for the day were Jim Betts (Secretary, Department of Transport), Prof Rob Adams AM (Director – City Design, City of Melbourne), Kay Rundle (CEO, City of Port Phillip) and Dom Arcaro (Chief Development Officer, Places Victoria (WCLP ’08).

The seminar explored a number of issues with regard to the future of Melbourne as a burgeoning city. In particular the complex leadership and decision making required for long term planning, as well as the implications and challenges for policy makers in the following key areas:

  • Melbourne’s liveability and population growth 
  • Urban growth and the impact on local government 
  • Public transport /infrastructure 
  • Planning and design 
  • Sustainable communities

We asked 2012 participant Vanya Kumar to reflect on the experience:

What did we learn?  Another reflection on the first session of the WCLP 2012.

The first session for 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program was a review of the Cities of the Future.  The themes were diverse: urban design, transport, government, vertical cities, growth, productivity and, of course, the future.

The question is, what did we learn?

To see a world in a grain of sand …”.

The leaders who came to speak to us, each came with a vision; a personal, detailed, hard fought view of the world in which they live.  They spoke of their struggle to refine their principles and realise their ambitions.  They encouraged us to go beyond accepted beliefs and reach for impossible ground.

 “And heaven in a wildflower …”.

The speakers saw great possibilities for this city, the State and this country.  This is, after all, one of the most liveable places in the world.  We have worked hard to get here.  Those who came before, sought to achieve the impossible.  Then toiled.  Then prevailed.  Perhaps, we need to dream some impossible dreams too.

Hold infinity in the palm of your hand …”

We learnt that change is not external.  It is not some force that comes from a foreign place.  Rather, we are the change and its agents too.  We hold the power to make of this world what we will.  It is a powerful message.  From my perspective, maybe, a little frightening too.

And eternity in an hour.

In the time we had with each speaker, they remade our vision of what the city of the future might be like.  They showed us what we would see in 10, 50 and 100 years.  The possibilities range from the desolate to the sublime.  We need to choose where will we go.

So, what did we learn?

Not enough to provide any firm answers, but too much to summarise in a few hundred words.  How is it possible to know so much more and know so much less?  We have talked of nothing else since.  Incremental changes in what we do have already started – a drive through the local park, signing up to the local council day, exploring parts of this town to which we have never been.  This then is the Williamson effect: knowledge given, curiosity enlarged, effecting change.


Vanya Kumar is the Director, Commercial Roads at VicRoads and a participant in the 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program.

The lines quoted above are the first stanza from Auguries of Innocence by William Blake.

LV also filmed interviews with two of the speakers after their presentations. Click here to see their thoughts on leadership, cities of the future and WCLP: