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Community forum website for eastern townships

• Launching the South Gippsland Shire’s Eastern District Cluster Community Hub website at Port Welshpool’s Old Ferry Terminal on Thursday August 15, 2019 were delegates from a wide rage of community groups from the cluster townships of Port Franklin, Toora, Mount Best, Welshpool, Port Welshpool and Hedley along with South Gippsland Shire Council community strengthening officer and webmaster Sophie Dixon.

SOUTH Gippsland Shire’s easternmost townships now have their own community forum website at www.easterndistrictcluster.com

Port Franklin, Toora, Mount Best, Welshpool, Port Welshpool and Hedley and their surrounding districts are members of the municipality’s Eastern District Cluster that encourages local organisations to support and collaborate with each other.

Built by shire community strengthening officer Sophie Dixon, the Eastern District Cluster Community Hub website was launched to great acclaim at the Eastern District Cluster’s meeting held in the Old Ferry Terminal at Port Welshpool on Thursday August 16, 2019.

Ms Dixon said the idea for the website arose after discussions with community groups had indicated they were “keen to have somewhere central online to list information and to find out what other towns are doing.

“Now I’ve done just that for the Eastern Cluster, and so here is the brand-new Eastern District Cluster Community Hub website,” she said.

“And, just as it says in the Welcome section, this hub is designed to facilitate communication between the towns of the Eastern District Cluster area of South Gippsland and the South Gippsland Shire Council.”

Ms Dixon said the website included links to each of the Cluster members’ own “town page links”, as well as links to specific pages on the council’s website, including council meeting dates, the community directory and noticeboard, and council grants information.

“The website is still being developed and with your help and contributions it will grow into a really useful tool,” she told the cluster meeting.

At the top of the website’s home page is a gallery featuring pictures of the cluster’s towns and scenery, with plenty of room for more images contributed by keen local photographers.

A highlight of the hub website is the interactive calendar, allowing community groups to list meetings, events and activities, to check dates and to learn what’s being planned by and coming up in the other towns in the cluster.

Users may subscribe to the council’s fortnightly In the Knownewsletter, and access the Snap, Send, Solve website and application where citizens can report incidents such as a fallen tree or a dangerous section of footpath, attach photographs and have their information lodged with the relevant authority.

“The front page of the hub website is open to everyone,” Ms Dixon said.

“Individuals, community groups, organisations and clubs are also invited to enrol to become members of the hub website, where they can access and add to the meetings page, list agendas, minutes and reports, share skills and information, look for help, start a discussion and make suggestions,” she said.

“The members’ section of the website is linked to Google Drive, and we will be able to include information about how to write documents such as community and township visions and plans, and templates for grant applications, project management and budgets.

“I’m expecting the calendar will be the thing that gets used the most, and I’ve been entering and colour coding meetings and events I know are coming up, so it’s green for Easter Cluster meetings, brown for council meetings and olive for things like the Sea Days Festival in Port Welshpool in January,” Ms Dixon said.

“Please jump on to the hub website, have a play, and let me know what you think, as well as what works and what doesn’t.”

Eastern District Cluster Meeting

The Eastern District Cluster was evenly represented at the Port Welshpool meeting, with delegates from several local groups gathering to talk about their current projects and plans for the future.

At the meeting were Friends of Agnes Falls’ Kathy Whelan and Peter Lee, the Welshpool and District Advisory Group’s Eddie Fowler and Madeleine Mason, the Mount Best Community Hall Association Inc.’s Kim Newby and Meryl Agars, and the Toora Hall Committee’s Mary Biemans.

Also there were Port Welshpool and District Working Group’s Vern Suckling, Port Welshpool and District Maritime Museum’s Ellen Ellis, the Welshpool Memorial Hall Committee and Port Welshpool Fishing Club’s Brian and Elma Mattingly, and the Port Franklin Community Progress Association’s Graham Boykett and Andy Young.

Ms Dixon updated the meeting on the shire’s news including the appointment of new Community Strengthening Team member Denise Trani who is busy streamlining how new matters and issues are entered into the council system for attention.

Ms Trani is also running the council’s L to P young drivers’ education program and Ms Dixon said more licensed mentors and drivers were needed at the eastern end of the shire, and that there was a chance a council-owned car could be made available.

She also reported on the recently appointed panel of administrators led by chair Julie Eisenbise, with colleagues Rick Brown and Christian Zahra, describing them as “very approachable, and I encourage you all to make a public presentation or to make an appointment to see them.”

Ms Whelan and Mr Lee reported that the design for the proposed cantilevered viewing platform at Agnes Falls would be finalised by the end of August and that the shire would be calling for building tenders early in 2020.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to stand on the platform by this time next year!” they said.

Mr Newby and Ms Agars told the meeting that the Mount Best Community Hall and District Development Plan had been completed and was ready to be released.

“We have tried to make the plan more relevant to the wider Mount Best community, and to do that we had to go beyond the remit of the hall, and include issues like planning and roads,” they said.

“We’ve held three or four community meetings about the plan and about 30 people came along to the most recent one.”

Mr Boykett and Mr Young said they had been pleased the Port Franklin slipway had been given a two-year “reprieve” from closure as mooted by Gippsland Ports, due to a call for its retention from the community and users.

“We’ve just started working on a town plan, and we’ve got a lot of short- and long-term priorities and ideas,” they said.

“They’re only the beginning for Port Franklin and hopefully when the weather warms up more people will be about and will come to our meetings.”

Mr Fowler and Ms Mason said a new plan was needed for Welshpool and district, and that they had been talking to Port Welshpool and Hedley community groups with the idea of joining together to work out new priorities.

“We’ve all got a lot of good ideas,” they said.

Ms Biemans told the meeting that the library in the Toora hall was being revamped, the hall itself was about to be repainted, and that planning was already under way for a monster garage sale and perhaps a big book sale, too, this coming summer.

“The Café Culture series of events has been very successful, with 115 people at the concert in Toora a short while ago,” she said.

Volunteers Expo

The Eastern District Cluster meeting also discussed holding a volunteers’ expo sometime in the future to showcase and celebrate the number and breadth of community groups and organisations to existing residents and to newcomers to the area.

A day during Volunteers’ Week in May 2020 was suggested as a potential date for the expo.

Ms Dixon said South Gippsland Shire has the highest rate of volunteerism in Victoria. “Stuff that happens happens because of volunteers’ groups,” she said.

“Preparing a list of groups to invite to the expo is everyone’s homework,” she said.

“We’ll also work on choosing the best venue and on promotion, as well as deciding on attractions such as food, live music and activities for kids.”

The next community forum meeting will be held at the Fish Creek Memorial Hall on Thursday August 29, 2019 starting at 6.45 pm for the South Central Cluster of townships including Waratah Bay, Sandy Point, Fish Creek, Yanakie and Foster.

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