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The 2018 Mallee Assembly in summary by Chair Win Scott

18/09/2018

The 2018 Mallee Regional Assembly was the Partnership’s third major opportunity to consult with the community.

In addition to local residents, businesses and organisation representatives, the Assembly – which took place in Kerang on 31 May 2018 – was attended by three Victorian Government Ministers: the Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development, Minister for Public Transport and Major Projects and the Attorney General. The Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria also attended. In total, there were around 200 people in the room.

The Assembly began with a Welcome to Country and wonderful Smoking Ceremony provided by the local Indigenous Community led by Esther Kirby who was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) recently.

We then had the opportunity to present a short video summarising some of the Partnership’s key priorities and achievements over the past two years.

There was then time for detailed table discussions with our community on our and their top priorities including the economy, access to services (health and education), connectivity (digital and transport), liveability, sustaining small towns, protection of the natural environment and eco-tourism.

The evening was full of conversation and interesting discussion, and generated many ideas which the Partnership has been busy reviewing.

Below is a summary of what you told us at the Assembly.

Issue

Key messages from the community

The Economy

  • The lack of digital connectivity is crippling many areas of the Mallee. You gave us lots of examples of problems faced by families, communities and businesses.
  • You told us of problems accessing skills and training – both from a student and industry point of view.

Health

  • You told us about the critical shortage of GPs across the Mallee.
  • You explained that Nurse Practitioners provide a good service, but there are delivery structural issues that inhibit effectiveness.
  • Geographical distance is a barrier to health services including the limited availability of transport. This is particularly difficult when trying to access specialist services.

Education

  • You emphasised that education can't be considered in isolation – it is part of the complete offering of regional and rural living.
  • The need for more flexible Education Department framework to enable alternatives and innovations. For example, support for different options for small schools, including support to share resources, career structures that incentivise quality teachers being attracted to rural schools, and wide choice of subjects.
  • Build on base of what’s working well.
  • Need to address evidence-based statistics on learning outcomes to drive strategic interventions, such as the impact on education outcomes of exposure to family violence in early childhood.
  • Schools as community hubs, from playgroups through to adult education – a positive way to respond to disadvantage.

The Natural Environment

  • Protecting the natural environment is important you.
  • Water is important to you and you appreciate water as a part of your environment.
  • Holistic responses are needed.

Small Towns

  • Sustaining populations and services in small towns is an investment.
  • Small towns would not function without volunteerism but there is volunteer fatigue and an aging population.
  • You identified that things that bring people together create something greater than the event itself. You mentioned sport, community markets, art projects etc creating connections and improved social fabric.
  • Need more accessible funding opportunities for small towns which often miss out on funding due to profile and/or capacity.
  • Match community capital with private investors interested in community development.
  • You think support should go to communities who self-help.

Complex Problems

  • You are tired of policy and program solutions seemingly limited to election cycles and you would like to see complex problems addressed.
  • You would like to see commitment to complex problems “seen through.”

Moving forward

As a Partnership, our role is to now take all the messages and ideas we have heard from our 2018 Assembly, and through our wider consultation, and action them. One way we do this is by presenting on what we have heard to the Victorian Government’s Rural and Regional Ministerial Committee. That presentation happened at the end of July.



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