It’s our past leadership that shapes who we are today.  Leadership is about continual learning, and understanding how it can influence and shape our practice. I have reflected on my leadership moments throughout the years.
I think my leadership started back when I was in high school.  I knew when I was 15 that I wanted to be a social worker.  I was a student representative, and met our patron Joan Kirner, who was then, one of the only female premiers in Victoria.
Joan really encouraged me to get into leadership.  One of the first things I did as a student on placement was advocate for local Government planning and the lack of funding and infrastructure in communities where there was widespread development. Our story made the local news and a couple of years later a developer levy was introduced to aid local communities.
I soon grew an understanding that leadership was about perseverance, and I was committed to advocating for causes that I believed in. 
When I left University, I went onto challenge the State Government about the lack of disability access at Milsons Point station.  I worked alongside a group of residents at Greenway Housing and we were successful in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities to have access to public transport. Our actions went onto influence, as railway stations being upgraded with disabled access across NSW.
In 1996 I worked with a group of older men in Lane Cove.  Back then there was a growing issue of older men often being quite isolated, and there was a stigma in regards to accessing health service.
They were often not very engaged in the community.  We came up with an idea to set up a men’s shed. The concept was inspired by a book that my father had on Men and Sheds.  We applied for funding through the Department of Health and were successful in establishing the first Men’s Shed in NSW. 
It turns out that there are now more Men’s Sheds around Australia than there are McDonalds outlets – A pretty good achievement if you ask me!
Later, I was working at Warringah Council, there was quite a bit of anti-social behaviour occurring in local park areas at the time.  We came up with the idea to commission young people as street artists to decorate areas that were not aesthetically nice to look at within the local community.  It was a bit of a wacky idea, but the Safety Committee backed the idea and Local Councils continue to support graffiti art projects.
I have always been very passionate about Mental Health, in particular working in collaboration with community and business to address social issues.  One of the projects that stands out was one based in North Sydney with Youth Mental Health.  At the time we were told that Mental Health wasn’t a problem in the North Shore and that it simply didn’t exist, and that support services were not required in this area.
I wrote to every politician that I could, and different Government Departments including the Department of Health. I worked with the local inter-agencies and we collated case studies and research to support our campaign. We eventually secured funding to open not one, but two Headspace Centres; one in Brookvale and one in Chatswood.
We also rolled out a model for Mental Health forums in schools, so that young people could talk about Mental Health; what they were feeling, what was going on for them, and include the teachers involved to help reduce the stigma. 
Headspace have since adopted that model and it has been presented in London and Russia.
At that time, youth were also reaching high levels of admission to Blacktown hospital.  We worked really hard to lobby for this cause and were successful with a commitment from the NSW Government which resulted in funding to open up an adolescent ward at Hornsby Hospital.
Leadership is often about being resourceful.  About understanding how you can affect change at a social policy level.
I have a child with a disability.  With that comes the fact that you are constantly stepping in as an advocate.  This includes having a voice and lobbying for systemic change.  Whilst my daughter was at school, I worked hard to change the curriculum and resourcing of the education sector to provide better supports for students with disabilities. 
By the time Amber left school, there was a huge improvement in the levels of support, training and funding to support children and young people with disabilities.
I received an award after this work, from Hon Gladys Berejiklian, for being an unsung Hero.  But I don’t think of myself like this at all, as it has never felt like I was doing anything particularly special.
I feel that it’s always been about believing you can make a difference.  Everyone can have an influence and be a changemaker and work towards what they believe in.
NDIS was another perfect example of this.  My daughter Amber and I, became extremely frustrated at the lack of initiation and implementation support of plans when NDIS first rolled out. We waited for 6 months for an NDIS plan. 
In the end we decided to do something about it and wrote a briefing paper to our Federal member.  I included recommendations about what NDIS and the Australian Government could do to help Australian family’s better implement plans. 
There were some 80 children like Amber sitting at home waiting.  As soon as our briefing paper went Ministerial, there seemed to be an almost instant response. All of the young school leavers sitting and waiting for NDIS, were able to finally have their plans initiated. 
It is sad that you have to go to that level, but unfortunately sometimes you need to go the extra lengths to get these results.  I think by understanding how the social systems work, it puts you in a much better position for having a positive impact on them, and how you can implement change through solutions.
In terms of my time at Interrelate, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a bunch of people who are so passionate, so driven and so ready to affect positive change. 
That’s what really makes my leadership here amazing.  Our culture here is to continually learn, to continually develop and continually improve.  I think a big part of my journey here is learning to grow and develop as a leader.  Leadership is about working with others.  Having that ability to work with others, often at a grass roots level, can create real lasting change in your community.