A new cubbyhouse being built at the Dookie Children’s Centre will stand as a monument to John Geddes’ success in the Fairley Leadership program.

Sponsored by Gardiner Dairy Foundation to participate in the program, John says it has opened his eyes to the needs of the local community.

Already passionate about the future of education, the father-of-four and assistant farm manager at the University of Melbourne’s Dookie campus is building the cubby as his community project for the leadership program.

The Fairley Leadership program is run by Goulburn Murray Community Leadership and gives people across the Goulburn Murray region opportunities to develop leadership skills, to explore the major issues facing the region and assist positive change.

Born in Shepparton and raised on a sheep and cropping farm at Dookie, John diversified into viticulture before taking on a position at the Dookie farm, which has about 6000 Merino sheep, 180 dairy cattle, a small apple orchard and cropping and pastures on its 2400 hectares.

The previous Dookie farm manager and John’s brother Peter both completed the leadership program and from their experiences John believed he would find it beneficial and, he says, his instincts proved correct.

“I’m someone who steps up and has his say and people come to me about things,” he said. “I thought something like this might put me in better stead to help those people and get more involved in the community while improving my leadership skills for work.”

As he prepares to graduate in early December, John said the program had exceeded expectations, ranging from a meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to seminars on topics such as water, youth issues, disadvantage and skills building.

“I thought it would give me leadership skills. It also opens your eyes to the issues in your local community and region so you get a broader perspective on what’s going on.”

John’s practical project reflects his commitment to young people and his community.

“I’m taking a week off work to build a new cubby house that is more open plan. It will be easier for teachers to enter and interact with children. It will also be suitable for messy play; it won’t matter if they take a bit of mud in there.”

The existing cubby has a traditional design with a small door not suitable for teachers.

John’s project is one of the most ambitious among program participants, but it’s all falling into place. “It’s a bit more than I expected but I’ll be right,” he said.

“Education, particularly of our young children at kinder age, is so important. It has been highlighted through the program just how important the early development years are to give kids a good start in life. The better we can set them up, the better they’ll be later on.

“The cubby is something the school has wanted for some time and it’s great seeing it become a reality. It’s surprising what can be achieved if you’re willing to put the extra work into it.”

John said the program was also benefiting his farm work. “I’m getting a lot more out of it than I expected. It’s building so many skills in leadership, dealing with people and resolving issues in the workplace,” he said.

John has also become more focussed on the need for sustainable agriculture, particularly the provision of affordable water, as a result of the program. “I’d like to see smarter farming practices with less waste and greater yields,” he said.

Without the support of Gardiner Dairy Foundation, John says he wouldn’t have been able to participate in the program. The University of Melbourne has allowed time to complete the course, which covers about 27 days.

“I’m extremely thankful to Gardiner Dairy Foundation for sponsoring me and giving me this opportunity, which will end up being a real point of change in my life. I’d recommend it to any community-minded person and anyone who wants to better their situation and help their region.

“It brings introverts and extroverts together and the opportunity to connect with new people and learn new skills will make it easier to achieve my future goals, become a leader in my local community and inspire positive changes wherever needed.”


Fairley Leadership (Goulburn Murray): Application are now open until 25 October 2019 – visit http://www.fairleyleadership.com.au/

For more information about Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program please go to: https://www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/people-community/#pc7 and follow the links or email: Richard Meredith richard.meredith@gardinerfoundation.com.au