Address to the 2020 Graduands of the Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)

NIODA Graduation Ceremony


Address to the 2020 Graduands of the Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)

For the last few weeks, as I’ve held this graduation in mind, I’ve recognised the parallel of our Melbourne experience of emerging out of lockdown with your experience of emerging out of your studies as we begin to move from our homes and our five-kilometre zones. You’re packing away your books closing up your folders, finishing classes and socialising once again, many of our cities poets, authors and thinkers have reflected on 2020 and a song called ‘When the machine starts up again‘ by Missy Higgins caught my attention. Unsurprisingly I was transported back to first year where we studied the machine metaphors of organisations. In this song, Missy alludes to the busyness, the pressure, the strain of pre-lockdown life and she sings:
When the machine starts up again will I be spinning all the plates? Will I be snapping at its wheels buying books on how to feel? When the machine starts up again and the speed is picking up, will I forget what it’s like to be standing here looking up, drinking in the sky, oh don’t let me forget, don’t let me forget when the machine starts up again.

I wonder graduates if this sentiment resonates with you? What will happen when your machine starts up again, when the hours that have been carved out in your calendars, as well as the mental load that has been expended on your studies, is no longer occupied in the same way that it has done for three, four or even five years?

Also please don’t let me forget tonight right now we are creating a memory that will contribute to your remembering. Tonight is a cairn moment. To celebrate the completion of my masters along with some other milestones, we packed up the kids, hooked on the camper trailer and spent 100 nights travelling a 20,000 kilometres, a half lap around Australia. I clearly remember my regular battle of study sessions during third year. Should I research academic literature or campgrounds in Kakadu beyond or Broome? Winnicott or whale watching? But during our adventure, we walked through riverbeds, along valleys, across cliffs and outback stations. So we came across a few cairns. For those non-walkers among us, a cairn is a pile of rocks that is rocks that are precariously piled on top of each other; the cairns aren’t carried long distances, they aren’t they are just gathered from the ground nearby, they aren’t labelled or signed or consistently sized or shaped, they aren’t drawn on maps and you usually don’t find them on Google. However, a cairn can be significant. It can even save lives. A cairn marks something, it acknowledges something. Sometimes those things are known, sometimes they’re not, except by the cairn builders. It may be a track, or a location of a site, or a recognition of a distance for work for walkers. The cairn is a good place to stop to get out the map or the water bottle or the snacks, to recover refresh and muster energy to continue to look back from where we’ve come and to celebrate and to look forward to where we’re going, and to anticipate sometimes walkers add a rock or a branch or a scratch. To the cairn it symbolises achievement and presence – I made it! I am here! Walkers also see other rocks and acknowledge that others often unknown to them have been and gone just as they will come and go. It’s a place also to wait for others to catch up, to be attentive to the people around you. A cairn is a good place for a yarn. This graduation like a cairn is not particularly spectacular, it is another zoom in a day, a week and a year of zooms, it’s a Tuesday night and again we’re all in our homes. I have a special hat and a shiny blue fabric on top but I do admit that I’m wearing trackies and ugg boots on the bottom. The mode cannot diminish the significance of what is actually taking place here tonight graduands you are stopping you are looking back you are celebrating, and you are looking forward with anticipation, you are regrouping showing care and attention to your student colleagues. You are also recognising some of the other rocks in this cairn, or tonight squares on the screen, who have come before you and who stand with you. If we met in person at this ceremony tonight I’d give you each a rock and so that you could take it home and put it on your desk as a symbol of tonight to remember your studies what you have learned, how you have changed, so that when the machine starts up again and the wheels start to spin you will remember. But perhaps it’s not really needed because I have a hunch that you won’t need to strain very hard to remember.

Address to the 2020 Graduands of the Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)

Why? Because this master is not like some other ‘get and forget’ qualification. It’s not a stepping stone to something else which quickly becomes irrelevant when the something else begins.

