We reached out to seven graduates of the Australian Student Leadership Conference! With some attending the conference a decade ago and others just last year, there are some similarities in their responses, however, the overwhelming consensus is that:
No matter what leadership role you hold, either in school or in the real world; ASLC teaches skills for life!
From a first-year physio student to high school teacher, and a leadership specialist in a global organisation these reflections teach us not only the long-lasting impact of ASLC but remind us, as leaders, the skills we need to continue to develop to lead.
We hope you enjoy these reflections, no matter your age, title, or position, as leadership is not about the badge, rather about the positive influence you can have to make the world a better place!
Hannah Schiller nee Donhardt
Graduated from Trinity College Senior (Gawler) in 2012
Attended ASLC SA
High School Teacher and studying Master of Education with a focus on Wellbeing Education
Graduated from Trinity College Senior (Gawler) in 2014
Attended ASLC SA
Leadership Specialist GRUDNFOS, Denmark
Graduated from Tamborine Mountain State High School (Gold Coast) in 2014
Attended ASLC SEQ
Operations Specialist Elston, Brisbane
Graduated from St Patrick’s College (Launceston) in 2017
Attended ASLC VIC
Final year Bachelor of Psychological Science and Law (Hons); TUSA State President
Graduated from Gympie State High School (Gympie) in 2020
Attended ASLC SEQ
Retail Assistant Manager, Alice Springs
Graduated from Brentwood Secondary College (Brentwood) in 2021
Attended ASLC VIC
First year Politics, Philosophy and Economics student at Monash University
Graduated from Faith Lutheran College (Barossa Valley) in 2021
Attended ASLC SA
First year Physiotherapy student and Adelaide University Rural Health Alliance Indigenous Health Officer
”“One of the most memorable things to me was the amazing mentors who volunteer their time to help guide us through one of the most challenging years mentally and emotionally, and this didn’t stop after conference!!”Jordi Wilksch
What do you remember most about your ASLC experience?
The main thing I remember from my ASLC experience was the people. It was so comforting to be in a space with so many people with a shared vision and who were all entering their last year of high school. ASLC in Adelaide is smaller than other conferences, so you knew everyone well by the end of the three days! Some of these people I am still close to (Sophia) and still see many around to this day – 10 years on!
I remember most that the ASLC was fun. Maybe this sounds like a surface level answer, but actually it’s not! Leadership is about making work engaging and stimulating for those around you, and ASLC definitely shows that in practice.
The friendships I made at ASLC were like nothing else. There are people that I met at the conference that are still important people in my life 9 years on.
By far the feeling of comfort and being at home in my squad. It was the first time I had truly been surrounded by a bunch of beautiful people who were passionate about the same things as me. To go from walking in, terrified, to crying on the last day because I didn’t want to leave is something I’ll never forget!
The thing that I remember most about my experience at ASLC was being able to make authentic connections and be myself in a safe and caring environment.
The one thing that sticks out to me when I think of my experience at ASLC would definitely be the positive and welcoming space that was created. From the moment I walked in on that first day of conference, I felt like I was in an environment that celebrated me being me and was able to embrace the experience of learning about the type of leader that I wanted to be.
When thinking back to my ASLC experience one of the first things that comes to mind is the initial apprehension that me along with my other school captains felt about the time away. We had no idea what to expect, however kept an open mind… which is one of the things that I am most thankful that I did… because by the end we didn’t want to leave! One of the most memorable things to me was the amazing mentors who volunteer their time to help guide us through one of the most challenging years mentally and emotionally, and this didn’t stop after conference!! They continually were there for us all year…which is something I had never experienced and was truly special.
”The positive and welcoming space that was created. From the moment I walked in on that first day of conference, I felt like I was in an environment that celebrated meUdit Dhami
What is a skill or lesson that you learnt and/or developed at ASLC?
The first skill I developed at ASLC was public speaking. I really struggled with public speaking and was a little terrified at the premise that was part of my captaincy role. Knowing the formula to speaking, being able to practice this skill and using the formula in a safe space meant that I felt more comfortable to speak in front of others throughout the year.
At ASLC I learnt to appreciate diversity. By bringing together representatives from different schools, we were encouraged to hear and integrate different opinions and views, which is something we should and could apply to all aspects of our life. I also learnt the importance of trusting those around you, and the importance of giving people the space they need to succeed.
”I learnt to appreciate diversity. By bringing together representatives from different schools, we were encouraged to hear and integrate different opinions and viewsHarry Dearing
ASLC taught me the important of being present and to always find time to do the things you love (including spending time with the people you love). I remember the analogy of filling your life with big rocks, and let the sand and pebbles fill the gaps.
The first lesson was that it is so important to be authentic to yourself; your leadership style, and your values. ASLC modelled this in a really tangible way when the mentors showed up every second as their unapologetic selves!
The second was the formula for public speaking. Although I had experience public speaking, I always had to be super prepared to feel comfortable enough to get up with confidence.
The lesson I learnt was that I don’t always have to have all the answers. Another lesson I learnt was that I don’t have to do everything myself, leadership is more than just being the person at the front of the room or project. It’s also about teamwork and helping each other.
