2016 GLF Seminar 8: Leadership & Health


Claire TaylorGLF 2016 participant Claire Taylor reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 8: Leadership & Health; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

Examining the topic of health from the perspective of consumers and shapers of the system and its services was illuminating.

We started the day with an address from Gerry O’Callaghan, Director of Intensive Care Services which highlighted the complexity of the health system and how many wicked problems there are to consider within the Transforming Health agenda. Gerry talked about some of the data that is being used to underpin the transforming health agenda and it struck me that it is very difficult to tell a compelling story about the necessity of a world-class tertiary medical facility using bed statistics. What was far more compelling were the vignettes from health such as the 80 year old man trying to get himself ready for 5am surgery or the consultants not available at night. These vignettes prompt one to ask how the system can be more patient centric and less systemised- and is this even possible for such a large system? As stakeholders I think that we all agree that replacing the out-moded Royal Adelaide Hospital with a modern world-class facility is a positive step forward for our state. Time will tell how the Transforming Health program will affect other parts of the health system as it is so far reaching that results cannot be predicted in advance.

Brad Chillcott, who our cohort engaged with earlier in his role as the Founder of Welcome to Australia, talked about his experience of the health system with his son Harrison who has ongoing health challenges. It was wonderful of Brad to tell us of his positive interactions with the health system in both New South Wales and South Australia and so good of him to give up his time as his son faced further hospitalisation and was celebrating his birthday that day. The take-away message from Brad for me was that no matter what health challenges we are faced with it is important to maintain a level of agency as there are always anomalies and survivors that can’t be accounted for in systems and statistics.

I enjoyed the format of the health consumer session which, after a five minute introduction from each guest, was run using World Café methodology. All members of the panel enlightened us with their particular interface with the system from multiple perspectives. Overall it seems that most consumers of our health system have had very positive experiences, however it seems that as a society we are rather stuck with what to do around the topic of death. It seems that we are not comfortable about death as it has become industrialised in recent history, coupled with this is our desire to disavow people of their agency in choosing when they will die ie the voluntary euthanasia debate.

In the afternoon we heard from a panel of health shapers in terms of those in positions of influence from various sub-sets of the system. It was interesting to hear about their varied experience of leadership in health and the issues that they have all faced. What seemed to be a common theme for all was their passion for making a difference for people and translating this passion into affecting system change. The majority of this panel were all very experienced and had worked across government and non-government for many years and experienced much change and upheaval and seemed to relish these experiences. They were all great examples of leaders, whether their leadership was informal or formal it had seemed to switch to and fro, for many of the panel, over time.

Finally we were lucky enough to be able to see how Country Health SA, have used an integral approach to analyse the performance of their system. It was great to be able to see the framework in action and I am pretty sure we all walked away feeling inspired to do the same in our own workplaces.

Through my work in child protection what often comes across is the power of individuals and small interventions to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. People who are interacting with the health system are often at their most vulnerable so it is a similar context. Often the best therapy is in the relationship rather than the counselling methodology or the specific health treatment which can’t easily be quantified and measured. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; “systems don’t heal people, people do” unknown quote.

Claire Taylor

Senior Project Officer
Families SA / Residential Care


2016 GLF Seminar 7: Leadership & Education


Cox, Trent PhotoGLF 2016 participant Trent Cox reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 7: Leadership & Education; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

Friday 24th June 2016 saw the 2016 GLF cohort examining leadership in education. I think I speak for my colleagues when I say that I came away both informed and exhausted.

We were very fortunate to begin the day at Trinity Gardens Primary School (TGPS), courtesy of the Principal, Ms Jan Carey, a fellow 2016 GLFer. There was a palpable sense of many emotions amongst the group, as the visit coincided with Jan’s last day of service in DECD before embarking on her new journey in the field of mindfulness. We all wish you the very best Jan!

The day began with a presentation from Jayne Johnston, Chief Education Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, Department for Education and Child Development. Jayne focused on systems-level leadership within DECD which, given the recent developments that will see Families SA calved from DECD, was very timely. The continued development of leadership from the centralised model to local sites (e.g. Principals) was another of the messages that I took away from her talk.

This was followed by a tour of four elements of TGPS’s educational core – its disability unit, Steiner classrooms, children’s centre, and the outdoor nature play facilities. TGPS has recently converted considerable areas of its grounds into a series of interactive, nature-based play areas which include reflective walking trails, vegetable gardens, cubby-house construction zones and wetlands. The areas provide an opportunity for children to explore nature and undertake creative interactions with each other and the environment, which fits neatly with the educational focus of the school. The expansive grounds and the effort that has gone into converting huge swathes of grassed areas was impressive, and I suspect many, if not all, GLFers were reminiscing about their own school experiences while enjoying the tour.

Steiner is an educational philosophy which emphasises the role of imagination in learning. We visited several classrooms and I was struck by the absence of what might be considered a traditional classroom structure and materials. Natural materials replaced the omnipresent plastics and artificial materials one might expect to see in most other educational settings, and we witnessed many craft and music activities being undertaken. I found the Steiner philosophy quite discomfiting to be perfectly frank, which is undoubtedly a result of my own prejudices clashing with exposure to something unexpected. While the passion and commitment of our tour guide to this philosophy was laudable I came away feeling like I’d stumbled into a hippie commune. I didn’t get a sense of literacy and numeracy being prized as I believe they should, and I wondered how Steiner might cater for children in trauma, or those from poverty (TGPS is an Index of Disadvantage 6 in a 7-level scale, meaning its student demographic is the second least disadvantaged among DECD sites). But on further reflection what I have come to appreciate is that education is not a one-size-fits-all system, and we’re fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to choose for our children what educational experience we as parents believe is right for our kids. If Steiner suits your child’s learning needs, then all power to you.

The Disability Unit prompted mixed emotions for me – the passion and dedication of the staff to disabled children was inspiring, yet this was juxtaposed by feelings of despair when I discovered the enormous waiting lists for disabled children to access what is their right to a quality, state-funded education. While I don’t know enough about the funding models that underpin disability education, my impression is that disabled children endure inequalities in education that you and I take for granted.

The afternoon session shifted gears as we ventured to the University of South Australia’s city west campus, with one focus being the changing nature of higher education. Two of our speakers, Professor Marie Wilson (UniSA), and Professor Pascale Quester (the University of Adelaide), spoke of the vast changes transforming the way tertiary education is being delivered. There is a more student-centric focus on delivering education, which itself is now more about student learning that facilitator-led teaching. Moreover, there have been quantum changes in the methods of delivery, including flexible options such as online learning, online tutorials, and consideration of students’ lifestyles in developing the courses.

Madeline Frost, Director of Tourism, Hospitality and Creative Arts at TAFE SA, took a different tack, discussing the links between TAFE SA and industry in developing and delivering vocational education to students ranging in age from 17 to 77. The key theme I took away from her presentation was the need for vocational education to be both flexible and agile in delivering educational services to students to prepare them for the workplace. Madeline too spoke of the changing face of the modern adult classroom, which she described as a ‘flipped classroom’ where facilitators learn from the students as much as the students learn from them. In terms of educational leadership, however, the biggest insight I got from Madeline was her likening education to the Darwinian model of evolution. Modern adult education, she posited, was subject to the processes of change and adaptation in order to survive and flourish, much like Darwin’s discovery of species changing and adapting to their surroundings.

