Western Bulldogs Leadership Project graduates find courage to make an impact

ROLE MODEL: Amy Zuell, Leeann Kitisarn, Hannah Farhall and Riley Caldow are among Western Bulldogs Leadership Program graduates. Picture: Kate Healy
ROLE MODEL: Amy Zuell, Leeann Kitisarn, Hannah Farhall and Riley Caldow are among Western Bulldogs Leadership Program graduates. Picture: Kate Healy

WHEN Riley Caldow set out on this journey, he thought he would be given a community project to pursue. He expected he might have to talk about leadership in a football context.

Riley had no idea how much the project would challenge his perspective and encourage him to find his own voice, project and non-football leadership style.

Western Bulldogs Leadership Project celebrated 14 graduates in the Ballarat pack on Thursday night, the city’s second graduating class from a program focused on developing emerging, young community leaders. 

Riley, not so much into football, relished the fact the program delved more into civics and social awareness.

His group project focused on a sock drive to help warm up the feet of Ballarat’s homeless.

The Phoenix P-12 Community College student was glad he took his teachers’ advice to try more leadership opportunites.

Riley admitted he was a little intimidated at first, working with so many unfamiliar faces and predominantly private school students. But, the program opened up his eyes in a “good different” way.

“It was good to get to know issues not just about Ballarat, but from all over in working with members from other groups,” Riley said. “We didn’t always stick to our own project – if another group needed a little more help in one area, we would work on that.”

Leadership Project is part of a community development series AFL club Western Bulldogs has developed in partnership with City of Ballarat. Bulldogs youth development coordinator Jenna Browne said this leadership pack had set “incredibly high” standards.

“We can give them opportunities. They can do what they want with it but every single one of these guys put themselves out there,” Ms Browne said.

Graduates delivered community leaders, including City of Ballarat councillors a pitch of their projects: the sock drive; drug and alcohol awareness working with Battle of the Bands; Go With the Flow, access to sanitary and hygiene items for women in crisis; and, improving mental health awareness in schools.

Daen Sadhai received peer-voted honour You Inspire Me Award for his humour, humility, energy and self-awareness from the outset. He Skyped in from Italy for the ceremony.