Opening Doors Community Leadership Program

‘The Opening Doors program boosted my skill-set in terms of leadership and especially with regard to the strengths-based approach. [The creation of Transfamily] has strengthened lives by ensuring people are connected to networks to enable them to combat discrimination for themselves and the trans person in their life.’

Sally Goldner, EO, Transgender Victoria and Opening Doors graduate.

In 2007, the Inner-East PCP assembled a group of key strategic partners to examine and address the issue of social isolation. These meetings led to the creation of the Inner-East Social Inclusion Initiative working group. In 2009, following extensive consultation and best practice research, the Opening Doors Community Leadership Program was born.

What did we do?

Opening Doors consists of a six month intensive course open to leaders of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, and equips them with the skills, networks, knowledge and confidence to enact lasting change in their communities. Each year the Opening Doors program begins with a three day intensive opening retreat (delivered in partnership with Global Leadership Foundation) that is focused on raising participant awareness about their own leadership styles and capacities and provides information about strengths based community development approaches and maintaining emotional health.

Subsequent training sessions explore the asset-based approach to community engagement, understanding barriers to inclusion, creating consensus and co-designing with your community, managing challenging behaviours, self-care, project management, grant writing, social media, effective promotion strategies, and sustainability. The program has a core focus on asset-based community development, and has been designed with and refined by community members and graduates.

Key outcomes

The Opening Doors Community Leadership Program empowers existing and emerging community leaders to build capacity, strengthen and engage their communities in new and innovative ways.

The primary focusses of the Program are personal leadership development, understanding and harnessing the strengths which exist in local communities, and creating innovative projects which engage people at risk of social isolation. Opening Doors and its graduates strive to create more connected, resilient and socially inclusive communities.

Participants in the program to date have ranged from 19 to 87 years old, represented over 30 different cultural and religious backgrounds, and cut across lived experience of disability, mental illness, addiction and social isolation.

Opening Doors has demonstrated a consistently high level of outcomes through its graduates and their ongoing leadership and innovation in local communities. During this time, the program has supported:

  • 123 graduates who have the knowledge, skills, networks and confidence to take a lead in their communities
  • Over 65 innovative community initiatives that build stronger, more inclusive and connected communities
  • An estimated 10,000 community members who are now engaged with their communities in new and meaningful ways
  • A network of over 150 different organisations, businesses and groups collaborating to strengthen communities through their support of The Opening Doors Program

Some Opening Doors graduate projects

RESPECT Community Soccer Tournament

An annual soccer tournament developed by Nicole Wilson, a 2013 Opening Doors graduate. Young people from all the major faith and cultural groups in Manningham come together to celebrate diversity in a round robin where over 16 different groups play against each other leading to a grand final where the best players from each team kick off against the opposing team from Victoria Police, Manningham City Council, St John’s Ambulance, the CFA and SES.


A peer support group for the friends, family and loved ones of a transgendered person. The first of its kind in Victoria, TransFamily has a strong online presence and was developed by 2013 Opening Doors graduates Lyn McDonald and Sally Goldner.

Right Click Community

Right Click Community is a social enterprise that runs tech classes for seniors, taught by teenagers. It aims to bridge the generational divide while helping seniors find supportive, non-judgemental technology help at a price they can afford.

Opening Doors has been evaluated twice: once in 2011 and again in 2016. The 2011 evaluation identified two key outcomes;

  1. Participant’s leadership knowledge, skills and confidence to engage with communities have significantly increased;
  2. Projects developed under Opening Doors leadership continue to actively work to strengthen community connectedness and reduce social isolation in local neighbourhoods across the Inner East of Melbourne.

Opening Doors Evaluation

The 2016 evaluation by the University of Melbourne found that Opening Doors graduates were creating socially inclusive communities by:

  1. Creating awareness and advocating for marginalised communities;
  2. Creating spaces to be heard, informed and have a voice;
  3. Supporting socially inclusive organisations.


Opening Doors 2016 participants with the Mayor of Manningham, Cr Paul McLeish

How did the PCP contribute to this success?

The IEPCP supported Opening Doors from 2009 to 2016 by contributing funding, through representation on the steering committee, and by actively fostering continued partnership work in the Inner East. Partner agencies played a key role in co-facilitating, hosting and contributing to program content and supporting graduates and their projects beyond the life of the program. The Program is currently being coordinated by Alex Mills at Link Health and Community. Alex was shortlisted for an Australian Human Rights Commission award in 2015 for his work on the Opening Doors community leadership program.

We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

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