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Stories of Alumni of the Fairley Leadership Program

Katrina Mohamed and Deanne Armstrong

We both understand exactly what needs to be done and we both work really well together.

Deanne Armstrong

Katrina Mohamed and Deanne Armstrong completed the Fairley Leadership Program in 1998 and 2017 respectively.   Katrina and Deanne teamed up to deliver a highly successful ‘Dungala Kaiela Oration’ in August 2019 for the Goulburn Murray Region. The oration is an annual event co-hosted by the Kaiela Institute and the University of Melbourne, which celebrates Aboriginal cultural identity, creates a shared vision for the region, and builds bridges to promote Aboriginal social and economic development.

Katrina has worked with the Kaiela Institute since 2017, whilst Deanne has worked with the Committee for Greater Shepparton since 2016.


Can you tell us about your work together on the ‘Dungala Kaiela Oration’?

Katrina: There is no way we could have created what we did with the Dungala Kaiela Oration without relationship. At the time I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, so we brought Dee on to help us. I just needed someone I could hand it over to and trust it with. Hamish [Hamish Fletcher from Kaiela Institute] said ‘If anyone is going to make it happen, Dee will make it happen. You won’t have to worry about a thing.’ and that’s how it worked, it was really, really smooth.

Deanne: I wanted your [Katrina’s] flair on the event, I knew what you were going through and your personal battle and I wanted to honour you in that way. To be asked to contribute to the Dungala Kaiela Oration event was an absolute honour for me. I still get quite emotional about it, to be involved in something like that, to celebrate the indigenous culture and to reflect on the importance of that culture in our community. Hop on the website [www.kaielainstitute.org.au] and have a look at the video, there is a smoking ceremony and it is just tingling.

How do you bring out the best in each other?

Katrina: There was definitely an immediate level of respect for each other’s skills, even without knowing exactly what they were. I think we quickly had that sense of being able to rely on each other and that goes beyond just working together. I do think we operate very similarly and that wasn’t hard to work out. We are both doers, give us a job and we will make it happen, that’s what we love to do.

Deanne: We have a mutual understanding of each other and we both work in a similar way. I sort of know what you [Katrina] will be thinking. It’s really weird. Our relationship hasn’t been a face to face relationship for long, but I think it’s that respect for each other that is important. We both understand exactly what needs to be done and we both work really well together.

What did you learn from completing the Fairley Leadership Program?

Katrina: For me the biggest learning was being exposed to all of the industry, the people and the potential. It inspired me to go "Okay, we have all of this, why aren’t we [the community] greater than what we are?". I need to be able to harness this and that comes in relationship, I am not going to make things great on my own. I learnt a lot of things, met a lot of people and it was good for personal development, but at the end of the day if my heart is for this place and I want to see things change, then my biggest learning is you have to work in partnership. You have to work hard at getting to know each other.

Deanne: Similar to what Katrina said, the exposure to the community organisations we have [in the region] was a big learning for me, There are many community organisations doing great work, but in silo’s, and the future challenge for us is bringing those organisations together to work as one because we all want to see our community grow and prosper. Before doing Fairley I was more the person sitting behind the scenes. It really challenged me to come forward and to stand up a bit more, to be more confident in myself and my abilities. I think Fairley Leadership was a big driver in that, compared to how I was prior to doing the course.

What is the passion or vision you want to bring to the community?

Deanne: I have a passion for supporting the indigenous culture and all cultures. We [Katrina and I] both have the same passion, we want to better our community and move in the right direction together.

Katrina: Both Dee and I genuinely care. There is a level of care that sits within our hearts for our community, for our children, for the future, for our workplaces and regard for our bosses and leaders who we know are working on a vision that is going to make Greater Shepparton a better place. We can be a national leader in that and I want to be a part of that and I know Dee wants to be a part of that. But that comes back to, and I keep coming back to it, relationship and everything that makes a relationship great- communication, trust, care, give and take.

Is there anything you would like to share with Fairley Fellows or the community?

Deanne: A lot of people probably do Fairley and learn about leadership and lot of people see leadership as CEO and higher levels, but we are all leaders in some way. We can all make a change in some way and it’s about how we use our skills and work with others. It is understanding that if you have someone who sees the same end result as you, it is a lot easier to work with them and to work towards that same goal. I think people need to think outside the box, it just takes little steps and you can really make a difference within the community.

Katrina:  Be willing to expose yourself to opportunities, don’t box yourself into anything, There are amazing opportunities to collaborate and to come together and the learning is extraordinary. The bonus is you get to meet awesome people and create great friendships that you would never have had before, and that’s how we get to shape our community, by doing those kind of things together.

Fairley Leadership Program inspired me to go ‘Okay, we have all of this. Why aren’t we [as a community] greater than what we are?

Katrina Mohamed

Stories of Alumni of the Fairley Leadership Program

Mark Lambourn and Sam Atukorala

Fairley Leadership journey was a significant change in my life.

Sam Atukorala

Today’s alumni interview is with Mark Lambourn and Sam Atukorala who completed the Fairley Leadership Program in 2006 and 2014 respectively.

As Fairley Leadership Fellows, Mark and Sam have been teaming up for five years to provide young people, from migrant and refugee families settling in the Goulburn Murray region, with AFL football clinics and experiences... and a greater sense of belonging and connection with their new community.

Mark worked with AFL Goulburn Murray for six years and currently works with the Moira Shire Council, Sam has worked with the Ethnic Council of Shepparton since 2014.


Did the Fairley Leadership Program play a role in developing your working relationship and friendship?

Mark:  I think without a doubt when I look at or talk to someone, and they mention they have done Fairley Leadership, it is almost a door opens, that’s how I feel. You automatically have a connection and no matter what path or walk of life you come from, you’ve got this connection. I drew on what I had done and learnt about the whole community [through Fairley Leadership], it was fantastic for me personally to understand the broader community. So when you start to talk to other alumni who have done it, it automatically opens that door for you and at least you are going to get a hearing.

Sam: Fairley Leadership journey was a significant change in my life. I came to Shepparton in 2013, it was for my wife’s work and initially I didn’t like Shepparton. I didn’t want to be here because I didn’t have a sense of belonging. In 2014 when Mark approached me, I had just started at the Ethnic Council and I was new to the area and new to the job, I also gave a challenge to myself to do the leadership program. Once I had completed Fairley that gave me the links to connect with Shepparton. I remember in initial discussions with Mark, he mentioned a few times that he had completed Fairley as well, and that played in my mind. The reason I didn’t want to become an ambassador was a lack of understanding of footy and also once I commit to something I want to give 100%. I didn’t have the capacity to give 100% without having those connections and community links, but after completing Fairley Leadership program I said “yes”, and signed up to become an ambassador in 2015. Since then Mark and I have been doing a number of projects that have become successful and we have established a strong working relationship and a great friendship.


How do you bring out the best in each other?

Mark:  I think we bounce off each other. He [Sam] may not have the skills to kick the football or to go to a class or group of kids to show them, but that’s where I kick in. Vice versa, "Do I have the connections to walk into a community of young multicultural kids and their families? That’s not me.” I wouldn’t know how to go about it, but that’s Sam’s ability, that’s what he does. So the synergy between the two of us is he finds the community and I bring the other stuff. That’s how it works.

Sam: I totally agree. I am not a skilful person in sports, especially footy, but Mark said what we basically needed to achieve in the community, delivering the skills to new migrant kids who have never played footy. I can’t be an expert [in football], I don’t know anything about it. But once we created it [the AFL program], Mark gave me the freedom to pick the dates and venues and he came and ran the clinics. As Mark said we had skills that match very well to deliver a successful model of running the clinics. The clinic we started is still up and running now and will keep going.


What are you most passionate about bringing to this community?

