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The 2018 Barwon Regional Assembly in summary by Chair Kylie Warne


The 2018 Barwon Regional Assembly, held in Wallington on the Bellarine Peninsula on 19 July, was the Partnership’s third major opportunity to consult with our community.

In addition to local residents and representatives from business, local government and community organisations, the Assembly was attended by eight Victorian Government Ministers: the Premier, Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Minister for Roads, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Police, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Training and Skills, and Corrections. In total, 190 people attended the event.

The Assembly provided the Barwon Regional Partnership with an opportunity to reflect on the work undertaken, and results, since its establishment in 2016. Participants were then invited to discuss a range of questions within the main themes of Young People Are Our Future, The Economy We Need and Pride in our Place. The latter theme was divided into two discussions, one focusing on coastal infrastructure and the other on housing for all.

This year, Assembly participants gathered in smaller groups, resulting in focused conversations that generated many ideas which our 'sense making team' was able to review and report on in real time.

Some of the views and ideas that were heard included:

Theme What we heard

Young People Are Our Future

  • Of the three age groups considered (before, at and post school), before school/early years (0-5 years) has the best level of investment in quality programs and services. However, continued advocacy for investments are needed; supports around services are required for more vulnerable families and specific attention is needed to better cater to the needs of Indigenous people and their families;
  • Secondary school students need to be better prepared to enter the workforce. Suggestions included more and improved connections between schools and the Gordon Institute of TAFE and Deakin University, high school work experience needs to be greater than one week with one employer, while changes in community value of VCAL and institutions promoting VCAL could assist student retention and better employment pathways as students move into adulthood;
  • Living regionally sees families, children and students with reduced educational and training options, physical access issues, reduced education alternatives, and generational unemployment leads to lower aspirations and rates of high school retention;
  • Indigenous specific supports are required. They need to be located in the right organisations;
  • Students need to be better equipped to manage the transition from primary to secondary school. The transfer of information about students between institutions would assist during transition (also from secondary school to other institutions);
  • While some services are in place, additional supports are required to increase access in education. Supports required relate to practical supports for families to access early years services and programs and practical support for students in secondary/alternate education/post schooling. At a more systemic level, more needs to be done to address intergenerational and place-based disadvantage.

The Economy We Need

  • Managing population growth to protect natural assets was a significant point of concern;
  • The region was seen to have untapped potential (“Great Ocean Road development will allow business development opportunities for indigenous cultural heritage”);
  • Leveraging Deakin University was seen as important for the region’s economy (”Deakin's advanced manufacturing can be further leveraged to be the 'Silicon Valley' of the southern hemisphere”);
  • Digital connectivity is critical to enabling and supporting population, business and tourism growth (“There is a need to develop world-class digital connectivity within the region to complement the growth in industry, tourism, manufacturing and urban development”). There were repeated calls for faster speed internet; that the internet regionally is far worse than in urban areas; the form of internet provision was also noted (“seek to support innovative communications technology rather simply going for big towers”); lack of digital connectivity and access to technology is exacerbating a growing education gap, and there is an opportunity for further training for teachers in digital technology;
  • Some thinking validated that of the Barwon Regional Partnership, such as the Shipwreck Coast and “Inland routes to Great Ocean Road should be made an attractive alternative.” There were additional suggestions, such as: “We need to develop movie studios at Avalon airport - there is plenty of space and easy access and existing infrastructure and we could build an industry around it;”
  • Transport; in particular, the frequency and crowded nature of commuter trains were a significant discussion point; transport within the region including bike and pedestrian networks also featured strongly among participants as did connections to Geelong from surrounding towns and rural areas.

Pride in Our Place: Coastal Infrastructure

  • Seasonal tourism, climate change, increasing visitor economy and population growth are key considerations, participants said, for any planning and decision-making;
  • The sometimes fragile relationship between residents and visitors is real and needs to be acknowledged when working with agencies and communities;
  • There is an opportunity to utilise the Victorian Auditor-General Office’s (VAGO) Protecting Victoria’s Coastal Assets report recommendations for reform and the new Marine and Coastal Bill 2017 to support advocacy efforts to deliver local infrastructure.

Pride in our Place: Housing for All

  • The Assembly heard a mix of traditional and out of the box ideas – including employers providing housing and ‘uber house mates’, also heard more uniquely Barwon ideas such as unlocking holiday/semi-permanent housing;
  • There is a need for interventions/initiatives/programs that are targeted, place-based and early. In addition, this spoke to a call for greater collaborations between agencies;
  • Participants believe all levels of government have a responsibility, with calls for policy prioritisation of public housing (all levels); legislation around developer provision of social/affordable/public housing (State Government); investing in re-purposing existing housing stock and buildings (this is also aimed at community/business investment); planning provisions to allow for multiple dwellings on single lots (state/local government); plus investment in emergency accommodation and support services.

Next Steps

The Assembly and other consultation activities validated and provided some fresh content to the Barwon Regional Partnership.

Following the Assembly, our team worked hard to develop our advice to government, across a range of budget, policy and service delivery priorities.

In early September, the process culminated with a formal presentation of Barwon’s priorities to the Rural and Regional Ministerial Committee.

The Barwon Regional Partnership thanks everyone who has helped us over the past two years, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with our community members and stakeholders into the future.

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