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September 20: Diversity

By Leaders Forum 2017 participant Stuart Squire

We shape the world in which our children live tomorrow.

As our local communities grow and diversify, we must ask ourselves – how do we ensure our communities flourish and operate to their full potential now and into the future?

No longer can we live in an environment where only one voice is often heard. Nor can we live in a society where stereotypical middle-aged men command a group of people. And nor can we ignore the potential of all those around us in our local communities.

There is no easy answer as to how best maximise the potential of our communities, but one thing stands out – diversity. Diversity in the people we bring to the table and their different perspectives and experiences. Diversity leads to inclusion, a novel way it seems to tackle tomorrow’s challenges.

In terms of numbers, we already live in a diverse community. Did you know half of Victoria’s population were born overseas or at least have one parent who was born overseas? And a quarter of all Victorians speak a language other than English at home. Who would of thought?

With the Victorian population in context, think about today’s needs alone. The growth of the internet has meant the world is now at our fingertips. Flying to other countries has become an everyday occurrence, we are all tourists. We no longer live in sheltered communities isolated from the rest of the world. The world has changed, so fast we are barely able to adapt. But now, more than ever, we need to think differently and engage with those around us. What challenges lay ahead of us? Are we setting the right culture to tackle tomorrow’s challenges?

To think ahead of the pack, we firstly need to challenge our judgements. Too often on first impressions do we make judgement, at the expense of embracing the talents of those around us. Do we truly embrace the ideas, thoughts and concepts shared by all?

A major focus in recent times has been promoting gender equality throughout our communities, for example, encouraging more women to apply for key community and corporate leadership roles. This is a great step, but merely represents one avenue in enhancing greater diversity within our local communities. What can we further do to realise the potential within our local communities?

Think of your favourite food. Indian, Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese foods will feature in the minds of many. Compare this to previous generations who would have considered a more traditional taste palate. We have begun the journey of introducing and encouraging diversity within our communities, but it represents only the beginning.

Take Sadiki Mukasa for example, a Multicultural Ambassador for the City of Ballarat – a true inspiration and leader within our community. Sadiki was born in war-ravaged Congo. Sadiki and his family were fortunate enough to be accepted into Australia 10 years ago. However, like many refugees, Sadiki had no idea the challenges that lay ahead of him – leaving a war-torn country for one so foreign. Sadiki did not speak one word of English on arrival. Through adversity, he learnt; through resilience, he flourished. He moved to Ballarat in later years and has never looked back, now with the world ahead of him. Sadiki is the face of the future, the face of diversity.

Sadiki represents the great responsibility our local communities have in embracing, nurturing and accepting refugees. Their potential in partnership with our ever-increasing diverse communities is endless – only if we are patient and prepared to expose their amazing skills and capabilities. What role do you play to assist in their journey?

We also need to think differently on how we engage with future generations to maximise the potential around us. Kids of today are so technologically advanced their ability to process information is unprecedented. Imagine the capability of future generations, let alone the current one. The world is at their fingertips, we simply need to embrace it.

The more we are prepared to be vulnerable with each other, the more we are able to understand each other; the more we have in common with each other, the more equipped we are to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. Diversity has the ability to capture the imagination of us all, we simply need to be open-minded and show leadership in capturing its potential.

We are the custodians of the world our children will live in tomorrow. We have a responsibility to promote inclusiveness and engage with the diversity around us - to influence the behaviours and ideas required to embrace tomorrow’s challenges. We need people of all backgrounds at the table, with the enticing aromas of diversity – the taste of tomorrow.

What will you bring?