Mark:  For me, I just want to leave it [the community] in a better place. “Is it in a bad place now? No". There are certain aspects of it that are probably not the greatest, but if whatever I do when I leave Shepparton, this earth, if it’s in a better place, personally I have felt I have given and I will be a happy person. So if that means helping kids get a part time job, it doesn’t matter you know. Like I said, I can still see kids now that I have something to do with five, six years ago, and they acknowledge me and they don’t need to remember my name, and I wont remember theirs, but we just had an impact. If one of them says "Gees, thank you for that”, that will be enough.

Sam: First if all, I want to give back to this community. I didn’t have a good understanding when I first came to Shepparton, I didn’t like it because of lack of understanding or perhaps I didn’t try enough to make connections. Shepparton is a unique community. So I am passionate about helping the young people to experience the place they live in and opportunities they have and have a real sense of belonging. Physical settlement is easy, “but is that the real settlement? No!” They have to mentally settle and feel part of the community.


How did you start working together given you are from different organisations?

Mark:  We are from two very different organisations, but both are striving to achieve the same result. For us [AFL Goulburn Murray] it was “How do we connect into that multicultural space? Okay, lets go to the ethnic community”. But then when you get there and there is someone embarking on the Fairley Leadership Program, then there is another door that opened. Yes, we need to head there for what we need to do, but I think it is mixture of both. We probably say “yes” to everything, but probably more so to another Fairley Leadership Fellow. There is definitely a connection, a stronger lead in with Fairley Fellows.

Sam: When you say the relationship with the organisations, it’s the people who make those connections. I think both Mark and I started the program because we wanted to support our multicultural community in Shepparton. I supported the program because of Mark. So you can say through the line of work we do we connected, but there was a significant impact also from Fairley as well. You gain that trust and you don’t think about the ifs and buts when you are dealing with another leader from Fairley, you also go through the same journey and Fairley Leadership Program is an amazing journey.

So the synergy between the two of us is he finds the community and I bring the other stuff. That's how it works.

Mark Lambourn

Rebecca Lorains

Fairley taught me to be more measured - more practical in my approach.

Rebecca Lorains

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I have been a natural leader since I was young. I understood from a young age, that if I wanted to change things, I had to step-up and influence people and then lead.


When you started the Fairley Leadership Program, what were you doing in terms of employment?

I was Director of Families and Counselling and Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Primary Care Connect.


What are you doing now in terms of employment?

I’m the Chief Executive Officer at Primary Care Connect.


Is there a main point you took from the Fairley Leadership Program that has helped you in your employment/community involvement?

Fairley taught me to be more measured – more practical in my approach, and I really understand the importance of listening well.

I learnt how important it is for a successful team (in anything) to have different types of people. The five “D’s”:

  • dreamers
  • designers
  • decision-makers
  • do-ers and
  • developers.

Would you recommend participation in the Fairley Leadership Program?

I would encourage anyone who has a passion for their community to do it. It is a big time commitment but is definitely worthwhile. I would stress that it is not a professional development course, but that it is for people who are genuinely interested in giving back to their community.

Tricia Quibell

The connections I have made have been invaluable, professionally.

Tricia Quibell

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

Not autocratic. I’m an inclusive leader who gives staff opportunities for growth. I don’t jump in and try to solve staff problems. I let them take responsibility and make them accountable, but provide supper where it’s needed.


When you started the Fairley Leadership Program, what were you doing in terms of employment?

I was the Deputy Regional Director or Berry Street.


What are you doing now in terms of employment?

I’m the Health, Wellbeing and Special Services Manager (Goulburn) for the Department of Education.


Is there a main point you took from the Fairley Leadership Program that has helped you in your employment/community involvement?

Completing the program gave me the ability to tap into the cohort and I was able to encourage two more people to come on the Goulburn Murray Local Learning and Employment Network Board.


Did participation in the Fairley Leadership Program change you in any way?

It took me from a position of comfort and made me think about where I want to be work-wise. It gave me the courage to ask whether I was satisfied in my work-role (pre-Fairley).

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