By Sarah Collier

The Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program (AVCLP) is driving the development of strong, connected, and resilient communities in north-east Victoria. The annual course gives participants a chance to immerse themselves in leadership training in a regional environment, gaining a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities unique to rural regions.

Sarah Glass, who received a Gardiner funded spot in this year’s program, owns a dairy farm with her husband in Gundowring. She’s originally from a small town in New South Wales called Braidwood, near Canberra. They are currently milking almost 500 cows. “It was amazing meeting so many different people from different background during the program. I would never have met them otherwise,” Sarah said.

Almost 500 future leaders have graduated from the AVCLP, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to their respective communities.

“The program took me completely out of my comfort zone. It taught me how to grow and be better, not just on the farm but also for me personally. I’ve been involved in community activities before, but the program made me go outside of my safety net and try different things I wouldn’t otherwise have tried,” she said.

By equipping participants with the knowledge and skills to lead effectively, it empowers them to tackle the challenges faced by rural areas. Sarah and her team created a community garden in a retirement village as part of their program. They built four raised garden beds and put in a chicken coop.

“As soon as we got there to set up the garden beds everyone came out to thank us and they got very excited. Their gratefulness and surprise that we came and delivered on what we said we were going to do was the best part about the project,” she said.

One of the strengths of the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program is the opportunity it provides to meet like-minded individuals. As leaders, it’s easy to feel isolated in rural environments. This program connects participants with a network of peers who share their passion and commitment to regional development. These connections extend well beyond the program’s duration, creating a support system for graduates as they embark on their leadership journeys.

“Everyone in our group has different traits, but our personalities mixed really well. Working together has been effortless and we all had a great time. We used each other’s contacts to set up the project. And everyone had different skills to contribute to ensure a successful outcome,” Sarah said.

The success of the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program can be measured in the tangible, positive changes brought about by its graduates. From spearheading community projects to driving policy changes, these leaders are making a lasting impact in their regions.

“The program has given me the confidence to explore new and different things that I wouldn’t have done before,” Sarah said.

If you’re interested in applying or would like to find out more about the program please visit