The final panel of the day comprised Andrew Plastow (Alberton Primary School), Tanya Darling (Scotch College), Dr Tom Nehmy (clinical psychologist) and Donna Nitschke (neuroscientist). Andrew provided some context around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education in highlighting the sobering fact that ATSI children are more disadvantaged in their learning than children with disabilities. Just as shocking was the revelation that ATSI children, on average, leave school less numerate than when they entered – a fact that should shame us all. He then led the GLF group through an exercise whereby we explored our individual learning styles by expressing them in symbols (on the dreaded butcher’s paper!).

Donna Nitschke provided some of the science behind education in discussing ‘how we learn’ in neurological terms. One of the key messages I received was how the brain loves patterns, be they advantageous or disadvantageous to learning. Moreover, learning patterns are not only difficult to break but are now known to be more significant than genetics in determining learning.

Dr Tom Nehmy, meanwhile, spoke eloquently of his research into preventative psychology and the role of emotion as either a promoter or inhibitor of achievement in learning. A key focus of his presentation was the development of resilience in learners and how ‘perfectionism’ can lead some learners to have dysfunctional emotional responses. I was intrigued with Dr Nehmy’s belief that through preventative psychology (targeting the causes of emotional dysfunction) improved learning outcomes may be achieved for many.

Finally, at the end of a mentally exhausting day where our collective mental buckets were full, our GLF colleague Clare Nocka led us through the obligatory quadrants and levels exercise in our syndicate groups, with a particular focus on AS/AT perspectives of ‘systems of education’. It was a great way for the syndicate groups to debrief and for our experiences throughout the day to coalesce into appreciations of education systems from cradle to grave.

Overall, the day’s activities and presentations enabled me to reflect on my own journey through the public education system and into tertiary education and beyond. But more than that, it resulted in me reflecting on the journey that my own children are going through in the public education system and how their classroom experiences are without doubt markedly different to mine in the 1970s and 80s. It got me wondering how their university experience will be different to mine and how I, as a parent, can stay connected with my children to share with them and guide them through their learning journeys.

Inspector Trent Cox
Special Crimes Investigation Branch
South Australia Police




2016 GLF: Community Visit Day


JCys XXGLF 2016 participant Joanne Cys reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Community Visit Day; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.


‘Meaningful Motivation’

A significant event within the GLF program is the annual Community Visit Day.  The Community Visit Day enables GLF participants to actively engage with not-for-profit, community and other charitable organisations to learn about their operations and the people they support.  This year, members of the 2016 GLF cohort each visited two organisations, spending a half-day participating with them, and importantly, learning from them.  The organisations included Barkuma, Junction Australia, Time For Kids, Oz Harvest, Hutt Street Centre, Minda, Australian Refugee Association, Catherine House and the Central Domestic Violence Service.

On a clear, crisp June morning, the 2016 GLFers set forth to attend their first location, some setting out at dawn to participate in the Hutt Street Centre’s breakfast service and Oz Harvest’s central run.  In the sunshine of the early afternoon participants moved to their second locations and then convened together at the end of the day at The Welcome Centre for reflection and de-brief discussions.

Volunteering Australia’s Key Facts and Statistics (2014-2015) indicate that the major reasons people choose to volunteer are to “help others” and to “do something meaningful”.  Following my GLF Community Day visits with Oz Harvest and the Australian Refugee Association, the motivation of doing something meaningful has resonated powerfully.

At Oz Harvest, the directness of collecting food items that would otherwise be wasted and delivering them, sometimes within only a few minutes or kilometres, to people who are in need, is potent in its significance, and in the satisfaction it brings.  The impact of this straight-forward act of logical, sustainable, waste-neutral generosity, extends far beyond the nutritional and economic benefit to the recipients.  It’s obvious that everyone involved –the central office coordination staff, the truck drivers, the suppliers and the corporate sponsors (from big supermarket suppliers to the generous workshop that supplies and services the delivery truck tyres) – gain great satisfaction from their participation.  Diverse groups of people are connected through Oz Harvest’s direct and effective system of food re-distribution.  The satisfaction and benefit is just as evident in those who give, distribute and support as it is in those who receive.

At the Australian Refugee Association, the contribution of volunteers is fundamentally embedded within every aspect of operation.  In many instances, like the sewing circle, the workshop and the reception and drop-in desks, volunteers have established continuing and irreplaceable elements of ARA’s service delivery.  In some instances, refugees who were once the recipients of ARA services and support, have now returned to the organisation as volunteers themselves.  Some are now formally employed by ARA and contribute greatly to the ongoing service provision that had helped them so much in the past.  The experience of receiving valuable ARA support recirculates as a motivation for doing something meaningful. The legacy of receiving support returns to the organisation as expert support to be offered to others.

Organisations such as those visited by the 2016 GLF cohort on their Community Visit Day provide critical support for people in need.  More than this, they are productive social enterprises that innovate magnificently within the constraints of all sorts of limitations.  These organisations have the potential to achieve what larger and better resourced organisations (and government departments) cannot.  Most importantly, they create a network of reciprocal benefit and contribution throughout our community, motivating a continuing matrix of giving, developing understanding and building capacity.

Joanne Cys
Dean: Academic, Division of Education, Arts & Social Sciences
University of South Australia

2016 GLF Seminar 5: Leadership & Aboriginal Australians


Dittmar photoGLF 2016 participant Mark Dittmar reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 5: Aboriginal Australians; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

Walking toward the impressive Tandanya Cultural Centre from Rymill Park for our Aboriginal Leadership session, I couldn’t help but reflect on the building’s former life as a beacon of modern industrialisation and the site of the original coal fire power station built in 1901.

I wondered what feelings these big brick chimneys blowing black smoke across the skyline of Adelaide would have evoked in the local Kaurna community.

The sobering fact is that the original Kaurna people never saw the smoke billow from the chimneys.  The original community of more than one thousand people noted in the 1830s was declared extinct with ‘no single trace of them remaining’ by 1879 – in less than 50 years of British colonisation.  The poor treatment and decline of the Aboriginal community across Australia has been a sorry tale of European colonisation.  Our leadership and ideology of the day took us down this road.  Fast forward to May 2016 and where do we stand now?

Tandanya Old Tandanya 2

Tandanya Cultural Centre today, and in its former life built in 1901 as a coal powered power station

Our GLF cohort assembled in the Tandanya Cultural Centre where each of the presenters were asked to consider for the Leadership and Aboriginal Issues session, what are the issues and where are we currently?

Presenters and Panel Members

  • Ms Samantha Yates FGLF08 – Country Arts SA
  • Ms Joanne Else – SA Health
  • Mr Klynton Wanganeen – Inaugural Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement in the Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Ms Mandy Brown FGLF15 – Aboriginal Arts and Community Engagement Officer, Country Arts SA

We began the day understanding the growth and challenges of supporting the broad spectrum of Aboriginal artists.  The deepening of engagement, training and support of communities with Aboriginal art has provided many financial and employment benefits and has increased understanding and respect of culture and enhanced cultural-sharing relationships between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal people.  We also saw a 1-minute Acknowledgement of Country video commissioned for the Riverland seven native title groups, that took over 12 months of consultation to agree on the format and which images to show.  The importance of deep consultation with communities was critical to the success of this video and turned out to be a constant theme of the day.

