Mere strangers just months ago. A network of leaders who trust and motivate each other today.  

It’s the outcome of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program across ten regions nationally that’ve endured a series of challenges and would benefit from committed leadership. Not that of emergency services or officials at the frontline but those within the community who step up for the long haul.  

As the pilot program nears the end, cohorts of leaders are graduating, already taking action with a series of community projects to help address challenges, steer recovery and drive positive change.  

These regional leaders were brought together in an experiential learning environment to gain a greater understanding of leadership practices and behaviours, resilience thinking and regionally tailored RAI data. They were pushed out of their comfort zone and reflected on their learnings. And how they interact with others of different backgrounds and personalities.  

Such was the case for Isabel Bryce, a graduate of the LARC program for the Charters Towers to Reef program. Working in communications for the Queensland government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Isabel was keen to learn how to become a more strategic leader to make real change. So she applied for the LARC program and shares her reflections below.  

Tell us who you are and where you are from? 

I live in North Queensland now but have lived in many other places before I got here including the Solomon Islands, Hong Kong and Scotland. I care about social justice and the environment and am concerned we are not doing nearly enough to protect flora and fauna and the environment at large. 

Tell us about a situation that has inspired you during the LARC program?  

I shared an issue about an initiative I had started to improve wellbeing with the (LARC) group and then sat back and listened as they discussed various aspects of it and came up with ideas to progress the initiative to the next stage. By being open to others’ suggestions, and by just listening, I was able to come up with a strategy I had not considered. I have now put that in place. It was a very interesting learning experience.  

What is the most impactful moment or lesson you will take away from this session? 

Respect the contribution of others even if it is very different from your own. We all have something to contribute. 

What do you think will ‘stick’ with you into the long term? 

Being more open and listening, looking for gaps in how knowledge and decisions are formed. Sometimes you have to put yourself in uncomfortable positions and really listen and wait to find different ways of doing things so that others are keen to be involved. 

What has surprised you about yourself this session, how have the experiences/activities highlighted that and how do you think it will impact your ongoing leadership contribution? 

The experience on the LARC course was liberating. Until now, I thought problems needed answers and they needed resolving quickly. When I look at the complexity and complications that surround an issue like climate change, I now realise that it will take a lot more to achieve real change before we can have any impact. BUT the experience also gave me hope. I can see gaps that can be exploited to find other ways to look at and challenge the status quo. I now know a good group of people who are brave and who are motivated to take on different challenges. I am optimistic about the future again. 

How has the program/session changed what you want to contribute to rural, regional and remote Australia into the future? 

I can see value in being an active member of the community and doing things and getting involved in things to progress change to protect our environment and make our communities more viable, recognising the importance of talking with a wide range of people about issues. I have volunteered for the drought mentor/mentee program and want to take part in a two way dialogue as I also have a lot to learn.  

How has the experience met/differed from your expectations? 

I met a great group of individuals and coaches who all taught me something about the human race and about myself. The program was far better than I expected, as I realise that problems are often the way you see things and the barriers are the ones you create in your own thinking. 

*The LARC Charters Towers to Reef cohort come from diverse backgrounds including health, education, agriculture, academia, indigenous, marine science, renewables and small business. Community projects underway focus on youth crime, community connection and water issues. Stay tuned for more reflections and case studies on the LARC program. LARC is delivered as part of the Australian Government’s Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot) grant. 

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