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Alumni Profile: Sherilyn Hanson (EBLP '10)

20 July 2011 By Stefan Grun

Sherilyn Hanson
Sherilyn Hanson

Sherilyn Hanson (EBLP ‘10) had been involved with Leadership Victoria long before she was accepted into LV’s Experience Bank Leadership Program (EBLP) last year. 

As a manager at YMCA Victoria, in 2005 she coordinated a group of thirty Williamson Community Leadership Program (WCLP) participants in founding the Bridge Project, which helps young ex-offenders find employment and stability after being released from prison.

“There were a lot of big personalities involved!” She laughs.  “But I felt like I learned so much about leadership from them, they were great.” 

Sherilyn says that that all too often young people become trapped in cycle of poverty, committing a crime and serving jail time only to be released into highly difficult circumstances and reoffending. 

While a stint in jail can be one of the few times young people are able to address problems they face, including drug or alcohol abuse, or mental ill health, without adequate transition programs rates of reoffending sit above 60%.

The Bridge Project links ex-offenders with job opportunities, and supports both the young people and employers over any hurdles they may face in maintaining long term, meaningful employment.  Re-offending rates among young people after involvement with the Bridge Project are just 3%.

Sherilyn credits the 2005 WCLP participants with opening networks of potential employers for ex-offenders, and bringing industry nous to the program.

“They took our idealistic thoughts, and gave them a business brain,” she says.

Most of the 2005 WCLP participants continue to have some level of involvement in the Bridge Project, with about 15 of them very active in its delivery.

Sherilyn advocates a cross sector approach to dealing with social problems, and she sees the dynamic mix of leaders from many spheres as one of the real strengths of LV’s programs.

“I love bringing together unlike people together and seeing what can come out of that,” she says.  

She admires leaders like Christine Nixon, for their ability to lead from behind and bring together people from many different backgrounds in a collaborative way.

Sherilyn applied for the 2010 EBLP hoping to further expand her contacts across sectors, but she found she gained much more from the experience than just a great networking opportunity.  As YMCA’s programs keep expanding, Sherilyn realised she can no longer micro-manage every aspect of their operations.

“I realised that learning to step away and let others take responsibility was the next step in my leadership journey,” Sherilyn says.

Being from a business background herself, Sherilyn believes that effective leadership relies on being able to find what she defines as the “win-win” scenario.  When all those involved in a project stand to gain from the experience, they are far more likely to remain invested for the long haul.

Right now Sherilyn is excited about YMCA Victoria’s new social enterprise venture ReBuild.  It’s a property maintenance business staffed by experienced tradesmen and yound offenders.

Businesses are able to access a top quality service while fulfilling their social responsibility targets.  Meanwhile young people are given a highly supportive training environment, which helps them build the skills and confidence they need to successfully enter the mainstream workforce.

Sherilyn says managing the ReBuild project represents a culmination of the many leadership lessons she has learned in her career so far.

“It’s being able to change people’s lives in the long term – who wouldn’t love that?” She says.