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ARLP Course 30 Scholar, Simon Kensit | Session Updates

The Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) is run by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) and provides an opportunity for leadership development using challenge-based and experiential learning.

Each year, ALFA and MLA award one scholarships to lot feeders to attend ARLP, an investment of $55,000 each. For more information on the program, the scholarship and to express your interest or apply for the program click here.

Simon Kensit of AAco’s Goonoo Feedlot, QLD, was awarded the grain fed beef industry scholarship for Course 30 of the ARLP and will share his experience on the program through regular updates as his course progresses.

About Simon

Simon grew up on a family sheep and cattle property in southern NSW. He has worked throughout the red meat industry in differing locations and parts of the supply chain both in Australia and overseas.

He completed a Bachelor of Agriculture Science with Honours from the University of Sydney majoring in agronomy and animal production, and is currently working for AACo at Comet as the Goonoo Feedlot Manager.

He has a passion for animals, people and driving efficiencies both on-farm and throughout the food supply chain.

Session 1: Discovery and Awareness - 6-17 June 2023

By Kate Stark

Simon said the first session, which ran from June 6-17, brought together people from a range of different industries and backgrounds.

“It was a really diverse group of people with different backgrounds, so that was interesting and opened my eyes up to how different industries and people perceive problems and the world.”

The first day of the program saw the group travel to Sydney where they boarded a sailing ship - being taught the basics of sailing, including heights training and climbing up to the crows nest.

“For some people that was really confronting because you're on a moving boat, up high.”

The group of 30 participants then travelled to an undisclosed location in the Kangaroo Valley where they participated in a meeting with a local group of First Nations people.

“We had a very deep session which wasn’t physically challenging at all but it was all about connecting to the land and understanding Indigenous culture - so that was pretty cool.”

Simon said, overall, session one had been very mentally stimulating with individual participants challenged in their own way.

“There was quite a good balance of not overloading certain people. You were split up so you had to work with a very diverse team and you learnt how valuable it is having diversity in a team,” Simon said, adding the team of 10 he was assigned to quickly became a “united front”.

“The one thing that was really common throughout was that we only knew what was going to happen five to 12 hours in advance,” Simon said, adding the participants were encouraged to work together to process and work through uncertainties.

“You didn't know whether you had to pack food or a sleeping bag. When we were hiking, or canoeing, you just kind of had to be prepared because you didn't know what was next.”

Looking back on his experience, Simon said one of his biggest highlights was when his group ran out of time trying to return to camp during a hike. The group was forced to seek shelter overnight in a nearby cave.

“We were going back to our base …and we thought we needed to get back there, that it was critical that we hike through the night and get back.

“We had to stop, analyse the situation and, the more we thought about it, the more we realised how irrational we were being and that we could just bunker down until daylight,” he said.

“It was just our instinct to try and get home to safety. I think that's just a metaphor for how we feel sometimes in decision-making.”

Simon said he is now looking forward to heading to New Zealand in October as part of session two of the program.

Session 2: Connection and Mobilisation - 17-26 October 2023

By Kate Stark

Session 2 titled ‘Connection and Mobilisation’ ran from October 17-26 and involved travel overseas to New Zealand.

This session is designed to immerse participants in the opportunities and challenges facing Australia and the Indo-Pacific region and help them explore critical leadership responses.

Beginning in Sydney, Simon said the first two days focused on geo-political issues with guest speakers discussing international conflicts and adapting to sudden change.

“Then we flew over to New Zealand, landed in Auckland and spent the first three to four days immersed in Maori culture.

“We learned a lot about the similarities and differences between Australian traditional owners and the Maori people.”

While there, Simon said the group slept in a marae, a complex of carved buildings and grounds used as a meeting place for celebrations, funerals, workshops and important tribal events.

“It was really interesting and, while we were there we got to hear about Maori rituals and history.

“The building where we slept was covered in Maori carvings with exposed beams and coloured in red and black which are prominent colours in many Indigenous cultures,” Simon said, adding the experience was a highlight of the trip.

“Maori history is very different from ours and they had a treaty in 1830 so we learned quite a bit about that.”

Simon said the group then travelled back to Auckland and visited Rotorua where they spent time workshopping different leadership models.

“This is where we started the ‘mobilisation’ phase of the session so it was focusing more on taking people with you and understanding different ways of doing that.

“That was preparing us for the final stage where, in the last four days, we visited Christchurch where we spoke to leaders that managed the unfolding situations during the 2011 earthquake and the 2019 mosque attack.

“They spoke about how they used good communication and how they managed to create positives out of situations that were absolutely dire.”

“It was a very diverse few days.”

Simon said reflecting on his experience post-course has helped him understand the broader takeaways.

“I feel like I get more out of the sessions the further away I get from them. The first one, I wasn’t sure how much value it had to me and then, all of a sudden - months later - I realised I was using things I had learned.

“For this one, there are definitely some things we saw that worked well and some that didn’t in times of chaos.”

Simon said one of the biggest lessons was learning to work together for the greater good.

“If you’re able to work together, adapt and just release control, it seems to ensure a more sustainable change.”

Simon said, unlike Session 1, the second session was much more focused on mental fortitude rather than physically demanding.

“You’re all there to learn and, in order to do that, you need to develop a lot of trust within the group so you can then step outside of your comfort zone and know you’re not going to be cut down.

“We refer to it as a ‘sandpit of trust’.

“You start to understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses a lot clearer and there is a lot of team building.

“This isn’t the textbook approach to education.

“When you’re not on the program, there’s no real study but then when you’re on it, you’re giving 100 per cent.”

Simon said he was now looking forward to travelling to South Australia in April to complete Session 3, titled ‘Networks and Affiliation’.

Stay tuned to hear Simon’s next session update.

Session 3: Networks and Affiliation - 14-19 April 2024

Session 4: Impact and Influence - 3 -12 September 2024



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