On the first day of Leaders Forum 2017, participants explored the major issues that will affect the future of Ballarat and the surrounding region.
We discussed broad themes like energy, transport, health, natural environment, cultural heritage, education, training and employment.
It was confronting to realise this region includes areas of significant socio-economic disadvantage and exhibits alarmingly poor results in health indicators such as life expectancy.
On the other hand, there are many opportunities to capitalise on our region’s strengths.
This includes its rich cultural heritage, strong education and health sectors, attractive natural environment and proximity to Melbourne.
Participants also heard from some inspirational local leaders, including Committee for Ballarat chief executive officer Melanie Robertson, Central Highlands Regional Partnership chairman George Fong and Geoff Sharp, chief executive of United Way Ballarat, Ballarat Foundation and Volunteering Ballarat.
Each of the organisations represented by these speakers has a vastly different approach to tackling the key issues.
Ultimately, however, each and every one is working towards the betterment of the Ballarat region.
The Committee for Ballarat draws upon its membership base of local businesses and connections within the community to identify and then advocate for key projects and programs across the region.
The Central Highlands Regional Partnership brings together a diverse group of people drawn from local communities, businesses and the three tiers of government. Together, they will work together over a four-year period to think strategically about region-wide priorities.
United Way Ballarat and its affiliates work at the grassroots level to mobilise volunteers to provide a collective response to community needs. There is a focus on improving education, income and health.
There are many other organisations doing great things in our community.
And, of course, there is always more work to be done.
We were reminded that people will look towards us, the Leaders Forum participants for 2017, for guidance in solving some of the big issues in our region.
Hearing this was a shock for some, myself included.
But it is reassuring to learn there is a genuine hunger for change in Ballarat.
And in our rapidly changing world, it is no longer the big corporations that are setting the agenda – the most successful influencers are small.
The ability to influence successfully is determined by the flexibility, skill and expertise of the individual – not size.
I think this year’s participants are a very talented bunch, possessing wide ranging knowledge and talent.
So it is with some trepidation, but mostly optimism, that we accept this challenge.
We do live in a great part of the world. And we need to promote the great lifestyle opportunities that are on offer in regional Victoria.
We need to dream big and aspire to an even better, more vibrant Ballarat.
Angela Daraxoglou was a participant in this year’s Leaders Forum, Leadership Ballarat and Western Region’s annual experiential learning program for emerging leaders.