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All Staff Forum hits right note

Packed with thought-provoking and inspiring speakers, client insights and a film festival, Meli’s first-ever All Staff Forum ended with choc tops and group singing.

More than 600 staff from across Meli offices and kindergartens attended the forum at Geelong Arts Centre on Tuesday 11 June. Professional development workshops for kindergarten staff ran alongside the main program in the Playhouse theatre.

Ash Skinner welcomed us to Wadawurrung Country ahead of a series of speakers aligned with Meli’s strategic goals.

CEO Grant Boyd reflected on the challenges faced and progress made in the first year of our organisation, as well as sharing some key initiatives to achieve the goal of improved outcomes for the people we engage with.

Early childhood educator, gender inclusion researcher and consultant Ariel Liddicut challenged us all to apply an inclusivity lens to our existing attitudes, language and behaviours.

Journalist, author, educator and advocate Jess Hill took us on a journey across difficult terrain with real-life stories, shocking statistics and confronting insights into gendered violence and coercive control – as well as opportunities for systemic change.

The mood shifted with the screening of the inaugural Meli Short Film Festival comprising five short films written and produced by volunteers across the organisation, supported by the Strategic Engagement team.

Executive director Chris Hayes introduced the festival, explaining that the idea came from Transformation focus group sessions identifying the need for better understanding of the full suite of Meli services.

The result was a “clever showcase” of Meli services told through the series of short films that provided an informative, entertaining and unique window to each of the directorates. Who knew Meli had so much talent?

And no film festival would be complete without an awards ceremony, so stand-out contributions were recognised with an Oscars-style trophy.

The lunch break was an opportunity for mingling, discussion about the morning’s sessions and connecting with co-workers.

After lunch we heard about the challenges faced by people with lived prison experience and the critical need for support services.

The client voice session included screening of a video and panel session, with Luke, Sharron and Christine sharing their personal experiences about life in prison and returning to everyday life.

Afternoon guest speaker Rachael Robertson was a highlight for many, talking about inspiration, leadership and culture.

We all thought it was cold in Geelong until we heard Rachael’s recollections of the nine-month Antarctic winter when minus 35-degree temperatures (and no way in or out) truly put her leadership skills the test.

After responding to a newspaper advertisement, more out of curiosity rather than any deep desire to explore the Antarctic, Rachael found herself the youngest ever and just the second female expedition leader to Davis Station.

With great humour, insight and humility Rachael shared the lessons she learned about leadership and teamwork. From solving the bacon wars to implementing the “no triangles” approach to conflict, Rachael’s presentation was engaging and relatable.

At the end of the day, Meli staff had an opportunity to connect and raise their own voices with the “One Voice” community choir activity.

The sounds of hundreds of staff filling the Playhouse theatre with “Love is in the Air” was certainly a high note to finish Meli’s first All Staff Forum.

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