LAST week’s update meeting of key participants in the Toora, Welshpool and Districts Community Strengthening Project highlighted the progress underway and positive outlook for community organisations in Toora, Welshpool, Port Welshpool, Mt Best and Port Franklin since the three-year project first commenced ‘on the ground’ in August 2008 (Agnes and Hedley communities are also included in the project group covering South Gippsland Shire’s eastern Corner Inlet area but were not represented ‘in person’ at the meeting).
The meeting was chaired by the Shire’s Toora, Welshpool and Districts Community Strengthening Officer Marzia Maurilli and attended by 16 volunteers with Cr Jeanette Harding doubling up in the role of both volunteer and Coastal Promontory Ward Councillor.
Also present and offering further information and opportunities were Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) Gippsland Community Engagement Coordinator Laurie Paton and Regional Planner Robyn Begg, Education Centre Gippsland Education Training Coordinator Gary Sherrard and Council’s Community Strengthening Coordinator Ned Dennis.
As each attendee around the table spoke about what had been happening and what was planned with their group since the last update, it was clear that the path to achievement had many ups and downs but that organisations were optimistic about reaching their goals and were better at marshalling efforts and securing resources both in their own right and in collaboration with each other.
Although the success of grants applications are not yet known, collaboration between the district’s five hall committees, which led to production of the Halls Network Planning and Development Study 2009, looks set to take the small communities from a position where they competed against each other for funding to one where they have a much better chance of securing Council community grants.
If backing from Council’s grants comes through, the halls were advised by Mr. Paton that their chances of success in gaining funding from the Victorian Community Support Fund and Regional Development Victoria was greatly enhanced, which would mean a cumulative project value of $270,000 being undertaken.
Success is also showing itself in non-financial ways.
Kerrie Pinzone noted that the skilling of 129 volunteers from eastern Corner Inlet across areas such as first aid, food handling, computer and internet use, e-tax and governance had resulted in Toora Football Club having more coaches than any other club in the league because of the access to the free first aid training, which is an obligatory skill for a coach.
Whether it was the huge vision described and commenced by Lisa Kennedy of Toora North for a venue where Koori cultural interpretation, environmental and sustainability education, and promotion of art drew people from near and far, or the efforts by Welshpool and District Advisory Group (WDAG) and the Port Welshpool Working Group to have Long Jetty restored, opened and developed with an Underwater Observatory, the grit to go on was verbalized by WDAG President Paul Macphail.
“We are a small but strong group and the main thing is to keep the focus on what you want to achieve.”
Llew Vale of Promontory District Advisory Group, which operates the Toora Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank, promoted the concept that “we should all rise to the concept of district development because it is fundamental to reaching community aspirations” and that people needed “to make the direct connection that what you do affects what you are, which in turn affects what you can do.”
As one example, he said if the community bank had enough business to reach its goal of generating an annual $500,000 profit to return to the district via the bank’s community enterprise grants, “we’d have enough profits to [help Toora Hall Committee] put a new roof [$100,000 project] on the hall!”
He also pointed out that the Community Bank’s offer to Sandy Point’s T.P. Taylor Reserve Committee to loan sufficient money to bridge the gap in fundraising for a new hall had triggered their ability to persuade Council to put up matching funding and in turn secure almost $1.3 million of Federal funding.
After hearing many comments from around the table about the Community Bank providing funding for their projects, Mr. Vale reiterated, “The Community Bank is directly owned and driven by the community, so thank yourselves, come and talk to us about our grants help, but remember we need your help in giving us banking business.”
Later, Mr. Macphail commented that the Welshpool Rural Transaction Centre, which has an ANZ Bank agency, “Had better re-assess its banking options”, to which Mr. Vale answered, “We’d be happy to re-tender any time you ask”.
The positive atmosphere of the meeting was boosted by being held over a tasty dinner at the Pier Port Hotel and also the numerous opportunities for laughter, with one of the best being an ironic observation by Ms Maurilli that the Prom Country Challenge Committee’s description of the event as a ‘Fun Run’ “is an oxymoron”.
During the meeting there were several examples of good ideas from one group being seized as possibilities by others – for example the tennis courts ‘hit wall’ planned by Port Franklin Recreation Reserve Committee was considered an attractive idea for Welshpool too.
Networking was also prevalent, for example WDAG invited Lisa Kennedy’s Weetaboona Sanctuary to be part of the Prom Coast Summer Festival, and after the meeting there was a scurry to swap cards and contact details, and to follow up ideas for training, venue hire and the like.
Looking to the future, Mr. Dennis said that if the communities involved wanted the project extended beyond the three years covered by the Victorian Community Support Fund, Council would consider applying for further funding to do so.
However with alot due to occur between now and the end of 2010, at this stage it was too early to guess whether such a dedicated form of support would be required or whether the communities would be in a position to continue achieving progressive goals on their own resources with reduced input from the Shire.
Projects, facilities, plans and needs
Some projects, facilities, plans and needs listed at the meeting (not mentioned above) included:
- • Prom Coast Community & Arts Centre/Toora Progress Association running a petition and meeting [mid-July date to be advised] to generate ideas for alternative uses of what is currently Prom View Lodge high-level aged care facility; a sculpture trail in Toora.
- Port Welshpool Ferry Terminal can be hired as a venue that will soon have a public address system with indoor and outdoor capabilities; lots of activity and interest groups meeting at the terminal ‘hall’; Restore Long Jetty bumper stickers can be obtained at shops in Port Welshpool and Welshpool.
- Toora Progress Association being in a position where it is a strong umbrella group supporting smaller organisations to achieve the goals prioritised by a completed Community Plan.
- Corner Inlet Men’s Shed and CI Woodworkers having premises developed at Foster Station Park.
- Transition Corner Inlet District developing a community orchard and vegetable garden at Foster Station Park.
- Foster & District Community House has two board member vacancies; A weekly service soon to start providing internet searching to benefit people without internet access or skills.
- Weetaboona Sanctuary/interpretation centre being in a position to open to the public and/or have a venue open in Toora.
- Welshpool to Port Welshpool Walking Trail completed; Welshpool & District community web site operating and contributions welcome; participation in Prom Coast Summer Festival invited; and Welshpool Hall to be painted.
- Toora, Mt Best and Hedley Halls all having substantial upgrades; Toora town clock to be relocated and fixed.
- Port Franklin raising the level of its seawall; planning for a renewed barbecue area at the hall.
- The DPCD will financially support the Shire in development of urban design frameworks for Toora, Port Franklin, Port Welshpool, Welshpool, Agnes, Hedley and Mt Best. Community consultation and the integrated community plans will be part of the process, which if successful would result in changes to the Shire’s Planning Scheme.