We learnt that building relationships with Aboriginal communities and individuals alike cannot be done from afar, but must be done on the ground, working with through formal and informal networks that are constantly changing and with patience.  Ms Samantha Yates GLF08 from Country Arts SA discussed the Reconciliation Action Plan and the importance of this strategy for her organisation’s engagement with the community.  It is worth checking out if you get a chance, and similar action plans may assist your organisation too.

We heard about many policies and programs that with best intentions were implemented but failed due to the incapacity to understand or engage with the Aboriginal community’s true needs and complexity.  The Closing the Gap initiative introduced in 2008 is designed to improve the outcomes of Aboriginal health, education and employment.  Almost eight years into the program,  Closing the Gap is only marginally delivering the outcomes promised.  This initiative is designed to improve seven measures of health, education and employment, but to date is only on track for two of these. It is not hitting the mark and it appears funding is not delivering to where it really matters.  This generational change plan by 2030 needs a rethink, a shot of energy and bold commitment from our leadership to make sure this is a win not a fail.  Do we have what it takes?

The panel session touched on the challenges and frustrations of Aboriginal Leaders and advocates in the political and media environment. The pressure and scrutiny has left many feeling like they have a target on their back and are somewhat reluctant to fly the flag publically for the cause.  We also discussed the deep problems of domestic violence, child abuse, crime and incarceration.

The presenters were all passionate and have an amazing breadth of knowledge and experience in their chosen areas, but I could not help but feeling their hearts were close to broken.  One of the presenters quoted “I will never see justice for the Aboriginal people in my lifetime”.  This statement of defeat, was the realisation to many in the group that the task for Australia to fix the current issues is so immense and clearly overwhelming.

Where there is a will there is a way…

I was heartened to hear of so many individuals and groups making a positive improvement to the Aboriginal community.  As well as developing strong Aboriginal Leadership and Advocacy to inspire positive change, the take out for me is that a ground up approach with a narrative of cultural sharing, pride of country and identity, resilience, acceptance and tolerance is embedded deep in our community.  This will take time, but we can all play a small part here to affect change for the better.

Following the morning session, we departed for Eden Hills for a tour of the former Colebrook Home   site which is now known as the Colebrook Blackwood Reconciliation Park.  The site is a permanent memorial in remembrance of the Aboriginal children of the ‘Stolen Generation’ and their families.  Mandy Brown GLF08 provided a moving tour of the park and the history of Colebrook Home with the special connection of her mother being a resident in the 1950s.  Colebrook Home was run by the United Aborigine Mission and was opened in 1944 to enable children to be relocated in order to remove them from the influence of their families so that they could be more easily assimilated into white society.  The home housed up to 50 children at a time, where discipline and Christian education dominated daily life.  With a lack of staff, unsanitary conditions and no support for the emotional and social needs for the Aboriginal children life was tough and it was eventually closed in 1972.

Grieveing Mother

Colebrook Home ‘Grieving mother’ memorial

Most touching for me was Mandy’s stories of forced removal of children from their families and the lifelong sadness that followed.  The reflection of the sound of a wailing mother and a desperate father chasing a government car, carrying their child down the road, knowing they will probably never see them again.  The statue of the grieving mother, with fresh cut flowers in her arms on this Mother’s Day weekend, is a poignant reminder of the intense suffering and hurt still fresh in the hearts of the Aboriginal community today.



Mark Dittmar
Substation Operations Manager
SA Power Networks

GLF 2016 Seminar 4: Social Justice


Margot McInnes pictureGLF 2016 participant Margot McInnes reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 4: Social Justice; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.


The session on Refugees and Social Justice was emotional, inspiring and thought provoking.

The session began with a keynote address by His Excellency, The Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia at Government House. He spoke eloquently and powerfully about his experience of coming to Australia on a boat as a refugee from the Vietnam War. I know this story has been shared publicly in the media but by hearing his story face to face, the Governor invited us to more deeply understand the individual experience of leaving your home as a refugee – the risk, the fear, the sorrow, the uncertainty and the hope. He also spoke very briefly about the first Vietnamese restaurant in Adelaide and alluded to the enormous cultural contribution made by refugees and other migrants. I was so grateful to the Governor for sharing his story with the GLF group. Not only is it very powerful to hear personal accounts of these experiences, but there is also great power in hearing about such issues from people who are granted formal authority within society. I always admire people who choose to use their position in such a way. It was also an interesting juxtaposition to engage in such a moving and personal story within the formality of Government House complete with monogrammed teacups and saucers. The whole experience hinted at a different style of leadership than we usually see or expect – one that combines the formality of traditional systems with the heart, soul and human experience of the individuals appointed to these roles. The invitation to hear this very personal story at Government House was a highlight of the session and of the GLF program

Where the Governor shared an individual experience, Brad Chilcott, Founder of Welcome to Australia, was able to provide insight into the community and political aspects of working with refugees. When I read the reflections of the group on this session, the overwhelming theme was how impressed and inspired people were by Brad’s passion, attitude and approach. He embodies positive social change and the power of a small group of individuals determined to make a difference. The environment at the Welcome Centre was totally different to Government House and Brad has created his role through activism rather than through formal designation. The comparison between the Governor/Government House and Brad/The Welcome Centre really highlighted that there are people who understand and care about particular issues in all sectors of society and through a cross-sectoral ‘coalition of the willing’ you can incrementally increase broad understanding and create social change.

We then switched gears into a panel on social justice. Personally, I felt like I already had a good grip on social justice issues but the panel was still very interesting and engaging. When I read the reflections of the group I was really interested in the diversity of responses to this panel. It’s easy for me to assume that everyone thinks the same way I do and it was the reflections on the panel by the GLF group, more than the panel itself that had the biggest impact on me. It was good for me to zoom out and recognise the different perspectives of the participants – the different takeaways, challenges and points of view. This is one of the best things about the GLF for me – engaging with the different perspectives of the group in such a safe and respectful environment. I am certain I will learn just as much from my GLF comrades as I will from all of the experts we encounter during the program.

But coming back to the panel, as the panellists were speaking I couldn’t help but think about the philosopher John Rawls and his social morality thought experiment, ‘the veil of ignorance’. The concept is that you design a society and distribute the rights, resources, opportunities, etc. without knowing who you will be within that society. You must determine the social contract without knowing your race, social class, intelligence, education, physical ability, gender or sexual orientation. I was particularly thinking about this during an exercise run by one of the panellists where the question ‘who would you least want to be in our society’ was posed to the group. We like to think of ourselves as an egalitarian society but if we were to determine the social contract from behind the veil of ignorance, is this what we would come up with? Within this context it is interesting to reflect on the relationship between big picture philosophical considerations and the very practical work of someone like Brad and The Welcome Centre – the importance of having the lofty ideals as well as the people who roll up their sleeves and do the day to day work.

