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March 8: Regional Overview

By Leaders Forum 2017 participant Angela Daraxoglou

The first Leaders Forum 2017 program day saw participants exploring key issues influencing the future of Ballarat and the surrounding region. We discussed broad themes like energy, transport, health, natural environment, cultural heritage, education, training and employment.

It was confronting to realise this region includes areas of significant socio-economic disadvantage and exhibits alarmingly poor results in health indicators such as life expectancy. On the other hand, there are many opportunities to capitalise on our region’s strengths, such as its rich cultural heritage, strong education and health sectors, attractive natural environment and proximity to Melbourne.

We heard from inspiring local leaders in Committee for Ballarat CEO Melanie Robertson, Central Highlands Regional Partnership Chair George Fong and Geoff Sharp, CEO of United Way Ballarat, Ballarat Foundation and Volunteering Ballarat. Each of the organisations these speakers represent has vastly different approaches to tackling the key issues but, ultimately, they are all working towards the betterment of our region:

There are many other organisations doing great things in our community and there is always more to be done. We are reminded that people will look towards us, the Leaders Forum 2017 participants, for guidance in solving the big issues in our region. Hearing this was a shock for some, myself included. But it is reassuring to learn there is a genuine hunger for change in Ballarat. And in our changing world, it is no longer big corporations setting the agenda – the most successful influencers are small.

The ability to influence successfully is determined by the flexibility, skill and expertise of the individual – not size. I think this year’s participants are a very talented bunch, possessing wide ranging knowledge and talent. So it is with some trepidation, but mostly optimism, that we accept this challenge. We live in a great part of the world. We need to promote the great lifestyle opportunities provided in regional Victoria. We need to dream big and aspire to an even better, more vibrant Ballarat.