A skill that I developed at ASLC was communication. Being in a space for three days where you only know the people you went to school with meant there was a whole lot of getting to know others, and that is how I was able to develop my communication skills.
Another skill I developed at ASLC was creativity. This was always an area of weakness for me, so being in that safe environment where you were never going to be judged for an idea or thought allowed me to cultivate this skill.
I specifically remember doing an exercise where we were asked to write down all the many things that were on a “plate” at the time, and I remember looking at my piece of paper that was almost full of so many commitments between school, work, family, friends, and now leadership. One very important lesson that I learnt from that session was the importance of the sacrifice that often comes with leadership. Sometimes to be a good leader we must sacrifice some of the things that will benefit us, to serve to the benefit of others.
One of the other lessons that I learnt on ASLC was the power of dreaming. I believe that as we get older, we lose our ability to dream big and think with a limitless vision, even when they may be nearly impossible. I left ASLC not only thinking about small changes… I left thinking about the big things that our community was in need of… which was a brand-new way of thinking!
”It is so important to be authentic to yourself; your leadership style, and your values. ASLC modelled this in a really tangible way!Sophie Crothers
How did that skill/lesson serve you throughout your final year at school?
One of my roles as Captain was to run assemblies and speak to younger year levels, so learning how to comfortably speak in front of people served me really well. It meant I knew what to do when I felt anxious and how to prepare when I knew I had to speak.
I left ASLC being more confident in my leadership capabilities, understanding that I do not have to be the best at something in order to lead it. Leadership is about bringing out the best in those around you. As a result, I led many projects I would not have led prior to ASLC.
Year 12 goes by so quick. I think having the reminder in the back of mind to slow down and enjoy the small things made my final year of school really enjoyable.
The first lesson served me by allowing me to return to school more confident in myself, my personality and my leadership skills. I feel like I really stepped into my role from that moment forward.
The public speaking formula served me on many an occasion! But most memorably – I got asked to do a 10-minute speech half an hour before assembly to fill time. Using the yLead tips, I spent 10 minutes talking about how hugs can be used to support your friends (lol) and got great feedback!
These lessons transpired into skills to admit when I need help, as well as being able to distribute the workload on projects as a team to be more effective. Rather than doing everything as an individual.
”“These lessons transpired into skills to admit when I need help, as well as being able to distribute the workload on projects as a team”Billy Brennan
Improving my communication significantly bolstered my experience at school as both a leader and in my personal life as a student. It made working in the various teams throughout year 12 so much easier and more effective as I felt much more confident being able to speak to other students and teachers.
To me, creativity is more than just ideas. I see creativity as a tool for problem solving. Throughout year 12, there were a whole lot of curve balls thrown my way, and it required getting creative to sort out these issues.
This new way of thinking lead me, along with my college leaders to pursue new ideas and push the boundaries of things that had been seen before. In response to this, we ended up presenting a whole school Chapel about mental health, accompanied with an entire week focused on well-being, something that all five leaders were extremely passionate about. Despite the barriers we faced… and the initial “no’s” we received… we saw potential in our ideas because of the way ASLC encouraged us to see all possibilities.
”ASLC taught me the important of being present and to always find time to do the things you love.Lachlan (Lochie) Mackriell
How does that skill continue to apply in your world (professionally and/or personally) today?
A large part of my role as a teacher is speaking in front of others! Since ASLC 10 years ago, I have been able to practice this skill many times to the point I am not overly bothered about speaking to a group. When I do feel nervous, I take a breath, think back to the day we learned about it and go from there.
In my working life, I continue to value diversity, encourage different opinions, and use collective insights in order to inform decisions. Leadership is not about being the decision maker – it’s about holding the frame to ensure decisions are made for the good of the group.
Now working in a high stress environment, it’s very easy to get caught up in the commotion and not be able to switch off. Being able to be present outside of work ensures I can keep a healthy work/life balance and still find time to do the things I enjoy the most.
I try to live and breathe authenticity in my leadership every day. I’m the State President of my uni Student Association, and I like to think that my authenticity is what sets me apart from university staff I deal with every day.
For public speaking – I’ve done more speeches than I can count through my job. Building that foundational confidence in my public speaking through yLead has allowed me to feel totally comfortable speaking off the cuff at many events over the last 5 years.
Personally, these skills allow me to admit when I am having a bad day and ask for help or support. Professionally as an assistant manager this allows me to be able to delegate tasks effectively to ensure an overall objective is complete as a team.
Being able to communicate is such an important life skill that has served me well beyond my time at school. Coming into university this year meant having to meet several new people and having this skill under my belt made the transition so much smoother. It has both helped me make new friends and improved my experience in collaborating with others.
The skill of creativity has been beneficial even after high school. In the workplace, there have been several instances that have required me to think on my feet and get creative in my responses to tasks and issues.
This is still something that I strive for individually, to see the world with open eyes, and never believe that it is too late to make a dream become a reality! I recently started studying physiotherapy and have a passion for indigenous health services… and was recently awarded the opportunity to coordinate an indigenous health education trip for medical students! Despite only being in my first year of physiotherapy school and doubting my ability to be able to coordinate such a trip I was able to see my dream and push for it… something that yLead has helped me to achieve!
”I was able to see my dream and push for it… something that yLead has helped me to achieve!Jordi Wilksch