In terms of my work, the whole session made me think about disadvantage and the arts. Arts are a vehicle for people to tell their stories and express themselves and how well government supports the stories of those on the margins is something worth considering. I also thought about how much participation in the arts brings to my life and the lives of my colleagues and was reflecting on how people without the money or the cultural literacy to participate in the arts may be locked out of these experiences, as they are locked out of other parts of society. I have some more thinking I need to do about arts and disadvantage. I can feel the seeds of my thoughts starting to sprout but I don’t know what they look like yet. Letting them grow will be part of my journey over the GLF year!

Margot McInnes
Manager, Arts Industry
Arts South Australia

GLF 2016 Seminar 3: Criminal Justice


Clare photo 6.11.15GLF 2016 participant Clare Nocka reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 3: Criminal Justice; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

Powerful Learning

Since the Criminal Justice and Case Study sessions I have been reflecting on the experience I describe as powerful learning. For me this happens when I start to see and hear connections across contexts and in different settings. Things that I have read or listened to come up in conversation and lead to a new insight, more reading and deeper reflection. It really felt like with these sessions the breadth and depth of learning that is the GLF program really revealed itself to me.

In the reading and listening leading up to the sessions I was struck by the overwhelming complexity of of the challenge in a system that is not working. Like many of societies most complex challenges the pathway forward needs to involve creative dialogue across communities and outside siloed ways of working. This conversation needs to happen across government, the legal profession, law enforcement, social work, perpetrators and victims of crime, community leaders and ordinary citizens. It is the stuff of courageous conversation that Graeme Brown spoke about Thursday evening. The scenario planning process that Graeme described is an excellent way to host such a complex conversation. Listening to Graeme and hearing about the CAP projects created an opening of possibility for what would be a day of hearing about growing complexity, I just was not away of that at the time!

Each of the speakers on Friday spoke in some way of issues in the criminal justice system. I found their provocations powerful, enlightening and at times, in the case of Stephen Kenny, thoroughly entertaining. I found myself wondering throughout the day what a system that was working could look like? What alternatives do we have to punishment as a response to crime? One speaker reflected on a society that 30 years ago was more humane and forgiving and a media cycle that promotes and sells fear. Others spoke about the number of people in prison for driving or fine offences, and the number of mentally ill and disabled prisoners. We have to wonder if prison is the best response.

If I connect in a small way with my own context and the efforts to shift the school to a restorative culture, it’s hard work! My most transformational learning in this work has been to understand the ways I default to shame and punishment to control behaviour. For all the adults and children in my community this work requires a profound shift. Despite the challenge of this I know it is important work to do. Nurturing children and adults who have the skills to build relationships, repair them when things go wrong, make amends when people or property are hurt and face up to tough conversations in doing all of this, will contribute in some small way to a happier and healthier society. I recognise that I am not dealing with crime but I am convinced that restorative justice offers us a more humane way forward. Good support for rehabilitation and addressing the factors that lead to crime must be other parts of the solution.

After the Friday sessions I found myself hearing the news in a different way and noticing different things. I took notice of Patrick Dobson speaking to the Press Club about the inadequate response to the deaths in custody Royal Commission. So many years on and the deaths still continue and the incarceration rate for Aboriginal Australians continues to rise. I heard the story of the woman who smothered her own child; wondered sadly what could lead to that and what will happen for her now and felt for the many others impacted by that event.

My experience of Friday was that it provoked a train of thought in me and possibilities for rich conversation in the group. If the current system is broken what is our collective responsibility in addressing that? I am struck within the readings of reference to societies that have a more social democratic system than what is described as a neo-liberal context in Australia. Such places have lower rates of crime and incarceration; I know from my own field their education systems work better. I am curious now about health and other societal systems. Does the way forward lie in more serious and committed attention to the common good? This is just one train of thinking I have explored further since the days.

The module finished on Saturday with our Case Studies; another experience of powerful learning. In this instance I learnt from my own case study analysis and from being involved in the analysis of others. The benefit of such a diversely structured group in terms of work, background and personality really hit home in this process. The learning has continued beyond the sessions as I have mulled over my own experience and read that of others in the forum.

What is being revealed over these early months in the GLF is the richness of the experience we have embarked upon. Learning across time and place. Learning in different modes; reading, listening, questioning, sharing, talking, analysing, reflecting, seeing. Learning from direct and indirect experience. Learning that stays present beyond a moment in time. Learning where dots are joined across diverse contexts. Learning for the benefit of myself and others. Learning that goes both wide and deep. An experience of powerful learning at its very best.

Clare Nocka

St Joseph’s School, Tranmere



GLF 2016 Seminar 1: Climate, Energy & Water


Robran Cock PhotoGLF 2016 participant Robran Cock reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 1: Climate, Energy & Water; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.


6 April 2016

Climate. Water. Energy. The first seminar for the GLF2016 program began recently by looking at the nexus which is climate change, water and energy. The interrelationship between these proved challenging and enlightening to the cohort. Whether those in the group were experts or novices, or on the spectrum between, the speakers and sessions challenged the cohort to rethink their approach to these key issues in their everyday life.

The broad range of speakers and tour guides across the three days included:

  • Dr Oscar Archer PhD – University of Adelaide
  • Mr Antony Brazzale – Suez Resource Co.
  • Ms Margie Caust FGLF00 – Urban Strategist
  • Professor Chris Daniels – Professor of Biology, UniSA; Presiding member of the Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges NRM Board
  • Ms Julia Grant – Executive Director, Water & Climate Change, DEWNR
  • The Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Martin Haese
  • Mr Andy Hart – Adelaide Botanic Gardens
  • Mr Paul Harvey – Member of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Basin Community Committee
  • Mr Daniel Hoffman – Irrigator & Grower, Penfield SA
  • Ms Katie Hulmes – Environment and Approvals Manager, OZ Minerals
  • Mr Lachlan Jeffries FGLF01 – Jeffries Group
  • Mr Liam Martyn – Visy
  • Mr John O’Brien – Managing Director, Australian Clean Tech
  • Mr Darren Ray – Senior Climatologist, Bureau of Meteorology
  • Mr Steven Roberts – Senior Operations Completions Engineer, Santos Ltd
  • Ms Gioia Small – Regional Manager Sustainability, Treasury Wine Estates and Vintrepreneur
  • Ms Heather Smith FGLF03 – Energy & Climate Change Specialist
  • Ms Susie Smith – General Manager, Carbon & Sustainability, Santos Ltd
  • Mr Alister Walsh – CEO, Waterfind
  • Ms Catherine Way FGLF04 – Industry Development Manager, Renewables SA
  • Dr Ingo Weber – Lecturer at Adelaide and Flinders University on Health impacts of Climate Change

On top of these speakers Dr Kristin Alford FGLF11 ran an integration session with the group and challenged us all further on understanding the stages of consciousness development. It was sincerely appreciated by everyone the time taken by presenters. This was especially true of Dr Alford for the time she spent in taking the groups through an activity which, when explained to others, amounted to making paper planes but was a terrific illustrative and practical example of the stages of consciousness development.

