Wide Bay Burnett leaders collaborate to tackle local challenges 

The Wide Bay Burnett is set to benefit from a network of community leaders determined to work together to address challenges and capitalise on opportunities for the region. 

29 local current and emerging leaders recently came together at Fraser Island to further develop their leadership skills and build a network committed to action and outcomes. 

It’s part of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) leadership development program, delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). 

LARC is funded by the Australian Government’s Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot) grant on the back of recent challenges faced by regions – in the Wide Bay Burnett these include the impacts of floods, drought, and COVID, along with social issues such as youth unemployment and a shortage of housing and skilled workers. 

“LARC aims to support regional communities in meeting challenges and collectively drive the positive changes they want to see. This is effectively done through a collaborative network of individuals committed and invested in where they live,” ARLF chief executive Matt Linnegar said.  

RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said the program includes place-based multi-day leadership sessions held locally to identify challenges and opportunities.

“Region-specific data from the RAI underpins the program. The group will receive coaching and support for practical, community led projects they decide to pursue.” 

The participants come from diverse backgrounds and experience including agriculture, forestry, small business, human services, health, disaster resilience, indigenous, employment, tourism, education, youth, government, local government, the arts, marketing and the community sector.

Michelle Hay of Hervey Bay and head of campus (Fraser Coast) at Sunshine Coast University welcomes the diversity within the group. 

“I think the real benefit of this program is actually bringing people together. And there’s nothing like getting people together in a room and voicing their concerns and sharing their ideas and seeing things from other perspectives. And really, I guess, bringing around collective change by bringing leaders together and looking at different perspectives.”

Jared Crooks of Torquay and Jobs Fraser Coast project officer says there’s been a need for more collaboration locally. 

“It’s a common theme that’s always been in our region. I would like to bring everyone closer together and have more collaboration between organisations in our region. We’ve spoken about it a lot and there’s a lot of people who do it really well but I just thought by coming along to this, I will pick up some tools and I certainly have, that I can take back to our community and bring more people together.”

Tim Sayre of Avenell Heights and Jobs Bundaberg projects officer sees the connection and commitment to each other as a network as already happening.

“The benefit of this program in the leadership approach is one that we now have the embryonic stages of a really powerful network that goes right across our region…it’s something that’s occurring naturally and something that I think can only strengthen our region as we come together as a leadership group across the whole region, and actually fill those voids that we’ve identified and use it to strengthen what we do.”

Communications consultant and board director of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services, Karla Sheen of Point Vernonagrees. 

“One of the big things I got out of this was that we have such a diverse range of communities within our region, some very small communities, some larger ones, but we all have the same goals and we all have the same challenges and opportunities, and I love that we’ve come together in this program and we’re working together. And I really hope with the skills that we’ve learned that we continue to work as a whole region together to get the best of what we can from the larger government agencies and sponsors and things like that. And I think there’s definitely a will for that in our group.”

The group will come together again next month for the second leadership intensive and graduation, where they’ll present community projects they’ve been working on as part of the program.  

*Individual headshots are available on request. Please contact Nicky McMillan at ARLF. 

Media contacts: 

Nicky McMillan     

Communications Coordinator         

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation                                                                        

M: 0439 438 500                                                                                                                                                                                 

E: Nickym@rural-leaders.org.au                                        

Alexandra Macaulay

Senior Communications Manager    

Regional Australia Institute   

M: 0409 652 465 


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