Future Leaders Step up to the Plate
  |  First Published: December 2011

Many of us who are involved in administration and advocacy within the recreational fishing sector, have harboured concerns about the future of the sector. This is largely because the current movers and shakers are getting pretty long in the tooth for the most part and it hasn’t been apparent where the next committed crop was going to come from to take our place.

Well there is exciting news.

A new generation of passionate recreational fishers is out there and eager to commence their leadership journey in preparation to take over the reins.

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry have seen fit to allocate some funding to conduct three workshops around Australia designed to provide potential and emerging leaders with targeted leadership development training. The first of this round of workshops was conducted in Western Australia in March 2011. The second and most recent involving Queensland and New South Wales participants, was held at the North Keppel Island Environmental Education Centre in Keppel Bay just off the Central Queensland coast in November 2011.

Twelve people between 19 and 40 years of age, along with 7 mentors drawn from both states, participated in this intensive 4 day residential leadership development workshop. The 12 emerging leaders came from an amazingly diverse cross-section of the recreational fishing sector. Participating in the workshop were scientists, marine science graduates, people working in the tackle trade and a few who just have a burning passion for fishing and want to get involved in shaping the future of recreational fishing.

There have been a few previous workshops in other states for the next generation of recreational fishing advocates, but the recent Qld/NSW workshop was the first to really focus on leadership competency development and encourage the participants to start to think about what they would like the future of recreational fishing in Australia to look like.

Participants explored what leadership into the 21st century was all about and how they could develop their personal competencies and skills to position themselves to lead the sector forward. They worked in small groups of four throughout the workshop on a project to develop a collective leadership declaration and key result areas they will focus on back in the real world.

From the first minute of the workshop it was clear that the participants were incredibly enthusiastic and motivated and had come to learn and soak up as much information as they could. Individual feedback I’ve received from the mentors also demonstrated that they got just as much from being involved in the workshop as the participants and that the experience for them had inspired them to remain engaged and work with the new generation to ensure the future of recreational fishing in this country.

The venue proved to be absolutely perfect, as it was far enough away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life to allow the participants to concentrate on the task at hand with none of the normal distractions you’d find closer to a city. Mobile phones were banned during the sessions, but home was just a phone call away after hours or if an emergency arose.

The program was demanding and covered topics including leadership models, visioning, coping with and leading change, strategic and critical thinking, communications and media skills and negotiation skills. Chris and Christine from the centre excelled in the kitchen, providing top class meals to keep the energy levels high throughout the four days.

A measure of the commitment shown by the participants came on Saturday evening after a 4 star candle lit dinner, when we had decided it was high time we relaxed a bit and sang a few songs. The dessert was cleared, the washing up done with everyone pitching in, then we looked around and only the mentors were still sitting around the dining room. Almost every participant had disappeared back to a quiet room to work on their final day group project presentations.

So we mentors and presenters told lies, solved the problems of the world and sang songs on our own. A few of the participants made cameo appearances from time to time and mentors spent some time checking if they needed any assistance, but they chose to continue with their projects rather than enjoy a social evening as you’d expect. Even at 10pm some of the groups were still hard at it and couldn’t be coaxed to join us in the dining room. Now if that isn’t commitment, I don’t know what is.

Owen Li is a PhD student from Townsville who participated in the Future Leaders Workshop and sent me these words in an email following the workshop. Owen wrote, “Just wanted to thank you and let you know that I really appreciated this workshop, and it gave me a lot more than I ever could have imagined gaining from something like this. It's truly been one of the more valuable experiences in my life”.

And in similar vein from Future Leader Cheyne Jones, a self employed young businessman from the Gold Coast, “The time we spent on North Keppel was unforgettable to say the least. I think I can speak for all who attended in saying that the amount of insight and knowledge we gained in regards to recreational fishing and the direction we need to head in as a group, was immense. The idea of presenting a practical leadership course was a master stroke by the organisers. The skills learned from this such as strategic planning and the art of negotiation will serve us well in life as well as assisting us in our roles in the recreational fishing scene. I plan on using the experience of the workshop as a platform to become more involved in shaping the future of recreational fishing, in particular becoming involved with the Suntag tagging program and gathering data for research. I have no doubt that all who attended will be friends for life and I see many a fishing trip together for years to come.”

One the final day, the three groups presented their projects back to the entire assembly. The brief was to present using minimal support materials, especially not PowerPoint slides, but tell it from the heart and incorporate elements of leadership covered during the workshop. Wow! Did they deliver!

The confidence, passion and learning we saw presented back to us by the groups was truly inspiring. This group of emerging leaders already know where they want to lead the sector and articulated their vision with clarity and commitment. They have an action plan to maintain the momentum and their new network post the workshop and there is no doubt they are going to figure prominently in charting the future of recreational fishing in this country.

Workshop participants and mentors alike have committed to maintaining regular networking among the group and participants will be encouraged to pursue further leadership development opportunities to increase their experience and skill base. They are already out there using social networking and the latest internet tools to keep in touch and share information. We “old farts” are doing our best to keep up with them.

If we can continue to identify and provide development for the next generation of recreational fishing leaders like these around the nation, there is no question in my mind that we will be handing over the reins to people who will make sure the sport and pastime we love, endures for ever, with fish stocks managed fairly and sustainably for the community.

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