Could the COVID-19 crisis become a transformational experience for you? IofC Australia and Work Force Diversity think so! From September 2020, we collaborated to offer a seven-part public webinar series on ‘Effective Leadership in Times of Crisis.’ The webinars brought together a range of thought-provoking speakers to explore the kind of leadership we need today. Speakers shared their community work and also spoke of how their work connected with their personal journeys. This is part 1 of our story.
The Effective Leadership series came about after Amiel Nubaha, an IofC Australia Board member who also founded Work Force Diversity, organized an online seminar with historian and IofC leader Rajmohan Gandhi in India on World Refugee Day 2020. There were many requests for more such sessions that would trace how community and national leaders had found their personal paths. Amiel, who works in youth justice, saw this interest as a sign of the times.
‘COVID-19 has hit the soul of every sector in our communities. Its swiftness and scope pose exceptional challenges and opportunities for leaders and emerging leaders in our communities,’ he said.
‘The crisis demands ethical, innovative and visionary leaders who are holistically compassionate in their service for others—leaders who stimulate the creation of an empowering and enabling environment.’
Barbara Lawler, who co-convenes the IofC Australia Network Activities & Connection group, was ready to work with Amiel. Together, they lined up a mix of community leaders who were willing to share of their life stories. Webinar participants were able to listen and learn, and to pose questions directly to speakers.
‘The deep personal sharing was well received and recognized as a key need in developing the resilience, clarity and ability to move forward that we all need right now,’ said Barbara.
The first speaker of the series on 13 September was Dr Nora Amath, Chair of Islamic Relief Australia. Nora shared with the audience her experience of management in the community service industry. She elaborated on how compassion can be translated in positions of leadership by ‘reimagining and humanising’ people. Nora also contrasted the expectation that a leader needed to be strong and stoic, with the need for leaders to be willing to show vulnerability.
‘We need to all advocate for better standards of living,’ she said. ‘Aim for more connected neighbourhoods and work environments, unleash generosity and reflect on being more sustainable. Support local businesses, establish flexible working conditions and build a culture of togetherness that continues and strengthens!’
Listen to Nora’s talk below.
The second session on 27 September featured mental health professional Sharon Orapeleng of Psyched Solutions, and First Nations advocate Lane Brookes, a Mandandanji man from the Southwest Queensland town of Roma.
Sharon acknowledged that the present can be quite bleak with many facing struggles in terms of health, finances and mental wellbeing, but that the hope for change should not be lost. ‘Hope is the single best predictor of wellbeing,’ she said. ‘It is the way we achieve the optimum level of mental wellness and optimum level of wellbeing.’
Lane described his struggles during the pandemic: dealing with outbreaks in Queensland; the toll of city life; and the disruptions to routine. In addition, there were the financial challenges his business faced, an unexpected health diagnosis and death in the family, and his effort to combat anxiety and depression. He spoke of how his connection with family and culture had got him through the difficult times.
Giving a sports analogy, Lane said it was ‘time to bite down on the mouthguard and work hard because we have another 60 minutes to go…If we all stay connected and keep each other up like in a scrum we can push over anything that is in our way.’
Listen to Sharon and Lane speak below.
The third session on 4 October featured Yarrie Bangura, a 26-year old young woman who fled war-torn Sierra Leone with her family as an eight-year old and arrived in Australia on a humanitarian visa. She went on to study International Development at the Australian National University and is currently employed by DAMEC, a multicultural drug and alcohol service. Yarrie also works in the community helping others with motivation, and runs her own successful business, ‘Aunty’s Ginger Tonic.’
Yarrie struggled with the trauma of fleeing her homeland, the experience in refugee camps and the struggle with settling into a new life in Australia. She has found her own strategies to overcome the past and create her own source of inner peace.
‘I want to be happy…I don’t want to stop laughing,’ was Yarrie’s promise to herself and what helped her through the difficult days. ‘I can’t erase what has happened to me but I have control over my life now.’ She has also found writing and poetry as a way to reflect on her life and deal with her experiences.
Listen to Yarrie speak of her life journey below.