Currently I sit at the window seat of an aircraft flying away from one of the most inspiring and challenging experiences of my life the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF). The mountain ranges dappled with countless water bodies pass below us while (the famous) purple-haired ball of energy that is Ally sits opposite and chats to two of the many forum delegates on their way back to Brisbane. I am accompanied by my laptop and a favourite hour long dubstep mix and am finding it difficult to describe the amazingness of the last four days. From the 20th to the 23rd of September, Allysha Jensen-Swift and I (Stephanie Piper) were fortunate enough to be nominated, selected and fully sponsored to attend the NSLF in Canberra. The time consisted of a fast-paced timetable jam packed with thirteen guest speakers, visits to parliament house, and many other engaging activities. We both felt that the experience was thoroughly enriching and gave us a new perspective on life.
The forum was based around the theme of ‘faith and values’ and explored the way that these two crucial aspects formed the basis of an individual’s leadership style. Each individual guest speaker that spoke to us had some fantastic life experiences and many pearls of wisdom to share. To name a few, we were addressed by P.M. Julia Gillard, the Opposition Leader Tony Abbot (who is a great impromptu speaker), the CEO of the ABC, Chief in charge of the NSW police Officer Andrew Scipione, U.S. Ambassador Jeffery Bleich, Senator Gary Humpries and Senator Penny Wong. We also heard the stories of Australian Local Hero Mrs Lynne Sawyers, who has fostered over 200 children over 24 years. Her love and compassion for all people was fantastic. Lynne’s allocated ‘Question time’ at the conclusion of her talk was overwhelmed with requests for hugs rather than insights. Jane Tewson, the founder of Red Nose Day in the UK was also great to hear from. She was accompanied by the previously homeless Duane. Duane had a collection of horrible experiences, including his brother drowning, uncle getting hit by a car, another brother committing suicide on a train line, and his father having a fatal car accident. After all this, his family home burnt down and he was left homeless with the remainder of his family. Despite all this, he has pulled out of the despair and has been able to inspire and encourage others to make the best of life. Hearing from the life experiences of all these successful people was fantastic in such a short space of time. It seems that there are many reoccurring themes from people from all walks of life.
Nestled amoungst the many guest speaker time slots we had ‘small group’ time. We were allocated into groups of six to spend the forum time with and managed to form very tight bonds with these people. During our allocated group time over the four days, each of us had a chance to ‘share’. This involved giving a full account of our life experiences, inspirations, failures and aspirations for the future with everyone else. At first it seemed very confronting to share such a personal account with strangers. However, because of the nature of the ‘sharing’ it was beneficial in many ways and we all found that we share many of the same struggles. Understanding religion, the direction our future is heading, dealing with loss and family issues were just a few. When it came to my time to ‘share’ the feedback and questions really were useful and are something I will be able to keep in my thoughts for the future. It is rare to share such things with others and an invaluable experience to listen.
I encourage others to apply for the 2013 Forum and receive the same fantastic experience that I will now carry with me and shape my decision making for the future. I will conclude with one of my favourite quotes from the forum – a famous definition of leadership.
Leadership: Dealers in hope.