A leadership program celebrating its first decade in the south-west has been credited for changing the lives of two prominent community leaders.
Leadership Great South Coast alumni paid tribute to the annual program at an event on September 8 marking its 10-year milestone which has seen more than 150 participants across the region go through its training.
One Day Studios president Gareth Colliton said the 10-month program changed his career trajectory, leading him to "pivot" from being an art curator to launching his creative digital media studio for teenagers and young adults.
"It really changed my outlook, and changed my career," he said.
"It caused me to think really critically about what I could offer the world, what my skill set [was], and how I [could] best serve the community."
Mr Colliton said the program also taught him to find ways of turning his life adversity into personal development and facilitation of positive change for the community.
"They get you to examine who you are... and speak to a room full of complete strangers about deeply personal things," he said.
"I realised that my own personal story was one of struggle against a culture that belittles creatives.
"That's actually still happening... and the teenagers are really suffering."
The 2015 alumnus said his studio provides children with a space to explore the creative arts and offers them training to enter the industry.
"We help young people find skills in software, 3D printing, and augmented reality and virtual reality gaming... in order to create their stuff, and [help] them go into industries that use [those skills]," he said.
Mr Colliton said the leadership program also afforded him invaluable learning experiences at Budj Bim and Victoria Parliament House which he applies to his own leadership.
"You get to see behind the scenes of a lot of high level organisations who are tackling big social problems," he said.
"Speaking directly to MPs... and really getting a sense of how things actually operate, that was really important."
"It gave me some confidence as well as the ability to see how I might be able to have a vocation that was more rewarding personally and for my community."
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Southern Stay chief executive officer Paul Lougheed, who completed the program in 2014, said he gained the most from the range of local and travelling guest speakers giving firsthand accounts of their leadership.
"I felt very fortunate that we had access to all those speakers," he said.
"I learnt that there's no one way of providing leadership because it's about being flexible, agile, and understanding people and listening to people."
Mr Lougheed said he owed his achievements to the program where he also had the opportunity to participate in community projects including the Ngatanwarr Welcome Mural.
"We were able to bring people together and have a steering group, and work with a really great artist. There were some great learnings out of that," he said.
"Once I finished Leadership Great South Coast, the learnings gave me the confidence then to apply for my current position [at Southern Stay]."
He said he was also able to better understand how differently leadership could manifest, particularly when leaders should "step back".
"It's not just about the CEO, it's not just about your position, but it's about the action that you take," he said.
"There's quite a few examples of different projects within our organisation where I'll have an involvement, but then I trust the staff to progress things forward."
Mr Lougheed said his organisation would continue to be part of the program which saw his chief financial officer participate in 2022's cohort.
"We're really supportive of the program," he said.
"There's not many opportunities you get where you're privy to that many people doing some amazing work in the community."
Applications for the 2023 community program are open until October 24.
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