The eighteen participants and program leader of the 2023 Leadership Onkaparinga cohort standing alongside one another and smiling beneath a large tree.

Published on 23 August 2023

Leadership from the Heart

Eighteen passionate residents have completed this year’s Leadership Onkaparinga program, taking away innovative learnings on the science of compassion and how it supports community leadership.

For more than 15 years, the City of Onkaparinga has invested in community leaders through its Leadership Onkaparinga programs, which have supported more than 300 residents in a variety of developmental opportunities.

This year’s program, Leadership from the Heart, focussed on building capacity around what’s known as the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). The IDGs are a research-based framework comprising five categories with 23 skills and capabilities, demonstrating how we need to develop both cognitive, emotional and relational skills to succeed in working with complex challenges. The IDGs also serve as an accelerator towards reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

For the first time, City of Onkaparinga partnered with Monash University’s Centre for Consciousness and Contemplative Studies—a unique institution that brings together experts in philosophy, neuroscience, medicine, education, and interfaith and secular dialogue.

Leadership from the Heart participants had access to world-class learning in Compassion Studies and Compassionate Leadership, in which the centre provided science-based skills and qualities to help the cohort and their communities live purposeful, sustainable and productive lives.

Participants also learnt from leading specialists from other tertiary institutions for the first time, including Sydney University and Ballarat’s Federation University, while also partnering with long-time collaborator, Flinders University.

These specialists brought additional content to the program, including systems thinking, politics and leadership, which supported the core curriculum and helped participants to better understand the interconnected systemic challenges communities can face.

With representation from a broad geographical area in our region ranging from Darlington to Willunga, participants represented a diverse volunteering and employment group. Representation from sporting club board members, faith groups, education and community centres, mental health and social inclusion sectors were involved.

Willunga’s Jenny Esots, a lifelong learner and Leadership from the Heart participant, said the program had broadened her outlook on community leadership.

“The major bonus has been learning from the collective wisdom of a diverse and generous group of women,” she said.

Program Leader Joanna Giannes said Leadership from the Heart continued the program’s tradition of, and commitment to, building community capacity.

“Ultimately, this is a program that enables citizens to learn throughout life, which aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of ensuing inclusive and equitable quality education that also promotes lifelong learning,” she said.

“City of Onkaparinga continues to support the development of community leadership through the Leadership Onkaparinga program, which supports democratic and participatory forms of education, creating more connected communities that can better address local issues and impacts.

“Our great hope is that through this support and capacity building in our communities, community members can exercise their leadership, agency and citizenship to shape our region so it’s inclusive, connected and flourishing.”

For more information on the Leadership Onkaparinga programs, contact Joanna Giannes – Program Leader at