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Vale Joan Kirner

June 12, 2015 — Leave a comment

Vale Joan Kirner, our 42nd premier who recently sadly died from cancer at the age of 76.  She was also Victoria’s first and only female premier.


Joan Kirner became an activist after becoming concerned with large classroom sizes, which motivated her to be politically active.  One of her legacy was overseeing the introduction of the Victorian Certificate of Education as Education minister.  The result was reduced class sizes, along with that an increase in school retention.

During her time in parliament, she was known as a hard working and strong politician, but also a pragmatic and collegial person who would work across political divides.  People describe her leadership style as “no-nonsense authority” and a fierce warrior for education and equality, among other things.

Since retiring from politics, she continued her community activism and committed to affirmative action for preselection within the Australian Labor Party, building and supporting Emily’s List to mentor, fundraise and support women candidates.  She also very generous with her time, and continued to provide advice to anybody who require it, include myself.

I met Joan officially at a women’s function and, in telling her of my unsuccessful attempt in running for parliament the year earlier, she invited me to her home to provide advice and support.  After organising a date and time, I received a call one week before from Ron (Joan’s husband) that she had a fall and was in hospital.  My immediate response was “Gosh, she really should rest and our catchup can be delayed”. I expected she would need time to recover.  But no. As soon as she was out of the hospital and walking again, she was eager to meet.  I was impressed by her attitude, but also a little concerned if she would be OK.  So I was careful that I was all prepared and wasn’t wasting her time.

Joan was lovely, witty and humorous.  She was also very direct and straight to the point.  We talked for many hours about politics.  Despite her having a no-nonsense leadership style, she was an excellent listener and shared her views and wisdom on my individual situation. It was never about her and what she has achieved.

She was an inspiration – both a role model in politics and her approach to life.

Wesa Chau

John Fien

A recent conference on pathways to a sustainable future for East Baltic states, held in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, led me to reflect on the meaning of “sustainable” and what visionary leadership for a sustainable future can be.

One of my roles at the conference was to speak on the integrated nature of sustainability (Triple Bottom Line Plus One – Governance), the honey bee (not locust) forms of leadership suitable for this, and the integral approach to the development of values based leadership.

The talk went quite well and few hard questions were asked afterwards. However, talking informally with participants at the breaks and over meals led me to see that my talk had missed a vital aspect of the local perspective on sustainability.

This was national independence and freedom.

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In our latest  ‘Brown Bag’ seminar Research Fellow Mark Manolopoulos critically examined the meaning of the greater good.

‘The greater good’ approaches the status of concepts like ‘love’ and ‘democracy’: they’re ubiquitous and everyone has an opinion about them, but if we’re called upon to analyse them, we find it challenging defining them or explaining them, let alone theorising how we may foster them. Having regained some popularity (thankfully), the phrase ‘the greater good’ is bandied about as if its meaning is settled. But nothing could be further from the truth: not only is it contested but heavyweight philosophers such as Slavoj Žižek and Hans Sluga go so far as to question its very being. Such scepticism is a good thing: one of the aims of philosophy is to question everything, especially the seemingly obvious. Even more surprisingly, if we pay enough attention, we discover the kernel of a possible definition of the greater good in Sluga’s work.

Mark’s notes are available for download as a PDF here

Samuel Wilson

New research by the Swinburne Leadership Institute provides compelling empirical evidence of the perceived leadership malaise in Australia. However, in addition to familiar, dismal statistics about our deep distrust of political leaders, this population survey, conducted in late 2014, provides important clues about the roots of this malaise.

Stated baldly, the Australian public does not believe that Australian leaders care about the greater good. Importantly, this finding is not confined to political leaders, although, predictably, political leaders fared the worst.

To illustrate, 68 per cent of respondents thought political leaders were more concerned about self-interest and interests of their close supporters than the wider public interest. The figure for business and religious leaders was 75 per cent and 59 per cent, respectively.

