The Aspire program provides professional development and governance training for young leaders who are:

  • aged 18 to 22
  • living in Victoria
  • actively involved in a community organisation, group or society.

Participants will learn how to improve governance within their community organisations while also developing their own leadership skills.

Applications for the Aspire program closed on Monday 11 October 2021.

Program history

Sir Zelman Cowen Centre’s Aspire program offers governance and leadership training for young leaders and has been supported by the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.

The Aspire program has been gradually devolving to be taken over by a community organisation. For the final year of the devolution we have partnered with Happy Brain Education to offer leadership and governance training for young leaders of all faiths and genders.

Thirty-two young women completed the 2017 and 2018 Aspire programs, which were delivered by the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre in partnership with the Islamic Council of Victoria.

In 2018 the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre was awarded a grant from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation to deliver Aspire for two more cohorts of young women and, while doing so, train select past participants to progressively assume responsibility for subsequent iterations of the program.

Sixteen young Muslim women completed the program in 2019, creating digital governance resources for their community organisations and building a strong network amongst themselves and Aspire alumni.

3 guest speakers standing in front of two banners (Sir Zelman Cowen Centre and Islamic Council of Victoria). They're smiling with closed mouths.

Aspire Graduation, 21 November 2018, Guest speakers (L-R) Nasya Bahfen, Ayman Islam and Professor Kathy Laster

Program objectives

Aspire is designed for individuals who:

  • hold, or would like to hold, leadership or board roles (secretary, treasurer, president etc.) in community organisations or societies
  • are interested in governance, running meetings, risk management and leadership.

During the Aspire program you will:

  • improve your strategic, risk analysis and leadership skills
  • develop a facilitative solution to leadership issues you experience within your community organisation 
  • meet other high-achieving young leaders
  • foster your employability skills.

"It has been great meeting such like-minded young women who are as ambitious as me and as interested in wanting to implement positive change within our communities."

– 2017 participant

Course essentials

Dates: December 2021 – February 2022 (approx one day/week)

Offered by: Sir Zelman Cowen Centre.

Location: 295 Queen Street, City Campus, Victoria University, Melbourne (plus 1–2 offsite events).

Fees: The program is free for successful applicants.*

*Course costs only. Travel costs (to and from the course) will not be covered but participants will receive a volunteer contribution to acknowledge their participation in the course.

Two presenters speaking to a powerpoint in front of several students sitting at desks

 Aspire workshop presented by Portable

Course structure

You will participate in a series of on- and off-campus activities.

Course work

  • 2-3 full days of face-to-face activities
  • 2-3 online sessions
  • Major project – guided by mentors you’ll develop a solution to an integral leadership issue within your community organisation.
  • Opportunity to participate in leadership day as a mentor to high school students.

Events & workshops

Please note that these workshops are indicative only and subject to change.

  • Workshops facilitated by mentors and guest speakers:
    • leadership styles
    • good governance
    • meeting processes
    • conflict resolution
    • risk assessment
    • public speaking
    • facilitation
    • media and advocacy.
  • Development of a practical solution to an existing leadership issue:
    • project outline and meeting your groups
    • feedback session with mentors
    • shark tank panel
    • project due date.
  • Leadership day preparation training
  • Leadership day
  • Graduation ceremony
  • Alumni event.
 Program participants sitting around a table discussing their group project.

Learning from expert mentors

 Photo of a program participants celebrating in a group circle

Working together to create change.


Aspire is open to high-achieving young leaders who:

  • are 18-22 years old (at the time of application)
  • live in Victoria, Australia
  • are involved in a community organisation
  • can commit to all training days.

We encourage you to apply if you:

  • are from a newly-arrived community
  • arrived in Australia during the last ten years.

Note: you do not have to be a current or past student of Victoria University. If you meet the other eligibility criteria, you are welcome to apply for the Aspire program.

Step outside of your comfort zone. 

How to apply

15 young leaders (aged 18-22) will be selected for the Aspire program each year. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed.

Applications for the Aspire program closed on Monday 11 October 2021. 

Email [email protected] for any queries or questions.

"...working with others and learning from each other, the opportunity to feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, giving hope that we can address the issues sooner than we think.”

– 2019 participant

Activities & resources

Each year, the Aspire cohort creates a suite of resources. These resources are made freely available online.

Participants of the 2019 program created online interactive resources on four governance topics:

News articles


Aspire 2019 photo gallery

 Collection of Aspire workbooks produced by participants

Resources designed by the community for the community.

Get involved

The Centre enlists the help of ‘model agencies’ – organisations with excellent governance – to assist with several aspects of the Aspire program, including the mentoring component.

If you have any questions about the program, or would like to become involved as a guest speaker or partner organisation, please contact [email protected].

"The program was incredible! It was a great way to meet passionate individuals who later became great friends."

– 2017 participant