You may already know about this project – I had heard of it but was unsure exactly what it did! Gill Heal is Project Facilitator with the 3 year Creatively Connecting Communities project (CCC) in Wonthaggi. When I met her she was really excited about the first colour edition of ‘The Current’ – a quarterly paper for and by the people of the Bass Coast.
Page 1 looked terrific! Against a backdrop of lush, fluffy green fennel growing in rich black soil, was a fantastic photo of one Frank Cimino with the most enormous grin showing off a basket of the wonderful looking produce that won him a Perpetual Show Trophy with at this year’s Wonthaggi Easter Flower and Garden Show – had the Tourism Officer on the phone for a copy as soon as the paper hit his desk!
The great success of the issue Gill felt was the variety of viewpoints on one issue: Are we disadvantaged? Depending on whom you ask, Bass Coast is either a paradise on earth or a deprived regional shire with limited services and opportunities.
Gill works with locals on activities to ‘connect’ them bringing a sense of place and worth. She was co-ordinator of the Hinterland History project and the Autumn ‘Current’ told of her memorable ‘Stories in the Pub’ event, held in January at the Royal Mail Hotel, Archies Creek.
Stories of the hinterland told of the felling of Gippsland forests so dense and tall you could not see the sun once inside; of the transformation of trackless wilderness into small rural communities still recognisable today; the toil of families striving to make a living in the mud and rain, fighting rabbits, weeds and blackberries; the era of hobby farms and weekenders and the third and fourth generation dairy farmers. The church, the hall and the school held people together; everyone knew everyone else and properties never changed hands.
Locals took oral histories from local oldies, ‘the historymakers’. Scripts were written; music was composed and actors performed. Reviewer Paul Haar spoke of stories he had never before heard, stories of happiness and sorrow, courage and hardship, of the taming the bush to allow large families a humble existence? and overwhelmingly how this event at the local pub filled the audience with a joy, warmth, respect, appreciation and awe. He thanked Gill and the Bass Coast Council for the initiative that captured the lives of the special old people of the shire – a creative connection for the community between the past and the future.
At www.communitybuilding.vic.gov.au I see there was $7 million from the Community Support Fund, for 11 projects around the state, ‘housed’ by local government. They are focussing on neighbourhoods or towns where social, economic or geographic disadvantages are of concern. As I understand it the aim is to identify and prioritise community issues and then get government and the private sector working better to address these.
Government organisers obviously hope people recognise the opportunity for them to tackle issues that they see in their community, and work with like-minded people to make a positive change at a local level.Happy Hour forums are used to gain suggestions from local business people about all sorts of issues, but specifically employment and training. The Bass Coast CCC team is trying to work out ‘sustainable solutions to four major issues that face our community’ in a creative way:
1. Job creation and retention, skills and training.
2. Transport – consistently the crucial issue – its cost, reliability and appropriateness being central to local un/employment particularly during the height of the tourist season.
3. Economic development in the context of an ageing population and high unemployment.
4. Engaging the support and resources of the broader community – reconnecting the community
Other communities involved in this project are:
1.Central Goldfields Shire Council; 2. Pyrenees Shire Council; 3. Darebin City Council; 4. Maribyrnong Shire Council & Mission Australia for Gordon St precinct, Footscray; 5. City Greater Geelong; 6. City of Warrnambool ; 7. City Greater Shepparton; 8. City of Greater Dandenong; 9. East Gippsland Council
10. Bass Coast Shire Council