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Forces for good: The six practices of high-impact nonprofits


Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw

WHAT can good-hearted nonprofit organizations do in the face of huge sometimes seemingly insurmountable social problems?

It is easy to recognize the importance of civil society and social entrepreneurship and why it is a growing sector. Our world and communities today need the best efforts of nonprofit organizations to respond to today’s challenges. Progress has also been made in some areas, thanks to the actions of both civil society and large agencies such as the UN.

Nevertheless, the scale and complexity of the problems of the world today are only increasing – not least of which include extreme poverty, climate change, health care, archaic education systems, unjust economical and judicial systems, and who knows what epidemic challenges are around the corner?

What are the best practices for nonprofits seeking to respond? Jim Collins has written business books like Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the LeaP…and Others Don’t and with Jerry Porras, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, but what is it that make nonprofits ‘great’ and lasting in what they attempt to do to make their communities and their world a better place?

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Ken Haley

Australians reward leaders who stand by core beliefs and, on occasion, flex their muscle.

WHEN a giant kauri crashes in the forests of south-western Australia, every creature trembles and, if only for a moment, all life is stilled.

This month saw the passing of a colossus among leaders. Like Churchill, De Gaulle and Mao, Gough Whitlam could boast a record great in triumphs and disasters alike. His relentless determination to take control of events actually drove history forward. This makes it an apposite time to reflect on the qualities required in a great national leader.

Recently, four thoughtful people sat down to do just this. Today we publish an account of what three former federal MPs – one of whom played a decisive role at a turning-point in the nation’s political history – and a prominent political scientist define as the qualities a great leader must have.

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Samuel Wilson

As argued by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, five seminal and closely connected changes have occurred in the ‘developed’ parts of the planet that create a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits.

These changes, which jointly constitute what Bauman calls ‘liquid modernity’, have created a series of challenges never before encountered.

It is crucial to understand these challenges because they have profound implications for our ability to enact leadership for the greater good, in general, and to achieve sustainable development, in particular.

Although many individuals and collectives (e.g., organisations, communities) value sustainability and sustainable development, the sustainability movement, as observed by Bob Willard, has fallen far short of what is necessary to avoid dangerous tipping points in climate instability, biodiversity loss, and other threats to ecological and social systems.

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Samuel Wilson

Probably the greatest and most worthy object of global conscious change is valorising sustainability and achieving sustainable development in our socio-technical and social-ecological systems. The imperative to regenerate, sustain and create commons is one of our most profound leadership challenges, and central to leadership for the greater good.

This challenge is, of course, a global challenge. It is easy to sound glib in making such pronouncements and much too easy to underestimate the obstacles to understanding the nature of this challenge, which are manifest in our prevailing cultural assumptions and, by extension, in our individual and shared mindsets.

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Samuel Wilson

Throughout the last year or so, we have explored the meaning of leadership for the greater good.

Whether we have explored sustainability as a guide to the good, the leadership needed to address tough or wicked problems, or the challenges posed to such leadership by liquid modernity, it is clear that leadership for the greater good is very complex. Indeed, leadership for the greater good is less a unity concept than it is a complex of concepts, mindsets and practices.

As observed by the late Stephen Jay Gould, it is best to sneak up on generalities, rather than tackle them head-on. Such is the power of treating generalities by particulars. This piece of wisdom is certainly applicable to the challenge of understanding the nature of leadership for the greater good.

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Samuel Wilson

As I noted in an earlier post, it is often best to sneak up on generalities via particularities, rather than tackle them head-on.

Applied to leadership for the greater good, this means that it is prudent to consider the variety of ways in which the good is manifest rather than attempt to measure the good as an abstract unity.

For example, every society has public goods (e.g., roads, public broadcasting) and common goods (e.g., water, fossil fuels) that can be used by all of its citizens, as well as merit goods that are available to citizens on the basis of need (e.g., pensions, charitable support).

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