Guiding new community champions

I don’t think anyone ever says as a kid “when I grow up, I want to create a social enterprise that works with country sporting clubs to try and unlock the potential in future community leaders”.

I certainly didn’t. I was a barefoot tomboy whose favourite pastime was hanging out in the shearing shed, reveling in the atmosphere of clattering hooves, gnashing shears and afternoon smoko. I was destined for a life on the farm. How I wound up in the big smoke studying behavioural science with the goal of becoming a criminologist is beyond me, and how I ended up in business and economic development is a long story.

Post-uni I was a full time bar tender who went to modelling school, became a bank teller and then a corporate governance auditor who was seconded to a business advisory team as a systems and operations specialist, then got the seven-year-itch and transitioned into economic development. It’s not your standard career path but it worked for me. These jobs taught me a lot, and I use the skills I acquired to develop the next generation of leaders in rural communities through Champions Academy.

Bar tending taught me to think on my feet, be observant and pre-emptive and about positive culture within the work place. Modelling school taught me grooming, deportment, how to be authentic and have self-respect. Banking gave me insight into how a small town economy works, while economic development showed how a large scale one works. I learned what drives industry and stimulates economic growth, and the political levers of influence. I witnessed examples of what can lift or dampen community spirit.

As an auditor I learned to read financial statements as if they were a business’ story. I learned numbers are historic results which is why it is critical to have foresight. As a business systems and operations specialist I learned to think and plan strategically, rather than reactively and how to set up and run a successful business. I learned you can’t plan for everything, and you need to adapt to change without losing focus.

Behavioural Science, which remains a passion, taught me to read body language and interpret what isn’t being said. It taught me to look into motives driving people, and recognise the potential in those who can’t see it in themselves. It taught me how to be rational and think objectively, rather than let emotion drive behaviour. I feel fortunate for these experiences, they helped me recognise my potential and apply it to a cause greater than myself. When I returned to Eyre Peninsula a few years ago after living in the Kimberley and North Queensland for about decade, to find the region I grew up in had drastically declined, I felt compelled to prevent other rural communities from suffering the same fate.

I recognised sporting clubs as one of the best indicators of rural community health and started there, designing the Champions Academy mentoring and leadership model around it. After three years I am excited to see it transition from a single club pilot to become the Eastern Eyre Champions Academy in 2018, incorporating members from across the association. I look forward to scaling the business and offering the program throughout Eyre Peninsula next year (and eventually wider South Australia), and welcome the opportunity work with more rural communities.