Effective community collaboration to respond to future challenges and opportunities is top of mind among local leaders participating in the Regenerate Eurobodalla program.
24 current and emerging leaders were selected to participate in the leadership development program designed in response to the 2019-2020 bushfires.
It’s funded by the Australian Government as part of the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery program and delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation in partnership with the South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance (SHASA).
It seems the program’s timing and focus on collaborative leadership was welcomed.
Eliza Cannon of Moruya-based small scale vegetable business Borrowed Ground said it’s why she applied.
“The biggest inspiration was the fact that I could jump into this learning with grass-roots community members from all spheres of life and experience. I really thrive off being surrounded by different minds and the fact that we will all be collaboratively working together as well as developing strong relationships, with a shared vision to build a stronger community, really excited me,” she said.
“I can’t think of a better way to make positive change in the Eurobodalla than gathering together local community members who live in, care for, work amongst and hold deep connection to the region, with a collective mission to build a more resilient future. The intrinsic motivation, passion and understandings we hold through our own personal experiences and connections with the Eurobodalla, will allow for projects to arise that are entrenched with empathy, sensitivity and a genuine drive to sustain our community.”
Eurobodalla community development officer Gerard Dennis (below) adds: “We need to start building strong ethical relationships to move forward…24 voices can make a difference if we all work together for a common goal.”
He hopes to see a focus on inclusiveness and collaborative community coordination, along with continued support for social wellbeing and developing resilience.
“…spreading the word about [the need for] communication from all community members, government organisations and service providers is highly needed to fix our community. I truly believe that we need to be on the same page, open, honest and reliable to restrengthen our broken haven,” he said.
Matt Neason from the Eurobodalla Shire is keen for the council to be a part of the collaborative effort.
“I recognise the opportunity that we’ve got with so many emerging leaders from across the community, it was really important that council was part of that collective,” he said.
“So whilst we’re developing our leadership capacity, we’re also developing that sense of trust and connection across the group. And so I think the participatory nature has been really important in terms of deepening shared understanding and trust across the group and ultimately developing networks with some potential longevity.”
Moruya local and SAGE volunteer Sandra Makdessi (below) welcomes the connection to the First Nations community and being part of the program.
“The biggest thing is about being more connected with First Nations community members…there’s so many of us who are really open to learning about First Nations and how we can connect and share knowledge, and bring the two together,” she said.
“…I know that within the group of 24 that there’s a lot of different people and with all the skills and expertise and knowledge and networking and resources that we have, I just kind of feel like we can create connection with the diversity that we have.”
Sandra saw the program as an opportunity to step up and do more to champion issues of concern, with food security, sustainability and housing among them. She’s already noticed herself evolving since the first session of the program.
“It's absolutely exciting. And I'm very grateful to be on this program. And for even the learnings that I've had so far and how I've applied them in my every day, so far, has been so enlightening, and has been so beneficial, not just to me, but I feel like things are changing around me because I'm paying more attention to my thoughts and my reactions and my beliefs and how I respond.”
ARLF’s manager of leadership programs Grant Cameron is confident the program will result in a strong leadership network committed to collaborating towards a positive future for Eurobodalla.
“While it’s early days with another three sessions to take place, the connection and bond already demonstrated within the group is inspiring,” he said.
“When future fire emergencies, or opportunities occur, this network will be invaluable. They won’t be just names to each other, they’ll know and trust each other and be able to work through the challenges in front of them.”
He added the ARLF and SHASA are working with community, business, land, emergency, government and other key stakeholders to ensure the program’s success.
“The second leadership development program takes place this week. It will see participants start to identify and work collaboratively on an agreed community project that not only builds resilience but ultimately boosts social and economic prosperity in the region.”
More information on the Regenerate Eurbodalla program can be found here: https://rural-leaders.org.au/regenerate-eurobodalla/