Another Great Year of Mentoring Magic

Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Program Graduating Cohort of 2023.

I have been running the Waterway Managers Emerging Leaders Mentoring Program (formerly the Twinning Program) for six years now, and I can honestly say that magic is involved. Yes, I know, you might be thinking ‘she really is taking this connection thing too far,’ but when you start the year pairing together two people who don’t know each other, and watch their connection grow, it really does seem like magic.

The term magic conjures (see what I did there) up mystery, and human connection is indeed mysterious, with the non-verbal cues, creation of safe spaces and enjoyment of another person’s insights creating a vibe within which people flourish. My job, and now my fellow wizard Andy’s job, is to create the environment within which the mentoring magic can take place.

Our 2023 Emerging Leaders Mentoring Program was magical and incredibly rewarding, with twenty-two people committing to our journey together. When you read through the stories of each partnership’s experience you will see they are many and varied, but what is held in common, is the power of understanding your ‘why’ – why is it that you do what you do, and why does it matter to you, your work, and the people you care about?   When you take the time to really think about your why it enables you to develop a much deeper understanding about yourself and the people you want to support you.

At this point I think I need to introduce our wonderful 2023 partnerships, and I encourage you to have a chat with anyone you might know from this group, or from our Alumni of 90 people who have been through the mentoring Program. Although everyone’s experience is different, there is a common thread of experience, connection and friendship that binds the group together. Projects ranged from estuary management, environmental water delivery, riparian restoration, water treatment, community engagement and catfish!

MenteeMentorRead Story
Rose Jackson (Corangamite CMA)Anna Parker (North Central CMA)Women in water paying it forward
Prachi Samir (DEECA)Christine Reid (Glenelg Hopkins CMA/Gunditjmarra Aboriginal Corporation)The magic of serendipity
Tom Le Cerf (Melbourne Water)Alex Gunn (DEECA)Investigating drainage interventions
Max Smiles-Schmidt (North Central CMA)Tristan Skinner (Murray-Darling Basin Authority)The mystery of the missing catfish
Thom Gower (Streamology)Richard Mintern (Commonwealth Environment Water Holder)Charting the waters: Steering a path in waterway science
Melissa Sartori (Yarra Valley Water)Jessica Nolan (DEECA)
Sasha Johnson (DEECA)Ruth Macdonald (Yarra Valley Water)Developing the new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy
Callum Edwards (East Gippsland CMA)Jayden Woolley (Corangamite CMA/ Wadawarrung Aboriginal Corporation)Enhancing Estuary Management through Mentoring
Henry Cooper (Corangamite CMA)Matt Bowler (East Gippsland CMA)Drought refuges in the Woady Yaloak
Carla Sarsonas-Estioko (Yarra Valley Water)Leonie Williams (Melbourne Water)Start with why
Stephanie Brown (DEECA)Helen Roberts-Ferguson (Yarra Valley Water)

Learn more about some of our favourite mentoring partnerships in the stories below:

Andy is now going to continue this story with his reflection on the program for 2023. He has grouped his thoughts into four themes:

I was lucky enough to participate in the program as a mentee in 2018, paired up with my amazing mentor, Dr Tamara Boyd of Intrinsic Scope. I remember starting the program thinking “what is this mentoring stuff about? It doesn’t seem that important”, to then having the realisation that mentoring can be one of the most important aspects of career development and leadership growth. For me, standing alongside Siwan in workshop two, as I watched the whole cohort have that same realisation as I’d had in 2018, made me feel so exceptionally lucky to share that experience with this cohort of current and future leaders.

Having the chance to meet a whole new network of incredible people, all working tirelessly for our water and waterway management industries, has been a rewarding experience for me this year, and I’m looking forward to continuing to cross paths with this group in future.

Marshmallow Challenge – to break the ice and get creative. Photo credit: Andy Lowes

It was also the first time many of the room had been asked to reflect on ‘why’ they do what they do. A highlight for this workshop was the Wadawurrung Cultural Tour in the Ballarat region, which encompassed a range of locations including an ochre quarry. At the end of the workshop, we had a group of people enthusiastic and excited for their mentoring experience.

Read the story about the workshop here: Workshop One: Bendigo Story

Ochre Quarry at Ballarat on Wadawarung cultural tour. Photo credit: Andy Lowes

Workshop two saw us at Healesville in the Yarra Valley, where mentors and mentees had the chance to share their journeys to date and strengthen connections across projects. The group also had a range of leadership styles introduced to them, as well as the concept of above and below the line thinking – an approach which shows how external influences can impact a person’s capacity to think creatively and problem solve. Yarra Valley Water – a strong advocate for the program – hosted the group at their Healesville treatment plant, to show how many elements of water and waterway management were coming together to protect two key threatened species in the region.

Read the story here: Workshop Two: Healesville Story

2023 Mentoring Cohort, Yarra Valley Water Treatment Plant.

Following Workshop Two, the ARRC held monthly catch-ups to connect with the cohort between workshops two and three. Finally, the group met in Melbourne for the graduation ceremony. This was a real highlight for the year, with activities to demonstrate the strong network the group has developed throughout the program, and why having a team of alpha personalities – or super chickens – does not equal success. Each partnership also presented the outcomes of their project and what they had leaned throughout the year.   We held a celebratory dinner that everyone enjoyed, with many partnerships promising to stay in touch even though the formal program had ended.

2023 Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Dinner

We really feel that the Victorian Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Program stands as a testament to the power of strategic mentorship in shaping the future of the waterway management sector. As we celebrate the success of the 2023 program, we look forward to the continued positive impact it will have on the waterway management industry, and we can’t wait to kick-off again in 2024.

— Siwan and Andy

Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Program Graduating Cohort of 2023.

Apply Now for 2024!

Applications are now open for The Waterway Management Emerging Leaders Program in 2024. The Program is a structured mentoring program focusing on improving the on-ground delivery of current Victorian riparian restoration projects. This Program provides an opportunity for the most effective approaches to be shared and adopted between all those working in waterway management across the State.