Leasa Stephen – Volunteer Co-Ordinator
Interview by Berni Saunders.
I first met Leasa Stephen (right) a number of years ago and was impressed by her ‘can do’ approach and preparedness to 'put-in' first ... and look for personal benefits, as a secondary consideration. This philosophy is quite rare these days and therefore very special when you find it. Leasa IS a very special person and has applied her strengths, talent and energy to the role of volunteer co-ordinator at Equitana Asia Pacific.
In the 2007 Leasa was a driving force to establish a ‘self help’ group which brought together Queensland's horse people who operated a businesses that was affected by the Equine Influenza outbreak. The Queensland Pleasure and Performance Horse Industry was formed so that members could lobby to get things done and support each other as an industry group with the numbers that impact political decisions. With media attention and fund raising efforts taking place, the burden of EI was lessened for this group of pro active sufferers. Leasa contacted Cyberhorse to get our help to raise awareness for this cause.
More recently, I spoke to Leasa at the Festival of Dressage at Pinelodge in Queensland, as she was on the committee of this extravaganza which was introduced in 2007 to promote the sport of Dressage in Queensland. Leasa told me a little about her role at Equitana ... and that her involvement commenced in 2001 when the event went to on to Brisbane, following the second season at Jeff's Shed - The Melbourne Exhibition Centre at Southbank.
Leasa said, "Being a 'horse nut', I was very interested to read in the local press that Equitana Asia Pacific was planning a show in Brisbane. I immediately 'fired off' an e-mail to Definitive Events and said that I had some horse knowledge and organisational experience and would be happy to help ... and ... that I had a number of pupils, friends and other contacts who shared my enthusiasm for a Brisbane Equitana and they would also like to ‘pitch in’ and help to ensure that it was a success."
"The experience of working with the amazing and dynamic team at Definitive Events has kept me coming back. The small group that works on Equitana are all "high achievers" and get heaps of work done because of their professionalism and commitment! It is really something, to see the way it all comes together, to bring this wonderful experience of learning and entertainment. I am really proud to be a part of it ... and see this as one of my greatest achievements." enthused Leasa.
That was how it started for the head of the Volunteer team ... and today, Leasa Stephen's personal drive and organisational skill is the nucleus of the fantastic team of volunteers who are the ‘unsung’ stars of Equitana.
Leasa insisted that she should not 'hog the limelight' and said, "It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to bring the show together and the volunteer team is now more like an extended family who get together to make it a success. We are all proud of each other and feel that as individuals we could not make much of a difference ... however, as a group, we inspire each other and this camaraderie makes the volunteer helpers a really fantastic team."
Leasa explained, "A large number of Equitana's Volunteers are uni students and many are studying Event Management and Hospitality. Working behind the scenes at such a large event has given these students a rare insight into the event management systems, catering and entertainment that they are learning about." She added, “I have loved the feedback that I have receive from volunteers who feel that their part in making Equitana happen, has been a very big part in their education and a ‘work experience’ exercise that would be impossible to replicate. Everyone who helps with Equitana loves the "buzz" - most of us have found ourselves in situations where we are working in new areas and slightly out of our comfort zones ... and I have seen some amazing super human achievements take place ... Equitana is a personal growth opportunity ... to the max!"
Leasa reflects, “Many of my close friends and valued industry contacts are people who I have met at Equitana, they have added a richness to my life and value in my business (Gypsie Lodge Equestrian Centre) - it is great to feel confident in the network of people around me. We all make fantastic acquaintances and business contacts and many of us are now friends for life.
"Most of the people from the early days are still involved with Equitana and fly down to Melbourne to be a part of the action, Leasa said. "We have amassed a significant pool of skills and everything runs like a 'well oiled machine'. We have a special sense of camaraderie and good will and are there because we love horses and want to play a part in fostering and facilitating other people’s interest in horses and horse sport. The continuity of the volunteer team has enabled Equitana to be a truly world class event and the special skills and systems that we have developed from the beginning, is an important part of logistics. We all take pride in this – it is not a job, it is a personal passion and sense of achievement for us all."
The 2008 Equitana has an ‘educational’ theme and, in keeping with this, Leasa has paid special attention to organising the volunteer roster so that helpers will have the opportunity to take in almost all of the demonstrations, seminars and lectures over the period of the event. Volunteers get to see the behind the scenes activities and practice sessions, they get to meet the stars and the organisers.
"I would like to say that 2008 will be a very exciting milestone in the history of Equitana as we will be at our new venue at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds. This is a purpose built, specialist facility for a large exhibition/show such as Equitana and is definitely much more 'horse friendly" and spacious. We have had to make quite a few changes to the way we do things for this event, but really, it is all good news for the participants and public. I know that Definitive Events have had wonderful support regarding transport to the venue and accommodation ... and I am told that parking is much better. Everyone who is involved with demonstrations or is hands on with horses, just loves the Showgrounds layout and I know that the horses will be happier and safer in the better suited facilities. We are all looking forward to this new phase of Equitana, with great enthusiasm" concluded Leasa.
Equitana is adding new members to the volunteer team - if you would like to find out more go to