Let me tell you a tale…

We have all heard the data before. Adelaide is getting drier, there is less water falling in our catchments, we need to get used to extremes in temperature and find a way to cope with more frequent extreme bushfire conditions. The big question to lots of people is: so what? We see the data frequently but we don’t take it in. Is this by choice or an accidental failure?

The point was made by many speakers that in order for climate change to be taken seriously it needs to be communicated more frequently in stories and through personal points of view rather than just data. Find a way to communicate to the non-climate scientists and the ‘debate’ can begin to won on the masses. Connection with people’s hearts and minds is needed for real change to take effect. Following the session storytelling as a mechanism for getting ones point across was certainly higher on most of the group’s agenda than before. However for those of us who like to live in ‘data land’ this was also presented and will always be there.

This city I live in…

How many people know that the City of Adelaide has the explicit goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020? While it was something I personally did not know about before the session it was certainly something at the forefront of many speakers minds. So what if Adelaide becomes the first carbon neutral city in the world? Is this a race worth winning? The varied perspective on such question was captivating. Clearly even if Adelaide is not first to this goal it is worth striving for for the benefit of the planet and not just our square mile.

Adelaide is a city with vision in the battle against climate change. We heard how this was viewed internationally with the city being represented at the COP21 Paris climate talks last year and, as South Australia often does, punched well above its weight. A number of speakers also outlined the partnership between the state and local governments on the climate change issue which can only be of benefit to the state.

The Passion of the Recycling…

Whether it was recycling concrete, irrigating food and wine crops or managing farmer’s dams in the Adelaide Hills, the overwhelming quality the group connected to was passion by the presenters. It was terrific to see that there are leaders out there passionate beyond description over topics most of us never think of.

It raises the question of where we would be if it weren’t for passionate leaders in these fields. What sort of world would we be living in if those that delivered our drinking water, took our sewage, recycled our cardboard and processed our waste were not passionate? We certainly would not see the world class solutions that were presented. The constant innovation in these fields, making the best use of what is available and communicating the results only comes about because of the passion for the task which is worn on the sleeve by some. If only a small amount of this passion rubs off on others it will create a real energy around the climate, energy and water space.

What about me…

Maybe along with the lack of good storytellers one of the other reasons a number of people do not connect to climate change is that they cannot make the connection personally. How would this change if you considered the health impacts on climate change? Would one be more likely to accept that things are changing if their loved ones are sick of because of it? It is an angle that few of us probably think about yet it makes absolute sense. If hot days and heat waves are becoming more frequent it only makes sense that those most at risk of heat related illness are going to be more frequently ill. Not to mention the increased frequency of bushfire conditions and the effect fires can have. We need to make sure our hospitals and health care professionals are ready for increase in cases into the future.

Once particular point raised really resonated as it was not something I was aware of beforehand. As tragic as the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were, where 173 lost their life, the associated heat wave claimed 374 lives and resulted in a 45% increase of the normal death rate over that time. It is clear that climate change is having a real and measurable impact on human health and that affects us all yet it is often not front-and-centre in the media.

See the sights…

Over the course of three days it is always nice to stretch the legs and get out of the conference room. We were fortunate enough to visit organics, concrete, putrescible and mixed municipal recycling plants on the Saturday morning. Seeing the way our waste is treated and turned into reusable commercial products was a real eye opener for some. Especially seeing what sort of damage a stray plastic bag can do to a hundred thousand dollar recycling machine.

We were also fortunate enough to get a guided tour of the Botanic Gardens’ managed aquifer recharge storm-water recycling scheme. This scheme is available to everyone visiting the gardens and we would encourage everyone to have a really close look on their next trip. Taking storm-water and injecting it underground is a mechanism for water conservation which is on the rise. This fit-for-purpose recycling is on rise and will be inevitably required when the next drought takes Adelaide by hold again. Of course tapping into storm-water recycling cannot come at the cost of flood mitigation and this will be an emerging topic as these schemes become more prevalent.

Water, water everywhere (but not a drop to drink)…

The group gained much insight to water use in the Murry Darling Basin, for agriculture and for wine production. The mechanisms for moving this around though water trading. This was presented in great detail however few speakers toughed on the sources of our drinking water and what role the desalination plant will play as a climate independent water source for Adelaide. Nevertheless it is clear that South Australia is one of the leaders in irrigation and water management with our skills and products being exported to the other states and also overseas.

Energy mix…

The question of where South Australia gets its energy future from was raised by many speakers. We heard about the terrific roof top solar penetration in the state with one in four houses having PV systems. We heard about options for base load and what the closure of Port Augusta and the Leigh Creek coal mine has on workers and the community. Gas was spoken about at length and how it is obtained. The oft maligned fracking method was presented in detail as well as a number of facts about the gas market leaving the group to make up their own minds about the energy future of the state. So what about nuclear? This was presented too, once again leaving participants with more information to mull over and question long held opinions.


Leadership in the fields of climate, energy and water are interrelated and complex. There does not exist one solution which will simultaneously solve the world’s tightly wound climate and energy issues. It is clear that the approach to a solution will require a broad range of technology and social, political and environmental issues to be overcome. The world at large is at the base of an adaptive issue mountain that needs climbing. It was a privilege to be able to discuss, raise more questions, and perhaps begin to form some thoughts on potential solutions, with some of the industry leaders in this state.

Robran Cock
Regional Operations Manager




GLF Program: 2016 Orientation Retreat


Alana James photoGLF 2016 participant Alana James reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Orientation Retreat, a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.


9 March 2016

Getting waaay out of my comfort zone

If you know me, you’ll know I’m pretty sure of who I am. Let’s just call it self-assured.

Something happened about a month ago that made me question everything. I went in all excited and I came out feeling completely unsure of myself. I know, right. It was weird.

So what was this mysterious confusion-sparking event? The first retreat of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program. GLF brings together people from across South Australia – business, government and community leaders. It’s about putting people with different views, experiences, personalities and working styles together.

The GLF is a program designed to challenge, inspire and confront through “experiential, reflective and interactive learning” aaand it certainly does that. I came away from the first retreat feeling much more together whilst also feeling very pulled apart.

I expected to learn a lot, I expected plenty of perspective-taking and understanding how other people think and operate. I expected deep discussion with excellent people. These expectations were well and truly met.

I didn’t expect that in the process my emotions would be poked and prodded and I would come away questioning the parts of me I thought were set in stone. The core parts of who you are.

This is a very uncomfortable feeling. Since the retreat I have definitely felt off-balance, confused and less sure of decisions I’m making.

I love it.


I was told at the beginning of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program that I’m not going to be the same person at the end of the year.

This is terrifyingly exciting. It’s both the reason I’m doing the program and the reason the program intimidates me. How do you plan for different?

As much as I hope I’ll wake up one day and magically be different, I suspect it will be more like the feeling you get when you read your old journals… You know that puzzling feeling when you’re half reminiscent and half trying to figure out why the hell you didn’t see he just wasn’t that into you?

I’m a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone, I love the idea of ongoing development, continual learning, a growth mindset – whatever you want to call it.

After all, the world changes so rapidly. There are new challenges and new opportunities all the time. Why wouldn’t we want to be continually improving ourselves?

