Getting Involved

My Chronicle column this month looks at fostering young leaders in the ACT.
Fostering the ACT's Young Future Leaders, The Chronicle, 6 August 2013

In public life, it’s all too easy to confuse leadership with power – to think that the only ones who exercise leadership are generals, judges, ministers and CEOs.

In fact, leadership is much richer and more diffuse. All of us have the ability to lead in our own communities. We’ve seen leadership from the community organisers who ran a successful campaign to provide Safe Shelter to the homeless; the coordinators in Volunteering ACT who join up volunteers to community organisations; the entrepreneurs who created innovation hub Entry 29; and activist Liz Dawson who has persuaded dentists to do pro bono work to give people back their smiles.

Leaders aren’t found on pedestals, they’re all around us.

That’s why I recently ran a workshop on leadership for high school and college students on the northside of Canberra. We talked about the issues people felt passionate about, practiced public speaking, and heard from social entrepreneurs Melanie Poole (who co-founded Vocal Majority) and Ben Duggan (who created Raising Hope).

I think the students enjoyed the chance to share their stories, try out some new skills, and hear from the guest speakers. I appreciated hearing their stories about overcoming fears, helping classmates, and even rescuing injured wildlife. At the end of the three-hour session, I left with a sense of energy and optimism about the positive work that these teens will go on to do in our communities.

In encouraging future leaders, one of the big challenges is to make sure everyone has their say. And when it comes to choosing our representatives in parliament today, the challenge is the same. At present, about half of all 18 year-olds aren’t on the electoral roll. Since my electorate of Fraser is the largest electorate in Australia (with over 133,000 voters) and has several university campuses in its midst, my guess is that there are probably more unenrolled young people in Fraser than in any other electorate in Australia.

Fortunately, the Australian Electoral Commission has recently switched its procedures to allow online enrolment (not the old-fashioned print-it-out-and-post-it-in approach). This means that it’s easier than ever to get on the electoral roll using your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

So if you know a young person who isn’t enrolled, please encourage them to go to to sign up. Moreover, people don’t have to wait until they’re eligible to vote – they can sign up at age 16 or 17, so they’re ready to vote as soon as they turn 18. With an election just around the corner, there’s never been a better time to get on the roll.

Finally, I’m always keen to encourage future leaders. So if you know a young Canberran who’s keen on making a difference but doesn’t know where to start, feel free to suggest they email me. There are plenty of community organisations looking for support, and I’m more than happy to help connect them with one that would be suitable.

Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser. His website is, his email address is, and he is on Twitter as @ALeighMP.

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