Fundraising reflections from the road with Graham Smith

Pedalling forward whilst looking backwards

Last week with an old friend Joel Krewaz, I completed a 1350km fully self-supported cycle-tour from Canberra to Brisbane, through the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal, Wiradjuri, Kamilaroi, Barranggam, Bundjalung, Yuggera and Turrbal people

The ride took 17 days and had three main goals:

To visit family; travel slowly through the regional area where I grew up; and to raise scholarship funds for the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF).

For seven years I had the great privilege of working with the ARLF. The amazing experiences I had with the organisation convinced me that the people and programs make a huge, positive difference to many thousands of rural, regional, and remote people and communities.

Even though I retired a couple of years ago, I remain determined to raise funds for the merit based scholarships which are the core to the very high standards which have been sustained by the ARLF for over 30 years.

I am very pleased to say we successfully achieved our fundraising goal – exceeding our initial expectations. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who donated time and resources to help us reach this point.

Crossing two states and a territory, Graham and Joel spend 17 days on the road, meeting up with ARLF staff and alumni along the way.

Reflecting behind the handlebars

I see many comparisons of this now completed “Country Roads” fundraising ride with the practices of leadership development.

For example the importance of being willing to step out of our comfort zones to learn and to develop. There isn’t much comfortable about riding a 35kg loaded bike long distances through hilly country in unpredictable weather. Nevertheless, there was a great feeling of achievement and learning from the experience. It was difficult but it was fun.

Being willing to communicate to bring other people along on the journey toward a common, positive goal is an essential process of leadership development, as are relationship building and networking. This long ride definitely required all these processes. Working closely with Foundation staff, media, family, friends and people met along the way greatly helped the ride safely reach achieve its goals. Constant, clear communication via many channels was the key.

One of my favourite metaphors linking cycle touring and leadership development is the common need to keep moving forward.

The importance of future strategy, long term planning and being aware of the big picture are shared needs of both leadership development and self-supported cycle travel in regional Australia.

My final comparison is that of making time to be fully immersed in the great outdoors of regional Australia. The immense value of using nature to enable our powers of reflection. That’s something one can only do when not fully enclosed in motorised transport.

Walking, cycling, running, horse riding or simply sitting outside to experience the unique feel, sounds and sights of the Australia’s wonderful natural environment are priceless experiences. Experiences which reenergise and reconnect us. Both essential to ongoing and never ending leadership development.

Graham Smith crossing into Queensland as part of this 17 day ride, raising funds to allow others to participate in ARLF programs.
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