Apparently, I am also a fan of getting myself into programs that scare the shit out of me. Well played, past Alana.

Growth is a scary thing. Especially real growth, not just additional learning or study, but fundamentally questioning and improving who you are. Scary, but important.

I want to know that I’m living the biggest life I can. It’s not enough to exist just trying not to screw the world up. I want to  create big, positive change. I want to connect dots, connect people and take risks. I’m lucky to be in this position and I don’t intend on wasting a second.

That’s why I’m doing the GLF.


We were asked at our introductory session whether anyone (after reading everyone else’s biographies in the handbook) felt like they shouldn’t be there. My hand shot up… into a sea of hands. Pretty much everyone felt like an imposter .

It’s hard not to. There are some seriously impressive people in the program. As participants we’re tasked with bringing about positive change in SA and let me assure you, the state is in very safe hands.

Our selection is no accident, they very deliberately chose the group of participants after a very intense application process.

The GLF interview was unlike any other interview I’ve been part of. I spent the best part of an hour talking to a panel of five about my childhood, my relationships, my hopes and dreams. This was no time for trumpeting skills or expertise. They wanted to know who I was.

I walked out thinking I’d blown it, that I hadn’t given them the answers they were after. They asked where I was headed and what my career goals were. I could have sworn that I had it all figured out, but when I unveiled my grand plan, they asked “and what else?”. That interview alone was a very useful change in perspective.

While I’m still building confidence in myself that this is my place, that I’m meant to be part of GLF2016, I place my confidence in the team at the Leaders Institute. I trust that they saw something in all of us, a spark, a passion, a readiness.

If you want to come along on the journey with me, I’ll be blogging about my experience each month(ish). Some of it may be blatant soul-searching masquerading as a blog, but hopefully there’s something you can take away and use in your own lives. Plus, if you read the blogs it’ll make the ‘me ending up as a different person at the end of 2016’ thing a whole lot easier to explain.

Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program is run by the Leaders Institute of South Australia. You can find out more about the institute and the program here.

Part of my participation in the program is generously funded by the Community Business Bureau through their Keith Fulton Memorial Scholarship. You can find out more about them (including  their BoardMatch service and salary packaging) here.


Alana James
Youth and Community Programs Coordinator
YMCA South Australia







Seminar 10: Leadership in Health


Tremaine, Ron

GLF 2015 participant Ron Tremaine reflects on Seminar 10: Leadership in Health, a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program;  Throughout the year various 2015 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

GLF Seminar 10 focussed on Leadership & Health and was held at Glenside Hospital. As usual, the agenda was full and provided a diverse representation of topics and guest speakers that again challenged the 2015 cohort.

Guest speakers included:

  • Dr Gerry O’Callaghan – Director Intensive Care Services, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Chair South Australian Clinical Senate
  • Dr Matt Fisher, Research Fellow, Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity
  • Natasha Miliotis– CEO MIFSA, Mental Illness Fellowship
  • Professor Mary Luszcz – Director, Flinders Centre for Ageing Studies
  • April Lawrie-Smith FGLF12 – Director, Aboriginal Health Branch, Department for Health and Ageing
  • David Kelly – Project Lead, Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, SAHMRI
  • Professor Ian Olver AM – Director Sansom Institute/Chair of Translational Cancer Research, UniSA
  • Dr Stewart Moodie – Consultant Intensivist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Royal Adelaide Hospital,]
  • Ms Frances Coombe – President SA Voluntary Euthanasia Society
  • Associate Professor Sheryl de Lacey – School of Nursing and Midwifery, Flinders University (International Surrogacy & fertility ethics)
  • Dr Peter Kaub- Genetic Pathology Registrar, Genetics & Molecular Pathology, SA Pathology (genome sequencing)

The Right to Die

From a personal perspective I have witnessed two family members that experienced long-term terminal illness who had to deal with constant and significant pain and a total loss of mobility and body function.

The right to die is one of the most emotive of subjects. Almost everyone has an opinion, but it is not a simple matter. The definition of right-to-die is that a person with a terminal illness should be allowed to commit suicide, assisted suicide or to decline life-prolonging treatment, where a disease would otherwise prolong their suffering. The right-to-die is sometimes associated with the idea that your body and your life are your own, to dispose of as you see fit.

Euthanasia under rigorously monitored circumstances should be a fundamental right for any individual and I would hate to think that if I was in the same position, that I would have to endure suffering and despair for an extended period of time.

Genome Mapping

What are the social and ethical implications of mapping individual genes to predict? I was genuinely intrigued and challenged by this topic, but found the presentation and discussion extraordinary.

For me it raised the question; Will a genetic test change your life for the better? Testing has rapidly emerged as a technology that carries many benefits, but many risks, as well. Considerable debate surrounds the moral and ethical issues regarding persons who have undergone predictive genetic testing.

In any circumstance, privacy and confidentiality are critical because the genetic results are directly related to an individual’s identity.  Not only is confidentiality an issue for health care, but to prevent genetic discrimination in insurance coverage and employment, as well. Information from a genetic test can affect an entire family. If the disorder is either genetically dominant or carried by an individual, that person’s parents, children, brothers, sisters, and even extended family may also be affected.  Questions that arose for me throughout this discussion were:

Should family members be informed of the test results?

Should the individual diagnosed with a genetic disorder inform his/her family they may be at risk?

Alternatively, should the doctor who has diagnosed the patient inform the family of the disorder and recommend testing?

This then raises the issue of impact on health insurance.  Do individuals really want to know if there are pre-existing health conditions that could impact them later in life even if chances are not definitive.  Whilst individual sequencing will allow doctors to tailor a patient’s treatment to their specific genes it brings a range of uni tended consequences.

With Australians now able to have their individual genomes mapped for less than $1,000, this now makes access to this new technology widespread. This is an extraordinary area of science.

Inexpensive sequencing has created a whole new industry, enabling individuals to access their own genetic information.  Is it a tremendous discovery and alter the way we approach healthcare, with government creating a national human genome database.

Organ Donation

We were fortunate to have the Head of Emergency Medicine at the RAH present to our group.  Two things astounded me from this discussion. I was personally surprised that there is a policy in place that allows the wishes of the family/next of kin to overturn the wishes of the deceased individual when it comes to organ donation. And secondly; less than 1% of people die in hospital in the specific circumstances where organ donation is possible.

Personally I was shocked that even if a deceased patient is found to have previously consented on the organ donation register, family members of that person are always consulted and given the chance to override that.  I understand that it is a highly traumatic time for family members not something they can think about.  It is my firm belief that it is imperative that doctors and nurses and highly trained and empathetic in discussing organ donation with family members highlighting its benefits.


What benefits would there be by combining South Australia’s three Universities into one institution to leverage scale and maximise operational productivity. This would assist with generating a larger research funding pool that would attract greater investment from industry and would increase the chances of government grant funding based on the increased contribution that could be made by combining the research funds of the three individual institutions.

Collaboration between clinicians,  researchers, funders and industry is essential if australia is to be successful in providing world class healthcare and being at the forefront of important medical discoveries.  The aim is SAHMRI is to create such a world class centre.

