Inspiring Leadership: St Leonard’s College Captains Unite Schools for Development Conference

In a world often fragmented by differences, one common thread unites schools across Victoria: the aspiration to nurture and empower young leaders. This shared goal was exemplified in the recent Leadership Development Conference hosted by St Leonard’s College, where student leaders from various schools came together to explore the essence of leadership and its transformative potential.


The conference, spearheaded by the 2024 St Leonard’s College Captains, Nicola, Spencer, Emily, and Richie, aimed to delve into the fundamental question: What makes a good leader? Recognising the absence of a definitive handbook, these student leaders embraced the idea of collective learning and collaboration. They envisioned a platform where leaders from diverse backgrounds could converge to share experiences, insights, and strategies for effective leadership.


The conference boasted a diverse array of attendees from various educational institutions, ranging from Independent, State and Catholic schools. Notable among them were St Aloysius College, Westbourne Grammar, Brighton Grammar School, Brighton Secondary College, Caulfield Grammar School (Glen Eira Campus), Elwood College, Firbank Grammar School, Loyola College, McKinnon Secondary College, Mentone Grammar School, Overnewton Anglican Community College, Sandringham College (10 – 12 Campus), St Bede’s College, Star of the Sea, Wesley College, Cheltenham Secondary College, and MLC. 


Whatever the shade of their uniform or the composition of their school, these students were invited to the leadership conference because of their potential to make their school communities greater still. Just as I am humbled by the way that our 2024 Captains at St Leonard’s College have convened this gathering, so too will the schools in attendance be indebted to the stewardship that their leaders will show this year.

Peter Clague, St Leonard’s College Principal

Themed around the principles of ‘Leading as Service’, ‘Leading for Change’, and ‘Leading with Joy’, the conference sought to provide a comprehensive understanding of leadership dynamics. Through keynote speeches and panel discussions, attendees were exposed to a rich tapestry of perspectives from accomplished leaders across various domains.


Among the distinguished speakers was Kate Jenkins, the Former Sex Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission. With her landmark contributions to gender equity and workplace inclusivity, Kate epitomises leadership driven by a commitment to social justice and equality.


Zoe Daniel, independent MP for Goldstein, former broadcast journalist and foreign correspondent, shared how her passion for change led her to enter politics, inspiring these young leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. Her firsthand experience in covering natural disasters, conflicts, and climate change led her to focus on strategies to safeguard our community and economy.


Jamil Tye, Director of the William Cooper Institute at Monash University, brought a unique perspective rooted in Indigenous wisdom and advocacy. As a proud Yorta Yorta man, Jamil emphasised the significance of community empowerment in leadership. His journey from grassroots activism to academic leadership inspired attendees to embrace inclusivity, collaboration and empowering others in their approach to leading.


Jo Kwok, a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia, shared her experiences in community service and mentorship. Through her involvement in Rotary International and various mentoring programs, Jo demonstrated the profound impact of servant leadership in fostering social cohesion and collective well-being. Her message resonated deeply with aspiring leaders, highlighting the importance of empathy, compassion, and civic engagement in leadership practice.


Simon Dowling, a renowned expert in team collaboration and leadership, offered practical insights into building high-performing teams. Drawing from his diverse background in law, improvisation, and organisational consulting,  Simon emphasised the power of collaboration, communication, and creative problem-solving in driving success and sparking passion in others as a means of achieving leadership goals. His interactive workshop challenged attendees to rethink traditional notions of leadership and embrace a culture of innovation and adaptability.


Liz Dawes, CEO of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, shared her inspiring journey of resilience and purpose in the face of adversity. Liz’s tireless efforts to combat paediatric brain cancer and honour her son’s legacy underscored the transformative potential of personal tragedy in igniting social change. Her story served as a poignant reminder of the profound impact that individuals can have when driven by a sense of purpose and compassion.


Finally, Ryan Shelton, prominent media figure known for his infectious joy and humour, and St Leonard’s Collegian from the Class of 1999, offered a refreshing and captivating perspective on leadership through the lens of entertainment. He generously shared his own very personal story and perspective on what success looks like. Ryan’s emphasis on embracing imperfection and finding joy in the creative process resonated with attendees, reminding them of the importance of authenticity and resilience in leadership.


As the conference drew to a close, attendees departed with a renewed sense of purpose and determination to lead with integrity, empathy, and joy, touting the event as “inspiring” and “enriching”. The collaborative spirit and sense of connection that permeated the event laid the foundation for ongoing dialogue and partnership among schools, fostering a community of empowered leaders poised to make a positive difference in their respective spheres of influence.


In the words of our St Leonard’s College Captains,

“All of us gathered with a strong purpose in our hearts, an intent to understand the power that our leadership positions hold, and how we can leverage that privilege to leave our own school communities a better place when our tenure is over.”


Leadership for Change Panel – Simon Dowling, Jamil Tye, Kate Jenkins



Leading With Joy – Ryan Shelton (OC1999)



Leading As Service Panel – Zoe Daniel, Liz Dawes, Jo Kwok


L-R: St Leonard’s College Captains – Spencer Hawkins and Nicola Loschiavo. Deputy Captains – Emily Conheady and Richie Huang.