Vibrant Communities


Vibrant Communities

Twenty-five up and coming Community Leaders from across the Loddon Murray region visited Swan Hill and the local area over two days on 25-26th March 2018 to learn about vibrant communities as part of the Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP).

The program commenced with a Welcome to Country and a moving smoking ceremony, held at Riverside Park, Swan Hill, delivered by Djallarna Hamilton, Cain Chaplin and Imparja Pettit.  From there, participants enjoyed a Project Management and Planning Workshop delivered by Ellen White, with insights into all facets of putting together a community project and how to deal with challenges which may arise.

Four members from the Swan Hill Harmony Day Committee, Ross Polglase, Joelle Whiting, Archana Patney and Camille Cullinan held a Q&A session describing the successful Harmony Day celebrations from plans through to implementation. A number of the participants even arrived early on the Saturday afternoon to join in the Harmony Day celebrations at Riverside Park. Sarah Matthee (Gisborne) reflected “The atmosphere was joyful, friendly and a true celebration of cultures.” Yvonne Jennings and Wendy McAllister (past graduates of LMCLP) led an interactive mindfulness activity inspiring participants to reflect on their lives and use nature to create representations of their personal journeys.

The group enjoyed the Heartbeat of the Murray Laser Light Spectacular, a nighttime show using water, lights, lasers and sound to tell the story of the Little Murray River. Members of the group were amazed by the production and the overall experience, telling the story of the Murray River to date.

The group also visited the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement and Grizzly Engineering.

At the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery, Director Ian Tully shared his vision for the Gallery then invited the LMCLP group to let go of their creative inhibitions and challenge themselves to draw portraits of each other. Samantha Hilliard (Nyah West) stated “It was good to see everyone having a go and supporting each other’s efforts as we often quash creativity at a young age through criticism.”

Through a thought provoking panel, representatives from the Swan Hill Rural City Council, CEO John McLinden, Fiona Gormann and Cr Chris Jeffrey provided an overview of how local government operates then shared stories of their innovative approaches to community engagement. They painted a picture of a busy region looking to capitalise on its assets for the benefit of the community.

Grizzly owners and managers Kurt Poltrock and Wendy McAllister showed the group around their business and provided the LMCLP group with an insight into how a family business can continue to grow and develop during hard times through innovation and commitment to the wellbeing and livelihoods of their staff. Justin DiCaprio, (Watchem) congratulated Kurt and Wendy on the success of their business and foresight and commitment to their region.

The LMCLP group concluded their two day discovery tour by visiting the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum by the foreshore of Lake Boga. A fascinating and incredible community development story was presented by Daryl Allen, the manager and local Lions Club member. Daryl particularly highlighted the museums volunteer’s commitment to continuously creating unique visions and opportunities for tourism in the region. Lara English (Cohuna) thanked Daryl Allen for his continued dedication to such an important part of Australian war history.

At the final debriefing participants commented on how the Swan Hill community had exceeded their expectations with the many projects they had created and established across the region in such a small community. Many said they would be visiting Swan Hill again to see what else they can learn and discover about the region.


Written by LMCLP participants Samantha Hilliard, Sarah Matthee, Lara English, Justin DiCaprio and Claire Billing

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