MEENIYAN, Fish Creek, Stony Creek, Buffalo, Dumbalk, Koonwarra and Tarwin Lower/Venus Bay communities will benefit from significant funding for community strengthening and identified priority community projects courtesy of the dairy industry’s philanthropic Gardiner Foundation and the State Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD).
The project will be undertaken in partnership with South Gippsland Shire Council and run through its Community Strengthening Team.
While the Gardiner Foundation have announced a total of $1.65 million in Strengthening Small Dairy Communities Program funding across Victoria, Council’s Community Strengthening Coordinator Ned Dennis advised that some $200,000 is directed to the “Meeniyan cluster” and this will be boosted by a further $100,000 or so from the DPCD.
The Gardiner Foundation’s program “aims to build the ongoing capability of small dairy communities [of less than 5,000 people] to direct and support their own advancement, attract and retain investment” and therefore “directly contribute to the growth and resilience of their communities and the dairy industry.”
The funding is in addition to the Gardiner Foundation’s annual Community and People Development Program grants.
After the project commences in December, Mr. Dennis said it would continue for three or four years and enable employment of an extra community strengthening facilitator to work with the communities to develop their plans.
Funding will also be available to get priority projects off the ground and to run training in needed community skills, which if like the Toora/Welshpool district, would probably include first aid, computer and food handling skills for volunteers.
The funding fits in with both the direction and timing of Council’s Community Planning program and ensures that the wider Meeniyan district is fast-tracked through the process.
It will also free up some of Council’s community strengthening resources to be used on other communities in the municipality and therefore progress the Council Plan.
The recent success of Meeniyan in undertaking and completing its community plan means that it will act as a flagship of experience for the other communities and will enable some of its projects to go ahead sooner than they might otherwise.
While Council has known of the possible funding for some time since it was approached by both the Gardiner Foundation and the DPCD, the communities themselves were only vaguely aware that “something might be happening”.
Consequently, members of the well-organised Meeniyan Progress Association (MPA) reported last Friday that they were a bit dazed by the announcement and yet to come to grips with its implications.
“We know that representatives from the other communities involved will be attending our next MPA meeting on November 16 and the project will be explained to us,” MPA Committee member John Cocking said.
“However at the moment the funding is out of the blue from our viewpoint and we’re uncertain what it means.
“We do know that it is a feather in our caps that our successes in undertaking the community planning process and in consistently working together as a community were factors in our cluster being chosen as a pilot for the program.”
If the Meeniyan cluster program is successful, the Gardiner Foundation plans to extend the process to small communities in Victoria’s western and northern dairy regions.
The Gardiner Foundation will be holding a formal launch of the project in Meeniyan on Monday 6 December.