Engaged Communitites


LMCLP Newstead & Maryborough

The Leading Excellence Maryborough (LEM) and Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP) participants met in Newstead for a ‘Time for a New Story-Power to the People’ Workshop presented by Gilbert Rochecouste from the Village Well. The philosophy of the Village Well, is to ‘act like a business and think like a movement’. His energetic presentation style, including drumming and dance, engaged everyone in a bit of fun, focused attention and united both groups.

The Workshop was opened by Lucy Mayes, LMCLP graduate and LEM co-facilitator, who welcomed Gilbert to share his insights on what connects and empowers local communities, to bring about transformative community engagement. Many successful case studies were displayed, demonstrating local pride, creativity and community celebration projects across Australia.

Gilbert promotes that the time for a transition to a ‘Yes Culture’ is here and communities are looking for new stories. It’s important to understand your communities’ own unique story and history. This can be encouraged by focusing on where the energy and meeting places are in your local community. ‘Look at local assets, ask what is working and chase that energy’.

It was stressed that for community engagement to be successful, to remember when working with others with different interests or views, ‘that there is a field out there, beyond right or wrong, say I’ll meet you there.’

During thought provoking group exercises and lunch everyone had the opportunity to network, exchange ideas, collaborate and make valuable contacts for the future.

The LMCLP group moved to Maryborough for the afternoon, where ‘Go Goldfields’ Members Sandra Hamilton, Gary Higgins, Caroline Thoroughgood and Rowena Butler described the history, focus and impact of their Project. Their attention is on their community working on a positive future.

Sandra Hamilton outlined that in 2009, ‘negative social impact indicators were analysed to provide a baseline measurement of the Maryborough community disadvantage. Data was sourced, research analysed, surveys conducted and census data & NAPLAN results were collected to inform decisions’.

A ‘Collaborative Table’ approach was adapted, including community services, government, business and peak bodies. Also included were, sharing power with the community around decision making, consultation and planning. Action Groups were then formed to individually address specific issues.

With the support of the State Government and the philanthropic Ten 20 Foundation, funding was obtained to implement programs to address this. Programs included speech pathology, language, literacy and numeracy skills, supporting & building a strong community, driving social change, supporting strong & safe families and increasing youth employment. A community, collaborative, consultative approach is also used to also advocate to government for the identified changes needed.


Gary Higgins got his local Rotary Club involved in the issue of Family Violence and social change. He believes his involvement ‘improved me and my business. There is a link between a good culture and profitability.’ Other positive initiatives mentioned, included having local female Police Officers, offering a well attended Community Legal Forum with the involvement of Police, courts, a Children’s Advocate and Legal Support Services.


Rowena Butler believes, ‘the value of personal relationships can’t be underestimated’. Her focus is to continue to advocate for and influence her community, while continuing to work on equality and equity principles.


Caroline Throughgood thinks, the Collaborative Table approach gave her a voice while she was also juggling her family and other commitments. ‘I can transmit what I hear in my community, that would normally not receive a voice. This is valuable.’


The session concluded with an informative Q&A session and a chance to meet in individual groups with each of the presenters, where their insights, learning, openness and honesty were appreciated as a valuable tool for all of us.



Written by 2018 LMCLP participant Paula Collard from Northern Grampians Shire.

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