Notre Dame students consider servant leadership at prestigious Canberra conference

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Summer 10-12-2012

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia

Publication Place



Medicine student at The University of Notre Dame Australia, Rebecca Lewis, hardly expected her part-time job at Bakers Delight, or a chance encounter with a regular patron of the bakery, to lead to a coveted position as one of two Notre Dame delegates at the National Student Leadership Forum (NSLF) in Canberra, but such surprises keep life interesting.

Initially unbeknownst to Ms Lewis, the Chairman of the NSLF (and frequent customer of the bakery at which she is employed) nominated her for a place on the prestigious program after he had the opportunity to discover the outstanding contribution she has made to her community.

Ms Lewis, along with Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts student Walker Aloiai, returned from the conference with a renewed understanding of what is means to be a good leader.

Last week, Ms Lewis reflected on her experience attending the prestigious conference during a presentation for her peers at the School of Medicine in Sydney.

Ms Lewis said the focus of the NSLF was servant leadership, a term coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s.

"Jesus of Nazareth said, 'the greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever makes himself great will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be made great.' The highest priority of the servant leader is to encourage and support those around you. To unfold their full potential and abilities," Ms Lewis said.

The forum included a day spent in Parliament House; a keynote address from the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott; seminar groups run by Members of Parliament and community leaders; and a local community service project.

Ms Lewis said the community service project, which involved visiting local homes and spending an afternoon giving their backyards a make-over, put into practice the premise of the event and demonstrated to delegates the importance of service.

"The Backyard Blitz project was an excellent way to live out the values of a servant leader. It was amazing to see what an impact can be made in one afternoon," Ms Lewis said.

The aspiring doctor said studying at Notre Dame had given her a practical perspective on how faith and values are integral to success as a leader, particularly in her chosen profession.

"When practising medicine, new doctors often enter the field with great ideals about the changes we are going to make and the difference we are going to have on our patients, but then become quite disillusioned and cynical in the face of a poor outcome or a difficulty," Ms Lewis said.

"It is in these circumstances that our faith and values are so important because they are the resources we can draw on to keep that original vision alive."

"Our skills and talents determine the speed in which we can reach our goal of leadership, but our faith and values determine our direction. Faith and values shape our sense of purpose, determine how we treat others and help us achieve the ultimate goal we are striving for."

Walker Aloiai, who also represented Notre Dame at the forum, said the conference's message of servant leadership has inspired him to rediscover a clear path for his own personal development and achievement.

"The most important lesson I learnt from the forum was the need to identify where my life was being directed, and whether or not such a direction best represented my own personal faith and values. I have spent much of the past year dealing with challenges separately; I didn't take a step back to reflect on the bigger picture," Mr Aloiai said.

"The forum rekindled my sense of direction, and personified an old adage - that change begins with me."

For further information please contact: Communications Officer, Elizabeth Fenech The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus

T: 02 8204 4407

E: elizabeth.fenech@nd.edu.au

W: www.nd.edu.au/