The institute is conducting collaborative interdisciplinary research with South Australia’s three universities and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.  They are partnering with a range of not for profit and other sector experts to develop partnerships and collaborations for some of our communities most difficult issues; including aboriginal health; mental health and disengagement in vulnerable young people.


Another key topic that was presented and discussed was surrogacy. Again this subject presents a significant social, moral and religious dilemma.

Surrogacy is not a lifestyle choice. The following statistics illustrate why surrogacy needs to be an available option for women and couples in Australia,that cannot conceive by traditional methods.

  • 3% suffer from fibroids
  • 7% have heart conditions
  • 18% cancer survivors
  • 18% blood or auto immune disease
  • 22% hysterectomy (medically required)
  • 22% MRHK (from birth – uterus doesn’t function)

Surrogacy Australia

Commercial surrogacy in Australia is illegal in all states and territories, further for residents in NSW, Queensland and the ACT entering into a commercial agreement overseas is also banned.  However Australia accounts for 25% of all international surrogacy arrangements. With such difficult adoption processes and exorbitant costs in Australia it leaves it leaves surrogacy as the most viable option.


Leadership in Health has represented one of the most challenging and polarising topics covered by this year’s GLF cohort.  These topics will or have touched all of our lives in some way and progressive leadership in health, policy, community and religious sectors is required to ensure balance between the right of the individual the best interest of the community is achieved.

Ron Tremaine

General Manager Corporate Brands


2016 GLF Seminar 6: Leadership & the Arts

LanaHaigh_PhotoGLF 2016 participant Lana Haigh reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program Seminar 6: Leadership & the Arts; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.



Session 10 – Leadership and the Arts started with a pre-session reflection inviting us to share a piece of art, reflecting on what it means to us and why we chose that piece.

I chose a Salvador Dali piece which I recalled thinking something like “wow people can think really differently to me” when I first saw his ‘Swans Reflecting Elephants’ and ‘Persistence of Memory’ pieces.

We were also encouraged to take part in the Arts on offer in our community in the month leading up to the session.

The trip down memory lane contemplating the arts and their influence had me realising that the arts play a far greater role in my life than I would have given credit to.

The pre-reflection was also a nice prompt to grab some friends and go and visit some of the art exhibitions and galleries, public art and see some movies as well as reflect on the great arts festivals the city hosts.

The importance of art to community was frequently raised in previous GLF sessions, including criminal and social justice, new Australians, leadership and Aboriginal issues as well as through the readings so I was very keen to hear the Arts sector take on this.

The Session

All “arted up” I made my way through the wintry weather to join fellow GLFers at the  Art Gallery of South Australia, looking forward to catching up with everyone and hearing the perspectives of another great panel.

This session we were privileged to hear from;

  • Tracy Vandepeer FGLF14 – Artist 
  • Lisa Slade – Assistant Director, Artistic Program, Art Gallery SA
  • Annabelle Sheehan – CEO, SA Film Corporation
  • Chris Drummond – Artistic Director, Brink Productions
  • Sandy Verschoor – CEO, Adelaide Festival

As I had come to expect of the GLF sessions, the Leadership and the Arts panel each contributed interesting, thought provoking information covering a range of topics and opinions in their talks. I would not do them justice trying to summaries what they presented but I will pass on some of my personal “take-aways” or thoughts that have been circulating around my head ever since.

Tracy Vandepeer shared her personal journey with art and the trials, tribulations and joys in establishing a local gallery for local artist and the time it took for her to overcome her trepidation and exhibit her own work. Tracy shared quite an amusing example of how ones own perspective can change the way art is viewed. This raised for me a number of questions of which I still ponder. If someone through their own perspective interprets the art differently have you failed, or can you even fail in creating a piece of art? Is not creating art success and someone having a perspective a further success in that they have been engaged?

Lisa Slade told us of the plans and changes that have occurred in the Art Gallery of SA , the role it plays in exposing the patrons to the styles of art, the volume of art on display at any one time and the innovative ideas for a satellite gallery the Louvre Museum have trialed with great success. I was astounded by the typical figure that only around 2% of the art collection is on display at anyone time.

The marked increase in attendance rates the Art Gallery of SA have experienced over recent years is encouraging and I have personally experienced the increased exposure and engagement with a shift of focus to a place of encounter and experience for the audience.

Annabelle Sheehan talked of the role of film and the change in consumers of traditional programmed TV, to one facing the new landscape that is online and on-demand viewing. Some of the many interesting statistics and thoughts that have stuck with me include  1 in 5, 13-45 year olds ignore commercial TV, the changing landscape in the competition for eyeballs and the globalisation of the industry in both production of film and uptake of viewers,  employment figures of the industry and its contribution to the economy.

Chris Drummond shared with us an overview of his career and then presented his argument for art.

Some of my notes I’ll share included;

  • Writing about music was like dancing to architecture.
  • Art is a vehicle that creates intimacy with strangers, can evoke empathy and common humanity.
  • Great art invites you on a journey but doesn’t tell you where to go.

Sandy Verschoor spoke of her new appointment as CEO of Adelaide Festival and the contributions the different festivals have make to Adelaide and South Australia.

A reflection I have regarding Sandy’s talk was in relation to government funding and how more often than not a conversation about the arts sector raises the topic of funding yet this is seldom the case for other government supported sectors such as the wine, mining and manufacturing.

The panel concluded with an hour question and answer session which gave many of us the opportunity to probe further or table our thoughts related to the topic.

Art Therapy Integration Session

I was definitely not prepared for the second part of the Arts session but I did achieve one of  the GLF objectives in that I spent time outside my comfort zone!

After an introduction to the session and inviting us all to choose one of the art mediums on offer – drawing (pencil, crayon or pastel) or modelling with clay – I selected a box of pastels and sat poised nervously for instructions. We were then guided through creating 3 pieces of art reflecting different emotional states. I enjoyed the opportunity to attempt drawing; it had been many many years since I tried to draw something that didn’t involve measurements and a scale. My excitement for the opportunity to be creative slowly turned to frustration as it became evident that the picture in my head was not being transposed onto paper. I did inadvertently create an abstract drawing of a lions face and I quite liked the colors on my second picture, my increasing frustration was evident in my third piece with many straight lines and the use of stick figures.

I was a little nervous to share my drawings with my partner for the session, however I believed having the platform of our artwork prompted a far more meaningful conversation than if a straight question and answer session was carried out, demonstrating one of arts many beneficial uses.

The next activity involved physical expression and vocalising the quadrants. This concept was novel to me and I thought we were all very brave.  I took a few moments in this session to stand on the balcony (and to take a few deep breaths). The variations in human behaviour always amaze me when observing a general group in various degrees outside their comfort zone. I don’t think I was alone in not being comfortable working in this area but it did raise my awareness of the lack of risk I usually take in expression through my physical being.

At the end of the day I was exhausted with a head full of new information, new thoughts, opinions in the incubation stage and a first hand understanding on how art can contribute to our community and selves in subtle and not so subtle ways reiterating messages I had taken from previous sessions the importance of art in a community and society.

