By Sarah Collier

If you’re an aspiring leader living in Gippsland and want to meet like-minded people and form lasting connections, then the Gippsland Community Leadership Program (GCLP) could be for you.

Applications for the comprehensive 10-month course are currently open. Conducted from February to November, the course plays a pivotal role in enhancing individual leadership skills while fostering connections and empowering the Gippsland region. For over seventeen years, Gardiner Foundation has provided scholarships to support Gippsland based leaders to undertake the GCLP to develop their potential as community leaders.

Steven Loader recently completed the leadership program thanks to a Gardiner Foundation scholarship. He was born and bred in Gippsland, growing up on a dairy farm near Korumburra and currently works for Burra Foods. “I didn’t know what to expect before I started, but it was sensational. I loved every minute of it,” Steven said. “The personal development when it comes to managing people and understanding myself a bit better have been invaluable parts of the course to me.”

The program equips participants with the knowledge and insights necessary to become effective community leaders. The 17 days of activities, spanning various aspects of Gippsland life, provide an invaluable experiential education. Whether exploring the region’s rich history, understanding its diverse communities, or delving into the challenges and opportunities it faces, participants are exposed to a range of perspectives that are instrumental in shaping their leadership abilities. “I enjoyed working on the project. We worked in the Latrobe regional hospital, putting time in to replanting native trees and make their recreational area a bit brighter,” he said. “We spent a few months planning, then three solid days of getting the work done.”

GCLP also inspires confidence in its participants. The exposure to a wide array of real-world situations, often unique to the Gippsland region, nurtures future leaders. “The satisfaction of the project work and all of our guest speakers that taught us about ourselves and about the Gippsland area and its history were invaluable experiences to me,” he said.

The program fosters an environment of collaboration and community building. It encourages the development of interpersonal skills that are crucial for effective leadership. Participants form bonds that go beyond the program, creating a network of like-minded individuals who share a passion for Gippsland and its development.

“I value the friendships I made during the course, especially with people I would never have met otherwise. We all had visions of improving our own leadership skills, but the connections I made with everyone in the group have been sensational. Turns out I have a lot in common with so many people all over Gippsland,” Steven said.

Personal and professional development are also core components of the GCLP. The program incorporates group work, individual challenges, and observational learning. This well-rounded approach ensures that participants not only develop their leadership skills but also gain a deeper understanding of their own strengths and areas for growth. “How to handle hard discussions is something I now apply in my personal and private life. Putting off something isn’t going to make it disappear. Sometimes you need to deal with it there and then,” he said.

“Thank you so much to Burra foods for nominating me to apply for the program and for letting me take the time off,” he said. “And thank you to Gardiner for sponsoring me. I’m excited to give back to the community by applying all the things I learned during the course.”

Applications are currently open. For more information and to apply please visit