Actively Contributing to our Community
Volunteerism and the contribution volunteers make to our region was fitting the theme for our final Program Day. Volunteering is worth in excess of $25.4billion (excluding travel) to the Australian economy. And whilst this economic value is often overlooked, participants dug deeper as we broke down the construct of the hierarchy of valued volunteer roles in our community and the barriers that people may experience to being able to contribute and participate as volunteers in our community.
The fact is there are so many voluntary roles that need to be filled for everyday programs and services that help our community function and to improve our wellbeing.
As an example, when the Warrnambool and District Hospice began the death rate at home in Warrnambool was at only 15%, it is now over 50%, this valuable service provides both volunteers and the families of those needing palliative care, compassion and the capacity to live their remaining time in their home. The respectful approach to both the Hospices’ volunteers and the families utilising this service is inspiring.
Another example is Foodshare. In 2017 Warrnambool Food Share fed over 12,500 people including 2000 families, that is over 6000 local children who would’ve gone hungry without their assistance. Together with community donations Food Share has then been able to redistribute over 125,000 tonnes of food to families of need. This highly efficient program runs with the support of 3,600 volunteer hours each year and many local individuals and businesses contribute with generous donations of resources such as transport costs.
The leadership, positive culture and passion was evident at the Warrnambool SES led by Commander Georgio Palmeri. Professionalism and expert training coupled with passion creates a formidable force when faced with emergencies and the lives saved and impacted from this cohort of volunteers is amazing.
Regardless of what you do or how often you do it, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you – the volunteers of our community.
With thanks to SES Warrnambool Commander Georgio Palmeri for hosting us, Dr Bernadette Northeast, Dr Eric Fairbank, Director of the Warrnambool and District Hospice and Dedy Friebe Executive Officer, Foodshare.
A Day on Country
It was hard to avoid feelings of raw emotion as an incredibly brave Gunditjmara woman, Denise Lovett, and rightly proud Gunditjmara man, Ben Church, guided LGSC participants through Gunditjmara lands. Budj Bim National Park, Lake Condah and the associated Weir are breathtakingly beautiful yet tarnished by a lamentable history for the traditional owners. The strong connection that both Denise and Ben, as well as speaker and fellow Gunditjmara man, Denis Rose, still have with the lands that their family have lived on for hundreds of generations was evident throughout the day, as was a genuine sense of welcoming that extended to us all.
A smoke ceremony and heartfelt words from Ben helped participants feel genuinely welcome to such a sacred place. Denise walked the group to a stunning lookout over the volcano and spoke of how Aboriginal people believe the creation spirit Budj Bim revealed himself in the landscape as a volcano and shared his blood and teeth with the people in the form of a lava flow which was witnessed by the Gunditjmara. The resulting lava flow forms the areas that make up the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape and the abundant food pantry for the Gunditjmara people. No question seemed unanswerable even at this early point of the day with Denise’s wealth of knowledge and warm, sobering, and considered responses creating a safe and inviting environment for participants to explore the history of family, landscape, politics and culture with her guidance.
Similarly, a Lake Condah Mission walk proved to be an emotional rollercoaster for everyone present as Denise spoke of a deplorable abuse of human life, racism, prejudice and loss, but also of resilience, strength and fond childhood memories shared with her by her elders. Resilience seemed to be the especially dominant theme, which saw traditions and knowledge survive, and was spoken about with pride. As Denis spoke about the long journey toward World Heritage acknowledgement, that resilience and persistence shone through once again, as he told us of the ever changing system that seemed to be obviously stacked against the cause. The ingenuity, intimate knowledge of the country and sustainable farming techniques that were wiped from historical records by design were also astonishing to hear about.
Hearing Denise, Ben and Denis speak from the heart as they told their story, undoubtedly left participants feeling enlightened, frustrated, sorrowful, and angry at an extraordinarily painful history. Equally, the strength, determination and pride that was also obvious as each speaker shared their experiences and stories was infectious and left each participant wanting to play our own part in closing the gap, and the story that is yet to be written, together.
Community Leadership Impact
Day two of our Melbourne trip provided an opportunity to meet with the 10 other Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program participants. Networking was a key focus and participants relished the opportunity to share experiences and learnings with others who are on the same journey.
The VRCLP Combined Program Day allowed for high level conversations about our demographics, exploring how we can attract migration to regional areas and strategies to retain our young people. We found that across the State we are all experiencing the same issues with regard to our ageing populations, our lack of infrastructure and connection to metropolitan areas. We were encouraged to consider how we as future leaders can change that. How do we breach the divide between region and city? Reduce barriers to relocation? Become better advocates for regional Victoria? And how do we change the narrative?
A highlight of the day was no doubt the announcement by Nationals Leader Peter Walsh of $9.5 million in funding for the Victorian Regional Community Leadership Programs over the next four years, should the Liberal Government be elected in November. Minister Walsh praised the programs as valuable, stating they are essential to the development of future leaders across business, community, government and not-for-profit.
The day highlighted for us, that with close to 3500 alumni from these programs, the future is looking bright for our regions. With continued funding, this will only improve. Developing the skills and knowledge of passionate leaders in regional areas, and empowering them to be strong local advocates, will drive positive change for Victoria.
Victorain Government at Work
The last week of Parliament before the upcoming Victorian State Election (24/11/2018) provided the LGSC Program Participants an opportunity to experience Parliament at work in the lead up to what is predicted to be a very close election.
Having been provided the opportunity to meet with Parliament House Staff, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, to meet with our local MPS and attend Question Time, the day provided a real insight into our State Government in action. Underlying all these facets was the greater understanding of democracy in action.
The experience reinforced that what the everyday voter hears/sees in the media is only a snatch of the actual workings of the Victorian State Government. The theatrics of Question Time (preparing the media with a grab for the evening’s news) was in no way a true reflection of the more serious underlying activities within our State Government.
The true work of the Government is more apparent in the bipartisan role of Parliamentary Committees capturing the everyday work of parliamentarians. The enormous amount of information and knowledge they gained and decisions made on these committees was the pre runner to changes in legislation. This insight highlighted the proactive rather than the occasional instantaneous reactive legislation to a new, unpredicted happening (especially evident in the law and order scenarios currently occurring throughout Victoria).
The evident passion of both the current members of Parliament and the apolitical staff of Parliament House showcased a real commitment of Democracy In Action for the State of Victoria.