A group of aspiring south-west leaders is hoping the stories its tells will “open community arms and minds”.
The four 2017 Leadership Great South Coast participants have been compiling stories of Warrnambool migrants in a bid to mark the city’s journey of inclusion.
Entitled Our Story, the project will discuss cultural challenges as seen through six different experiences.
The stories form part of an annual leadership program aimed at building relationships between the business, community and government sectors, with participants investigating the future of the region and its economy.
The program, which began in 2012, runs from February to December with an annual intake of 16 to 20.
Motivations and backgrounds of the Our Story team are personal and varied.
AMANDA WEARNE, Wannon Water inclusion, diversity and well-being officer.
Warrnambool mother-of-two Amanda Wearne has been living in the region for 12 years. She is hoping that participating in the program will give her the opportunity to reflect and realign her personal and professional outlook, and give her an understanding of broader relationships.
“Recent articles in The Standard about a particular court case cemented the fact that something about cultural acceptance should be highlighted,” she said. “I hope the wider Warrnambool community gains a broader acceptance, appreciation and understanding of the cultural diversity in our region.”
DELNA PLATHOTTAM, Lyndoch Living associate nurse unit manager.
Delna Plathottam is a registered nurse who migrated from Mangalore in India in 2012. The SES volunteer is hoping her involvement in the program will “make a difference in the community”.
“Being a migrant myself I could see some of the challenges that a migrant might face trying to fit into the community,” she said. “I think it is important that we as a community celebrate this welcoming culture and extend it to future migrants and refugees in the region.”
JORDAN SMITH, Gnurad-Gundidj Campus organisation, health and well-being coordinator.
Jordan Smith is hoping the leadership program will help him “find out what part we can play in making the district a better place for us all”.
“I have seen first-hand how discrimination can destroy someone’s self-worth,” he said. “I have also seen how connectedness and meaningful relationships can bring the most unlikely of people together to create lasting friendships and amazing outcomes.
“I think the stories will send a message that behind every face there is a human with feelings and rights who are worthy of respect, inclusion and understanding.”
GARRY PETERSON, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning biodiversity manager.
Father-of-two Garry Peterson is hoping the leadership program will help him gain an understanding of the background and challenges south-west migrants face.
Raised in Melbourne, the ecologist of 20 years says he has recently developed a growing interest in social justice issues, particularly racial and sexual diversity and equality.
“From a personal perspective, I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne where racism and cultural intolerance was the norm and I have seen the impacts first hand,” he said. “I’m hoping the community gains an understanding that our recent refugees and migrates are no different to the migrants from the 1950s or 1970s who are accepted and celebrated members of our community.”