National Leadership College 2017 Reflection – Michael Henderson

In the second week of February this year, 28 young surf lifesavers began the week-long journey that was the 2017 SLSA National Leadership College. As is often the case with programs of this nature, much of the week was an unknown quantity, and there was a feeling of nervous excitement across the assembled group from clubs across Australia. All knew that the experience would push them outside of their comfort zone, and into a space where networks and lifelong connections would be formed, however few realised how significant the events of the week would be.

Each day carried a theme based around individual, group and big picture approaches to leadership, both within the context of Surf Life Saving, as well as challenges faced in other real world endeavours. The participants were treated to keynote addresses from inspiring and insightful leaders such as Suzanne Young and Tom Harley, who helped us to adopt new approaches to leadership, and provided the tools for confronting the challenges that we all face. On top of this, the team of three mentors and four facilitators created an environment that encouraged the open sharing of ideas and initiatives, with the goal of creating a pool of information that could equip all clubs, branches and states with the ability to improve their lifesaving services and member engagement.

Undoubtedly, these scheduled sessions and guest speakers formed a strong foundation for the lessons of the week to sink in. However, it was the friendships formed with other like-minded participants, and the discussions that were had outside of the timetabled workshops that proved to be the most influential. Everyone was encouraged to embrace the week with an open mind, and this translated into conversations that challenged the way we think about a broad range of different issues, and helped us to become more well-rounded and balanced people. The network of highly qualified, exceptionally intelligent and utterly inspiring people that has been fostered through just seven days at the University of Sydney will last a lifetime, and we all appreciate that it is these individuals who will shape the direction and focus of Surf Life Saving in Australia into the future.

An enormous amount of thanks must be heaped on those who made the week possible, including Nancy Joseph, a mentor and mother figure for all of us at the college, and also Imi Dingle, a facilitator whose constant enthusiasm and energy was infectious for everyone around her. It is the efforts of these individuals, working within the committed leadership team of the camp that allow it to run so successfully, and have a profound impact on all participants across the years. Further, another thank you must be afforded to Fairhaven and the Tim Gates Foundation for facilitating my experience at the college. For any Fairhaven member thinking of expanding their involvement within the club, at State level, or even those simply looking for an experience that will develop them and improve them as a person, I could not recommend the National Leadership College more highly. The only thing left to do now is to translate the lessons that all the scholars learnt into effective initiatives at our home clubs!