In fact, one former recipient of our Young Citizen of the Year Award – in which we recognise young people who have made exceptional contributions by leading through generosity and enterprise – has just been elected to Council.
We recognise and acclaim community-led events – festivals; sporting, arts and cultural events; environmental projects; business and tourism association-hosted awards. These opportunities bring economic benefits, social and community connections and, in cases like the Tour Down Under, a showcasing of Onkaparinga to a global audience. These opportunities show the world our community spirit and build on the foundations of the sometimes unseen and unsung contributions of local leaders.
Onkaparinga has 53 incorporated bodies supporting and managing our community facilities, and hundreds of incorporated community groups across the city, each with their own governance arrangements, all volunteer led.
Our Leadership Onkaparinga program has been running for 14 years, with over 400 participants. Many graduates have been able to take their learning to their neighbourhood, effectively network with other leaders, and develop programs that provide new ways to build stronger and more vibrant communities.
Being a leader where you live is a privilege. In local government, elected members have both the right and responsibility to advocate on behalf of their own community, and to factor in all the views, pressures and opportunities of an entire city.
Onkaparinga is a microcosm of South Australia. We have beaches, hills and plains. We have a wide range of habitats home to precious and endangered species. We have industry, farming and viticulture. We have water and waste challenges. We have communities that are well established, and others emerging. We are home to the oldest culture on the planet, and we respect and honour their past, present and emerging leaders.
As mayor, I get to see people at their best on occasions when they’re recognised and singled-out by their communities for their leadership. I also see them when they’re vulnerable, in times of stress, after natural disasters, and frustrated by the complexities of local government. This bird’s-eye view of our citizens helps me stay in touch with what’s important to people. I think this is a vital quality for any leader – to tune in, to meet people where they are, and to accept there are many ways to see an issue.
What I’ve learnt about leadership over the years is you need an intrinsic belief that people are doing their best most of the time, that listening is a precursor to understanding, and having an open heart is as important as an open mind.