The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation (WBCF) Leadership Academy program was delivered to 53 participants over ten weeks from October 2019 to March 2020. The program is divided into three main focus areas:
- self-awareness and personal leadership (including Strengths)
- team leadership and development
- community leadership.
One of the program participants, Kira Annear, shares her story on the profound positive impact that the WBCF leadership program has had on her life.
“I migrated to Australia from Canada in 2016. You see, I married an Australian, from a small town in regional Victoria, and when it came time to decide where we were going to live, we chose Australia. It is heaps warmer here, especially in the winter, and he could not handle six-month-long Canadian winters with minus 30-degree Celsius days plus the wind chill. There were also more opportunities for all of us in Australia. And here we are.
I did not know anyone when I moved here and I thought what better way to get to know people and the community I am living in, than to volunteer. So, I went to our local Neighbourhood House and got information on what was happening in and around town. I got involved with the Tourist District Association and took on the role of copyeditor for the local newsletter, which I have been doing for the last 4 years. I also joined the CFA and started working the bar at our local footy club.
The next year, 2017, I decided that I was ready to get into the workforce. I got a 12-month contract with a local not for profit organisation doing HR and recruitment, and while I had a lot to learn with the different practices here in Australia, I absolutely loved it. When my contract was complete, I got another job with another not for profit, in a similar role. My daughter was going to school, and after some adapting to the different teaching style and dealing with bullying, which is almost non-existent where we were from in Canada, she was loving it. Life for me, on the other hand, took a different turn.
While I had made the best decision in my life to move to Australia, and everything I wanted for me and my family was coming to fruition, I was extremely unhappy. I missed my family and friends in Canada and struggled to make real connections here in Australia. I had acquaintances, but no one I could really call a true friend. I did have my husband, but I was lonely for friendship. I turned to alcohol to cope, and when I could not drink, I ate. I became extremely overweight, unhealthy, unhappy and my mental health was suffering. I felt I had no one here to turn to, to talk to, to understand what I was going through; I felt utterly alone. My alcohol abuse almost cost me everything I worked so hard for, I reached out for help, and on 23 July 2019, I got sober.
Around this same time, I saw a post on Facebook for the Daughters of the West health program. It was available in the regional city where I was working, was for women only, talked about female topics and included a fitness component. I thought, this is exactly what I need right now. So, I signed up. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
The program was phenomenal, I loved every minute of it. It gave me the want and the drive to do something better for my life, for my daughter, for my husband. It motivated me to be a better me. Being around the other women, some who were feeling just as lost as I was and some who weren’t; sharing and hearing stories, being able to relate to each other, supporting each other, not judging our situations or circumstances, was empowering. I did not feel so alone anymore. Each session provided so many resources; access to services, psychologists to speak with if necessary, and best of all, connection.
At the end of the program, I wanted to keep going. I was told about the Leadership Program that was available, and I immediately applied. I was anxious I was not going to be accepted, but I was, and I was nervous, but excited. These things can be difficult when you lack confidence in yourself, have low self-esteem, doubt your abilities and are struggling with overcoming addiction.
The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation Leadership Program changed my life. I discovered my personal values and my strengths. I learned how to focus on the things that make me a better person, and the best thing, I learned how to use my skills to help others.
I left my job which had become a toxic place to work and I enrolled in the Dual Diploma of Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management and Management Human Resources. I began a weight loss and health and wellbeing journey that has seen me lose 31 kilograms to date, and I have not had a drink since I decided to get sober on 23 July 2019. Local community members recognised my leadership skills and asked me to be involved in a wellbeing program facilitated by Health Futures Australia to generate a plan for our community to encourage health, wellbeing, and connection. The Western Bulldogs Community Foundation also asked if I would be willing to participate as a Leader for this year’s Daughters of the West Program Online, and I accepted without hesitation.
I feel like a new person, and at the same time, I feel like me, like who I am meant to be. I know what my purpose is, thanks to the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation DOTW and VU Polytechnic’s Leadership Program, and that is to create a lasting impact in people’s lives so they may flourish in all aspects of their lives.
The decisions I now make in my life consider my values and my vision. I am content and grateful for what I have and seek opportunities to pay it forward. If I can make an impact on one person, I will feel truly fulfilled.
I cannot thank the Western Bulldogs Community Foundation enough; I will be forever grateful. To anyone who can participate in any of the programs, I highly encourage you to do it. It could change your life too!”
About the WBCF Leadership Academy 2019-20
Participants engaged in personal reflection, team activities, and they also had the opportunity to engage with the WBCF diversity team and Kashif Bouns (General Manager, WBCF), who discussed his personal leadership journey and vision for the WBCF.
The program comprised of ten workshops, and participants were spread across three cohorts; Monday and Wednesday evenings at the VU Whitten Oval, and Tuesday evenings at the Western Bulldogs premises in Ballarat. This was the first time VU had run the WBCF Leadership Academy and 30 workshops were delivered in total.
To undertake the WBCF Leadership Academy, participants had to have completed a Sons or Daughters of the West program. 53 participants completed the Leadership Academy, culminating in a celebration on March 2020 held at the VU Whitten Oval.