27 Nov

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” —John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy had it right, leaders never stop learning. This has been recognised by University Hall and is represented by their 2013 leadership program with 22 individuals taking part. Last weekend, those involved descended upon a small rural property in Bickley for a retreat to help further develop leadership skills.

Bickley is located on the Darling Scarp 25 km east of Perth with the camp bounded by natural bush, hills and a reservoir. Together with the clean air, there was definitely a sense of serenity.

When we arrived, it was time for morning tea with the Residential Advisors (RAs) who had spent the previous night there. Everyone chatted until it was time to go our separate ways. The RAs went to their activities for the day while Annaleis welcomed us. Our first activity was to go on a bush walk. Like real leaders, improvisation was fully recommended once we got lost from the track. As we marched up a 1 in 4 slope to get to the top, we felt like nothing could bring us down.

After lunch it was time for our first lesson in leadership. We were taught by none other than the husband of our deputy principal, Rick Linn. His talk focused on how different areas of the brain response to different stimuli. Furthermore he encouraged us to find our emotive style when responding to different situations. The session ended with Rick splitting us up into five groups according to our degrees; science, medicine, engineers and arts/business.

We were then given an activity that proved challenging; which was to build a structure that can support an egg falling at a height of 2 m. We were given a 30 minute time limit with the condition that the materials used to build the structure had to be found in the bush. When we were all finished, we came back to a surprise. Not only did we have to drop the egg from 2 m, but it also had to go a certain distance. All groups pretty much had the same idea which was to encapsulate the egg and ensure the outer layers would provide cushioning and take the stress of the fall. In the end only three out of the five groups managed to keep their egg safe.

Once we were all settled after dinner, it was time to talk about our projects. The leadership project is a compulsory part of the program where the leaders of tomorrow organise an event for the residents at Unihall. Everyone presented their projects and received constructive comments and suggestions. As it was getting late and cold, it was time for the camp fire. We did the normal camp fire activities such as sitting around having a drink or two, story telling, singing songs and playing guitar. As the night went on, one by one we slowly dropped like flies and headed to bed so that we could be refreshed for the next day.

In the morning the group was split into two. The first activity for the day was the building of two rafts, with only three planks of wood, 9 pieces of rope and something that can only be described as a couple of large floating water bottles. Once our rafts were complete the race was on! The next activity involved smaller leadership style games, such as working out how to fit 10 people on a small plank of wood. One group decided that a tower of people and climbed on top of one another was the way to do it!

Another involved running to a circle of numbers and collectively stepping on the numbers in sequence before returning to the starting line. Later on Tangrams stimulated our minds. Soon it was time to leave, but just before we were encouraged to write down the things we learnt over this short weekend with the common theme being team building social networking. The leadership retreat was a big success with everyone wishing it could last another day!

A special shout out to Annaleis, Janet, Rick, the catering crew and young ladies who lead all of the activities. It is they who made this weekend possible and who pushed us towards self improvement and development.  Fingers crossed that one day we will become tomorrow’s leaders at University Hall.

Aaron Fordham

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