There are 53 people who have the role of Director of Regional Development (DRD) for the Regional Development Australia network across Australia. Megan and I are two of them.
Megan’s region stretches across the Central West and Western region of NSW, in fact 25% of NSW, Wiradjuri country. She recently posted about an exhausting yet exhilarating week in which she covered 80% of her territory including Quambone Shire, Coonamble Shire, Brewarrina Shire, Bourke, Cobar, Bogan Shire, Narromine Shire, Warrumbungle Shire Council and Gilgandra.
The DRD role is challenging (to say the least) and while the role is bound by rigorous reporting frameworks, we operate in a ‘placed based’ model – a fact which is a gift for our communities (as we can make the delivery program current and relevant to our individual regions) but daunting for us (without a steely self-esteem there is always a niggling question in the back of our minds which asks if we really know what we are doing, and if we are choosing the right battles).
Over the past couple of years our collegial working partnership has taught me that Megan and I have numerous things in common over and above the DRD role;
- We are both governing 3 kid families
- We have both worked with a Council in my region – Megan as a manager and me in my current role and as a consultant
- We share a strong belief in the power of collaboration
- We both have a passion for our regional communities and values which sometimes creates a stumbling block for our own ambitions
The question of community versus self-promotion is an ongoing topic of conversation particularly given that we both brought our own consulting businesses into our RDA roles and have grappled with the line between maintaining the profitability of the business and generating revenue in the new job role – I believe we’ve both navigated this ethically albeit with a profit model that swings more towards our jobs than business gains. There’s that ethical question again, we are very aware that not everyone would chose the profitability of an employer over their own gain. Yet we understand that community people are like that and it builds trust. Service over self.
The DRD role is a hard one to understand and I always look forward to catch-ups with my colleagues, particularly Megan. It’s always nice to know you’re not the only one experiencing any given challenge. I feel incredibly lucky to have colleagues who are ready and willing to share and with a national network to draw upon that’s a pretty inspiring fact.
With jobs like these it’s easy to forget that life continues to unfold as the key performance indicators tick away and I also always enjoy hearing how my colleagues juggle this.
Megan and I decompressed on a warm Tuesday afternoon which stretched into the evening in Sydney. Just a few years my senior I listen eagerly to Megan’s experiences of caring for unwell parents and processing their passing; navigating the emotions of kids finishing school and leaving home; renovating homes and negotiating tradie contracts; upholding ethical values which don’t completely erode the self; using community consultation with clients as a tool for internal reflection and finding the right reporting templates for the complex systems we manage.
An eavesdropper would struggle to follow the many and varied threads of conversation and as I reflect on the conversation myself I understand why some days I feel so, so tired, it takes a lot of energy to keep all of those balls in the air.
Megan and I share an understanding which no longer needs to be spoken about doing good versus being a do-gooder, a state of being which is understood by any long term resident of the regions. She also reminds me of the importance of a collegial spirit and I always look forward to our next catch up, document exchange and debrief.