Connections, Respect and Shared Purpose - reflections from a 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellow

By Marion Wands, 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellow and CEO & Director ConNetica

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes well-intentioned and determined individuals from varied backgrounds to create better, fairer, and just worlds for all. The 2021 Westpac Social Change Fellows exemplify those determined individuals.

The 2021  cohort is diverse, yet we are united in our goals to support vulnerable people, those experiencing disadvantage and minority groups to best fulfil their potential.

Our first meeting was at the APY Gallery in Adelaide CBD, a beautiful inviting and inspirational space full of amazing Aboriginal artwork. Learning about the stories depicted in the paintings, associated songlines and dances was enlightening. This authentic experience was further enriched by listening to the Aboriginal artists being interviewed and responding in their language which was translated for us by Sally Scales and Skye O’Meara. 

After the tour, Sally and Skye outlined how we can more effectively engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and work together to improve their lives. The key messages shared were:

“Just listening and acknowledging past and current injustices is not enough. We all need to be actively involved in improving the lives of First Nations Peoples”.

A seamless transition to wonderful refreshments provided by GoGo Events and networking concluded with a welcome speech from Westpac State General Manager, Ben Owens, and a Westpac Scholars panel discussion led by 2017 Social Change Fellow, Sarah Gun. These conversations reinforced Westpac’s commitment to the Scholarship Program and the positive impact of scholars’ learning, generosity of spirit and mutual support.

Key insight – “Like so much in life, it is much more than the money. Relationships are the priceless outcome”.

 Day two started with sharing breakfast and a bus ride to the beautiful Mount Lofty Guest House, nestled in and overlooking the Adelaide Hills. Conversations continued as we learnt more about one another’s social enterprises, passions, hopes and dreams. Our session with Mary Freer and Peter Shepherd covered an interesting range of leadership topics.  

Key insight - “Take the time to clarify personal goals and identify and address the ‘hard stuff’ that often gets in the way of achieving goals”.  

Systems thinking and design were the topics presented by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) on day three.

Key insight - “Be realistic about what is within and external to my control, and focus my efforts where I can have the greatest impact”.

Day four provided us with the time to reflect upon, craft and share our personal stories. Our facilitator and master storyteller, Simon Oats’ compassion, insight and technical skill enabled us to dive deep and start the journey of developing compelling stories. Our bonds strengthened as we shared our stories.

Key insight - “A good story takes time to craft. We owe it to our audiences and social enterprise to ensure our stories are heartfelt, compelling, clear and engaging”.

Day five with TACSI focused on extending our conversational skills and personal development plans. What really struck me was our collective willingness to share our skills and experiences and preparedness to be open to new ideas.

Key insight“Learning is a fluid experience, and it is important to adapt and change as new experiences and opportunities emerge”.

Throughout the five days our many informal conversations, laughs, storytelling and genuine interest in one another’s endeavours built trust, respect, and a deep willingness to provide ongoing mutual support.

Key Insight – “Together we are so much stronger and when we feel valued, we are more confident to try new ventures”. 


2022 Westpac Social Change Fellowship applications are now open. Apply or nominate someone today.