During a conversation about the characteristic of the master’s course being relevant for many fields of work, I remember John Newton said it ‘wraps around whatever you do’. Well, I respectfully and playfully dare to disagree with you, Professor Newton. It does not ‘wrap-around’, it gets deep inside. It can’t be unwrapped and discarded like the pretty paper under the Christmas tree. It seeps into all sorts of surprising places and it’s certainly not easy to forget. Graduands, when you notice your physical responses during the workday you will remember when you continue to ask questions, long after others have stopped asking. You will remember when you suggest a perfectly timed reflection in the middle of a really tricky meeting. When you notice the unwritten line in the report, or the odd layout of desks in an office, or the watermark images on the mission statement on the wall, or the smudged mascara on the colleague leaving the meeting, or the pace at which the man walked into the boardroom, or the plethora of seemingly minute clues that seem to shout at you in the silence. You will remember. And when you feel the urge to grab a box of crayons or a journal and pen during a lunch break, and then return to your desk with renewed clarity and insight. When you walk toward complexity, rather than attempting to ignore, box or constrain it. When you suggest a small intervention that unlocks creativity and innovation in a team, and when you take up your roles of managing and leading other people with discernment curiosity and the very best of human decency and compassion. You will remember.

I offer to you my congratulations and with humility and gratitude, I extend the congratulations on behalf of AODA – the Alumni of Organisation Dynamics Australia. I take my ‘hat off’, even this one, to you or what you have done that none of us has done before, you have completed your final year on zoom. We can’t extend to you a conversation really or a hug or a handshake or a kiss, but I offer you just one word, that I hope encapsulates my intent to warmly welcome and commend you into the alumni, the word is putuwa. In the early 1790s, the astronomer and linguist William Dawe spent time on the foreshore of Sydney harbour with Patyegarang, a Gamaraigal woman. William recorded what he learned, so that here we are, 230 years later, we are gifted by just some gems of this ancient language. Putuwa is just one word yet has wonderfully specific and rich meaning – ‘to warm your hands by the fire and to squeeze gently the fingers of another person’. Putuwa ‘to warm your hands by the fire and to squeeze gently the fingers of another person’. For me and the alumni, we know something of the warmth of the fire. We have come to appreciate the value of system psychodynamics in our workplaces and in our world we’ve been encouraged by the ongoing connections with past students and our minds and practices have been sharpened by our involvement in symposiums, masterclasses, intensives and other offerings. We know the warmth on our hands and tonight we metaphorically gently squeeze your fingers in congratulations and welcome.

So as your student experience ends and your alumni experience begins, and as our cities machines start up again, and as your machine starts up again, hold on to the cairn of tonight, but don’t hold it too tightly and desperately, anxious about what you might forget, but hold it lightly confidently trusting that the real change, the profound learning and the deep wisdom is in you. So Carly, Laurette, Robyn, James and Karl, we putuwa you. Fiona, Thomas, Lucy, Alison, Carly and Jackie, we putuwa you.

Thank you

Ms Susan Campbell
John F Newton Award for Academic Excellence recipient 2018,
NIODA Academic Board of Governance member, Alumni portfolio

8 December 2020

Address to the 2020 Graduands of the Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics)


Moran, A., McAllister, J. (2020). Patyegarang: Australia’s First Teacher of Aboriginal Language, ABC News, Viewed 20 January 2021,


ps Are you a leader or manager and would like to learn more this master which is not like some other ‘get and forget’ qualification? Have a look at the NIODA Master of Leadership and Management (Organisation Dynamics) course.










The National Institute of Organisation Dynamics Australia (NIODA) offers internationally renowned post-graduate education and research, and decades of experience consulting with Australian organisations.

The study of organisation dynamics brings together socio-technical and psychoanalytic disciplines to explore the unconscious dynamics that exist in every group, team or organisation. Learning more about these theories, and reflecting on the experience of them, can support leaders and managers to unlock great potential in their organisations, tackling issues through a whole new light.

Get In Touch

PO box 287, Collins Street West,
Melbourne  8007  Australia
+61 414 529 867

This Get In Touch form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This