Lana Haigh

Process and Safety Management Advisor
Enterprise Risk Management Solutions

2016 GLF Program: Adelaide Women’s Prison

Anthony Fox PhotoGLF 2016 participant Tony Fox reflects on the Governor’s Leadership Foundation Program visit to the Adelaide Women’s Prison; a component of the Governor’s Leadership Foundation (GLF) program.  Throughout the year various 2016 GLF participants will contribute to a series of blog posts about their experiences and insights of the GLF program.

As we approached the Adelaide Women’s Prison we were confronted by an intimidating set of gates set into a 4 metre high fence topped with coils of razor wire. These was an awareness that these fences were designed to impose the sense of incarceration. For a new inmate entering the facility this would signal the start of very different era of their lives.  How intimidating this façade would feel to family and visitors.

The prison staff were helpful and interested as we made our way through the security area. Very much like an airport security check. Keys and phones deposited in lockers, processed and tagged we made our way through a set of gates into the inner areas of the prison. We would get used to the way that the double security gates checked and controlled movement as we moved through the prison that afternoon. Very high double fences, razor wire and gates channelled orderly movement between buildings. Security cameras on every wall added to the sense of constant scrutiny.

Single file we entered the visitation area, along a long a corridor with security doors along each side with viewing windows set into them marked “Visit with counsel” and Visit without contact”. Some were occupied. We assembled in the meeting room, a bland, cold and featureless space with chairs set in theatre style and more cameras on the ceiling. A guard behind a reception desk focussed on several screens to monitor the movements in the visitation rooms. No privacy expectations here.  Through one glass door I could see a children’s play area, just like any other except for the four solid walls constraining the space. Another glass door took in a serene view of a peaceful garden space; green trees, flowers, vegetable gardens, wooden bench. A place of retreat for meditation and intimacy. “Do prisoners use the garden for visits?” I asked. “No, prisoners are not allowed in that garden, it’s only for prison officers”.

A picture was painted of the extent of incarceration and the South Australia prison system. Of the approximately 3,000 people being held in the 9 state prisons only 176 were women, all being held at AWP. The fact that this includes women from distant parts of the State highlighted the difficulties in maintaining connections with family and friends. He explained the concept of structured and orderly “moving people through the system”. This ranged from high security areas with high fences, limited freedoms with 8 staff to 20 prisoners to low security with more open areas, 4 staff to 50 prisoners where inmates could participate in range of work activities and cook their own food.

I couldn’t help feeling that I could never do the job of a prison officer but that we should all be grateful that there were people who possessed the skills and dedication to do so. A prison officer would have to be well adapted to following process and committed to maintaining the systems and order.

The officers who showed us around the prison appeared to be highly experienced, comfortable in their space, talked freely about how things worked and did their best to make us feel at ease in the surroundings. We were shown down a corridor with heavy cell doors and into one of the cells designed to minimise self-harm. The featureless, cold, undecorated space with Perspex on the window, stainless steel bowl and sink, small, hard bed, ancient enclosed television and camera hanging from the ceiling, no sharp edges or hang points, might minimise potential for harm but in no way could this make any contribution to mental wellbeing or a healing process.

The Opal Unit provided a different view of a more contemporary approach to managing women with mental health or drug problems. Built in 2014 with clean, bright and open space design this illustrated a contrasting version of incarceration with dental and medical facilities, common areas, books, games and opportunities for prisoners to do food service, cleaning or laundry work. This felt like a space where the concept and opportunities to participate in rehabilitation have been incorporated into the design principles.  One of the wardens commented “Great accommodation, great meals, my choice” and I would have to agree.

The low security areas with its dormitory and individual room units, “Living Skills” sewing enterprise sheds, prison kitchen and obvious freedom of movement provided a glimpse of prison life at the other end of the spectrum. I can’t help thinking that these women would probably be better off back in the community supported by family and friends. Is this an ill-informed thought?

Three men sitting on benches in front of a well maintained housing unit provided a rather domestic scene in the Pre Release Unit.  24 of the then 104 pre-release prisoners were women. This relatively normalised environment allows them to participate in a range of activities, work and study options, most of which takes place in the community, outside the prison grounds. I am informed that this is a good place to spend some “negative time” preparing for life after prison. Along with the difficulties in learning how to adapt to the very different, fast changing world outside the prison a significant barrier to successful reintegration into society must be the lack of access to computers and mobile phones. Statistics indicate that one in three released prisoners end up back in prison.

During the Panel Session the impression was reinforced that the SA Prison system lagged behind and was catching up with other states and countries like UK. Some aspirational goals for assisting prisoners through rehabilitation, the importance of maintaining connection to family and community and an emphasis on building job skills, education and opportunities in the community were highlighted by the panel and housing and employment were identified as huge barriers for successful reintegration into society.

The panel also spoke about the increasing use of incarceration as punishment for crime and provided some valuable insights into alternative early intervention and diversion strategies. It was explained that when someone was incarcerated it was very difficult to turn things around and there was great concern voiced about government policies and that there was little political will to apply innovative solutions to reducing the high rates of incarceration due to community sentiment.

It was outlined how the early management of conflicts, teaching young boys how to resolve conflict and helping them to refocus on personal growth and development were keys to successful early intervention. The speakers provided so many insightful views such as a belief in the value of strong communities with positive social connections, underpinned by restorative practices. It was suggested that we needed to make the pathway out of prison a bit easier, provide real opportunities to employ ex-prisoners and that without job opportunity and self-worth that there was little reason to stay out of prison.  Thoughts about the importance of family reunion and careful management of impacts on the family resonated. I thought that all of the insights by the panel were considered, impassioned and inspirational. We need more leaders such as these.

Linda Fisk helped form Seeds of Affinity, a volunteer organisation dedicated to providing support services for released aboriginal women prisoners. From small beginnings of a women’s meeting and proceeds of a grant, it recently became an incorporated not for profit organisation. After her own personal experiences with the prison system Linda was able to bring valuable firsthand experience to the discussion. She spoke about her concerns that the rate of increase of aboriginal women incarceration had exceeded the rates of men. Linda also expressed real concern that when people got out of prison they felt alone, lacked confidence and self-belief, had no jobs or access to transport and were at great risk of turning to drugs. Seeds of affinity play a critical role in connecting with and supporting women after release.

I have no doubt there is an imperative to adopt a range of strategies to manage individuals who may pose a serious threat to our society. Institutions like the AWP will represent one of the management options. I believe that there are opportunities to be more innovative in our approach. The visit to the AWP reinforced the fact that incarceration was certainly at the harshest end of the scale of possible responses to crimes, a measure that should only be used as a very last resort and not as a default for low order, non- threatening crimes, no matter how many offences had been strung together. Road traffic offences, civil crimes, unpaid fines, drug usage and low order theft are not offences that deserve incarceration.

Community and political attitudes need to change before we can put any truly meaningful processes in place. We need to start early, put more restorative justice pilot programs in schools and help young kids to think and act respectfully.  Our society must surely be able to demonstrate more compassion towards offenders, recognise that in many instances the offending is an end result of failed upbringings, lack of opportunities and poor decisions and needs to be forgiven.

Tony Fox

District Manager Northern Hills, Coast & Plains
Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges