Last Monday, 30 October, a group of Prefects from our school: Noah, Liz, Jasmine, Lachie and myself, accompanied by Mr Bray and Mrs Meek, rose early and ‘trained it’ all the way to Darling Harbour, Sydney for the NATIONAL YOUNG LEADERS DAY. The conference was sponsored by ‘Halogen ’and was attended by hundreds of student leaders from across NSW.
The four Keynote speakers were impressive, insightful and inspiring to say the least.
The first to speak was the Honorable Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of our State. She delivered a concise and engaging talk focusing on being a passionate leader who demonstrates courage and ‘calls it out’ when something is wrong. When asked how she ‘weighs up’ important decisions, she answered that she first thinks about, “what is most important to our community”, then, “what is most important to me.”
Ms Berejiklian then went on to say that as leaders “you can’t worry about the noise around” and that as young leaders we shouldn’t underestimate the great power of influence we already have.
Ms Berejiklian told the auditorium full of eager listeners of her profound belief in, “equality of opportunity,” her own life being an example of this as she, herself, was a migrant to Australia and went to her first day of Kindy without knowing a single word of English.
The next speaker led the audience on an emotional rollercoaster. John Coutis was born with a disease which massively affected the growth of his legs. The doctors told his parents that he wouldn’t live a day. But there he was ‘standing’ in front of us 48 years later making a bunch of teenagers laugh and cry with the inspiring tales of his appalling hardships. John had one focus message for the young leaders. “Life is priceless.” He said that we were only given one chance at life and anything after that was a miracle. “God gave us two eyes, two ears and one mouth… We should look and listen twice as much as we speak.” Before lunch John made every one of us get out our phones and send a message to someone telling them you love them. I think there were a few happy mums that afternoon thanks to Mr Coutis.
Adam Goodes, the AFL legend, was our first speaker after lunch. He addressed the importance of identity. “Your sense of identity is key to who you are as a person!” He went on to say that whether you like it, or not, you are an ‘influencer’ for the better or the worse. Adam said that as young leaders we should support and challenge people, we should be a voice for those who don’t have one or are too scared to have one. He discussed his own journey, how he came to realise that somebody is always watching your actions and words. When he accepted the responsibility he thrived off it.
Our final speaker finished off the day on a strong positive note. Andrew Scipione was the Head of the NSW Police Force until earlier this year. He spoke of his modest beginnings as a migrant to Australia and how he started at the bottom of the Police Force and that, through hard work and courage, he excelled. He said that, “how you deal with tough times determines who you are.” and that true leadership starts in the family. He spoke of the importance of ‘servant leadership’. When asked how he dealt with the hardships he faced in the Police Force Mr Scipione replied that it was his faith in God that got him through. He was unapologetically christian. He addressed the future Prime Ministers and major leaders in the room. “Leaders: if you want to harvest as a leader, plant people, change their way of thinking… Influence for the better.”
In life, pain is inevitable but that should not dictate who you are.