Goulburn Murray Community Leadership began in 1997 as a result of a local businessman’s (Ross McPherson, Managing Director of the McPherson Media Group) participation in the Williamson Community Leadership Program based in Melbourne. On his return he gathered together a group of local business and community people interested in addressing the need for leadership across the region.
A community based not-for profit board continues to steer Fairley Leadership. The program is now in its twenty second year with 525 graduates. The program provides an opportunity for people to develop leadership skills across the Goulburn Murray region and to explore the major issues facing the region and assist positive change.
Fairley Leadership encourages the development of a vigorous network of community leaders by:
✓ Offering emerging leaders an intensive annual program that explores the major issues and opportunities for the Goulburn Murray region
✓ Providing an environment where emerging leaders from the business, government, cultural, community and agricultural sectors can develop links and understanding,
✓ Enabling emerging leaders to meet and learn from existing leaders, and
✓ Combining emerging and existing leaders as a continuing resource of skills and influence to further enrich the community
Graduates (Fairley Fellows) have become an important and influential network in the Goulburn Murray region. Numerous graduates have joined community groups and boards in managerial and strategic planning activities, while others have successfully run for Local and State Government. They serve as role models and mentors within the community.
An independent evaluation of Fairley Leadership found that Fairley Fellows were:
- nearly three times more likely than the average adult Australian to do volunteer work for community groups and organisations, and put in twice as many hours;
- much more likely than the typical Australian volunteer to be involved in public speaking, lobbying, influencing and public relations on behalf of community groups; and
- more likely to have an increased understanding of the region and passion for community, combined with confidence and skills to lead … preparing them ‘to step up to the next level’.
Employers in the region support Fairley Leadership because they also notice that their staff come back:
- with ‘a much better understanding of how the groups they’re (professionally) involved with work and how they fit in to the wider community’;
- a ‘well-rounded person’ who is better placed to deal with the diverse demands of customers and stakeholders; and
- ‘with the confidence to step forward into areas where they’ve not worked before’.
The evaluation concluded that “Fairley Fellows have made a substantial contribution to the growth and maintenance of the very fabric of the Goulburn Murray community.”
Source: The Achievements of Fairley Leadership by Medistat (Melbourne), August 2007
Participants pay a fee (see application form for more details) with this figure often met by the employer. Some scholarship positions are available and this helps ensure diversity within the group.
The major sponsor for the first decade of the program was the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation, a philanthropic trust with a particular focus on the Goulburn Valley Region.
Since 2012 the major funding source was the Department of Regional and Rural Development’s Provincial Leader’s Development Program.
Other sponsors include the Goulbourn Valley Water, GOTAFE, Goulburn-Murray Water, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, Gardiner Foundation, The Hugh Williamson Foundation, Violet Town Action Group, local government and regional authorities.
The Board places enormous value on the in-kind support from many organisations across the region that provide venues, catering, speakers and many other forms of assistance.