Community passion guides Whyte’s LBWR move

CHANGE: Leadership Ballarat and Western Region's new executive officer Michelle Whyte hopes to guide others in empowering a community. Picture: Lachlan Bence
CHANGE: Leadership Ballarat and Western Region's new executive officer Michelle Whyte hopes to guide others in empowering a community. Picture: Lachlan Bence

PASSIONATE about empowering people to make change, Michelle Whyte feels ready to step up as Leadership Ballarat and Western Region’s new executive officer.

I really love what I do...I saw I could continue that kind of work and help others develop their leadership.

LBWR new executive officer Michelle Whyte

Ms Whyte said it would be hard to leave Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre where, for the past seven years, she has led innovations in adult education and training.

She said LBWR offered her a chance to take her passion and work in social justice to the next level. 

“I really love what I do here (Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre)...I saw I could continue that kind of work and help others develop their leadership,” Ms Whyte said.

“I can still do social justice but hopefully with my background I can help other people understand the ‘varying shades of grey’ in a lot of these issues.”

Ms Whyte graduated from LBWR's 2015 Leaders Forum, a year-long program that she said was a really watershed point in her life.

The forum helped Ms Whyte consider what her next step, or next adventure might be. The chance to help others learn more about themselves – personally, professionally and as community citizens, really appealed.

“You learn a lot about yourself and that’s the bit that really gets people in the forum,” Ms Whyte said. “All the people I completed the program with have been through little pivotal points in their lives...you look at not just living but giving back to the community.

“The program helps you build more skills and confidence to do the next thing. It reaffirms the skills you do have and helps with self-awareness so you don’t feel you’re just skating through life and routines.”

Ms Whyte has worked and volunteered in Ballarat since moving to the city in 2007. She has nine years’ professional and volunteer experience within the not-for-profit sector, including Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre where she is executive manager. Her work with the centre has earned state and regional recognition.

On the walls of the neighbourhood centre, which is part of Ballarat South Community Hub, are numbers like 326 – the number of people they have helped find jobs. Down the hall are the delicious kitchen smells from a social enterprise, helping people with job confidence and skills. And there are the stories, like a single mother in public housing who found support in the centre to get training, then employment. Now, the mother is preparing to buy her own house.

These are the heartwarming things Ms Whyte knows will be hard to leave but, in her new role, can help guide others to make a difference.