FAMILY is everything to Stuart Simmons. This is why he is prepared to made a bold move and give up his job for six months to move from Ballarat to the Gold Coast with his wife and two young sons.
Timing felt right for some serious quality time.
The decision, he said, was cemented after graduating from Leadership Ballarat and Western Region's leaders forum.
From the outset in a safe introduction space, participants laid bare their passions and life stories. For Mr Simmons, this was about family and his proud up-bringing in Wendouree West and one who determinedly worked his way to university.
Each community immersion day reinforced Mr Simmons' values on what mattered to him most.
"There are people out there like me and my background, and worse, who can still make it," Mr Simmons said. "Part of my reason for doing LBWR is that life's too short. I'd sooner invest in time with my family than invest in property. I can do this because I'm at a point where I'm comfortable in life...
Money doesn't buy you happiness, what it buys you is choice.
Joining LBWR was a whirlwind decision for Mr Simmons. His boss, Visit Ballarat chief Neil Dempsey, encouraged him to apply and interview on the eve of the program launch.
The forum pieced together 30 people from across the region with diverse life and professional experience but united in wanting to do what they could for the betterment of the community.
This still has the now-former Visit Ballarat customer service manager considering what more he could do.
"We're in the business of bringing people to Ballarat and that does a lot for prosperity of the city and pride in community," Mr Simmons said. "We live and work in a fantastic city. I want to find more opportunities to give back."
LEADING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
A VISIT with prisoners at Langi Kal Kal earlier this month continues to test Michelle Barlett's values and attitudes about her community more than she had ever imagined. The experience and ensuing discussion with peers makes her uncomfortable but in what Ms Bartlett said was a good way - it has her thinking bigger.
Each program day opens Ms Bartlett's eyes to what others are achieving in the face of great challenges. She takes back to work and her sons what she learns from each experience and from those around her in Leadership Ballarat and Western Region leaders forum.
"I think it's important all companies find ways to invest in staff," Ms Bartlett said. "It's a chance for self-development, but that also brings skills back to the business...
I'm telling everyone about what I learn and I share it with my teenage boys, encouraging them to think bigger.
Creating a ripple effect in developing community leadership is in the essence of why Committee for Ballarat, with partner organisations, established LBWR in 2005. There are now more than 300 graduates able to share skills to benefit the region and help bring out the best in those around them.
Ms Bartlett said now her boys were more independent, she had the chance to take more time for herself with the support of her family business CE Bartlett for which she is now the personal assistant to the senior management team.
Growing up among one of Ballarat's major employers, Ms Bartlett said supporting community has always been an integral part of the company. She particularly looks up to her father Keith in his tireless efforts.
As a third-generation Bartlett in the company, Ms Bartlett felt it was also important to stay in tune with changing community issues, attitudes and opportunity.
Ms Bartlett has already stepped up in the planning group for Committee for Ballarat's connect networking program for office professionals. The group brought Academy Award-winning animator Adam Elliot for an event encouraging people to "shoot for the stars" in their passion.
Ms Bartlett now looked forward to this week's Commerce Ballarat Business Day Out, included in the LBWR program, for more professional inspiration.
"Being from a family business, having the opportunity to work with others on a committee outside the business has helped a lot with self-confidence," Ms Bartlett said. "I'm not sure where I actually fit in life after LBWR but I know I'll have a lot better idea where I could help."
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