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Outstanding regional and rural leadership


TRAILblazers 2013 enriches leaders

TRAILblazers 2013 enriches leaders


The Foundation’s innovative 8-day program for seasoned leaders, TRAILblazers, kicked off on Friday, October 11 in Canberra, with an eclectic mix of industries and backgrounds represented.

Seven leaders from a range of industries – from pork, to cotton, to education, to seafood – have embarked on a journey to take their multi-faceted leadership to a new level, and to refresh their direction and goals going forward.

Providing a glimpse into this year’s TRAILblazers cohort is Brisbane-based Professor Geoff Kent, supported on TRAILblazers by Sugar Research Australia. Geoff is employed by Queensland University of Technology’s Sugar Research and Innovation Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities.

For Geoff, growing up as the son of a cane farmer in the industry’s heartland of Bundaberg, he always knew that his career would revolve around the commodity. But it was a degree in mechanical engineering, rather than remaining in farming, the Geoff found his place in the world of sugar.

“My industry is one that is never dull, no day is boring, and there is always a new challenge requiring innovative ways of thinking in my role,” he says.

Working in systems and engineering since 1986, Geoff’s career trajectory has seen years of experience and hard work lead him to a stage where he is now a Principal Research Fellow, and – something he finds most novel – a port of call for advice and mentorship from students.

“I have post graduate students seek me out from time to time, and I suppose I do act as a mentor for some … but it’s funny to realize, because my leadership journey has been a gradual one,” Geoff says.

“Currently I’m supervising projects in cane transport operations, looking at ways to be clever in schedules and crew changes, and reducing maintenance and operating costs.”

Speaking on Friday last week, at the beginning of the 8-day experience, Geoff said he was looking forward to trying something so out of the ordinary from his usual routine.

“I expect to learn things about leadership I didn’t know before, and I’m hoping as part of the program to think more about where I’d like to be, and what I can contribute,” he said.

“Working in sugar, it’s important to have goals in front of you, and fresh perspectives on what I have to offer. I'm excited to be part of a unique course that has such a strong rural-focus, but is highly experiential and hands on," Geoff said.

Geoff and his fellow course participants have spent the beginning of the program examining the dynamics of human behavior and interaction, and are currently experiencing the more remote aspect of the program, in the beautiful setting of Burrinjuck, about 1.5 hours from Canberra.

They will conclude the program this week with another change of scene culminating in Canberra itself, and a graduation dinner is set for Friday evening.

TRAILblazers covers post-conventional leadership concepts; futurist thinking as a tool for strategic intervention; and creative thinking for innovative solution-finding to difficult problems. It also examines political influence and shaping the national and international agenda in rural Australia.

Program presenters include some of the nation's leading speakers and thinkers.

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