Glengarry resident Dean Sutton didn’t always have the confidence to be a leader.
Being his true self and developing his leadership skills was a battle growing up in a small country town and identifying as a gay man.
So when the opportunity arose to take part in the Gippsland Community Leadership Program (GCLP) through a diversity scholarship funded by AGL Loy Yang, Dean was instantly interested.
“I was taking on leadership roles within my community without fully realising it and I often felt out of my depth,” Dean said.
“School wasn’t a safe place for me which is often the case for many LGBTIQ+ youth, as a result I never went on to uni.”
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Dean, a Health, Safety, & Environment Roadmap Manager with Parks Victoria, said the program changed his life.
“The AGL Diversity Scholarship gave me access to an opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to afford on my own. Every day I am grateful for that and try to pay it forward every opportunity I get,” he said.
“AGL providing the accessibility for diversity through their scholarships provides a greater learning experience for all participants and benefits the wider community.”
His views were echoed by current scholarship recipient, Farhat Firdous, who learned of the opportunity from mentors who attended the program and saw the positive result for participants.
“I am a skilled migrant and have been living in Gippsland since 2015,” Farhat said.
“For me, attending the program meant that I got to know more about Gippsland, its history and its people. It also meant that I could connect with other participants and alumni of the program.
“Without the AGL scholarship, it would have been difficult for me to attend the program as a self-paying participant.”
AGL Loy Yang general manager Nigel Browne said the company was a strong supporter of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program, and provides additional funding for a position for a nominated Loy Yang employee.
“I completed the program back in 2005 and understand the skills it enables you to develop and the opportunities it opens up,” Mr Browne said.
“At AGL, diversity and inclusion is at the heart of all that we do and we are proud to again offer these Diversity Scholarships as part of the Gippsland Community Leadership Program.
“We want to support leaders in diverse areas of our community that may not have otherwise had the opportunity to take part in this program. We know that diversity of people brings diversity of ideas and we look forward to working with our local leaders of the future to grow our region.”
Since its inception in 1996, more than 600 people have graduated from the GCLP, which aims to ‘expose Gippsland leaders to the history, present and future possibilities of Gippsland while enhancing participant’s skillsets, enabling them to return to their Gippsland community as better, willing and able leaders’.
Graduates have included Chairman of Ambulance Victoria and former Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay and Senator Bridget McKenzie, along with other government, community and business leaders.