Online Resources for Rural Community Growth

The Birchip Cropping Group (BCG) Community Network was launched in August 2017 in response to emerging trends being observed in the Wimmera and Mallee.

Population decline, the impact of technology, ageing infrastructure, climate change, farmer wellbeing and a declining ecosystem are all major issues which to date have not been solved by traditional mechanisms. These problems have a major impact on rural populations and challenge the building of thriving communities.

A shared focus is required to address such challenges: to unpack how to address rural population change and protect and grow communities in these areas.

The BCG Community Network was born out of this challenge, a commitment by the BCG Board to try and tackle some of the broader problems faced by the farming community.

Supported with funding from the William Buckland Foundation, BCG knew that it was essential to bring in specialists from a broad range of disciplines – to bring the ‘system into the room’ and to try to solve the problems together and have a real impact on farmers, their communities and their families.

This ambitious project is now in its third year. One component has been the establishment of a Community of Practice (CoP) who meet every month in webinars, to explore these topics in more depth.

The CoP allows participants to share information and learn more about such topics as harnessing the opportunities that technology offers, addressing a declining rural and social capital, maintaining rural ecosystems and improving both community and farmer health.

The meetings held in 2019 were recorded and we’re pleased to share them with you:

  • Simon Kuestenmacher, Co-Founder of The Demographics Group, provided his insight into what population trends are expected for the future of Australia and the Mallee and Wimmera regions.
  • Peter Kenyon, Director Bank of I.D.E.A.S., covered concepts such as an ‘assets based development’ and highlighted the inspiring community of Kulin in WA which has doubled its population in recent years as a result of great community leadership.
  • Dr Jacquie Cotton, National Centre for Farmer Health, provided an overview of the current state of farmer and rural community health, climate change interactions and a changing safety culture on farms.
  • Tess Slot, Co-Founder and CEO of the Regional Regeneration Alliance in WA, shared insights into the organisation’s work including a case study of the Western Australian Shire of Dalwallinu were a population increase of 15 per cent has been achieved and maintained. 

As we move into phase two of this project, membership of the CoP is now open to a wider audience. If you would like to be involved, please contact Louisa Ferrier, Engagement and Member Services Leader on 03 5492 2787.

Our next Community of Practice is on Thursday 23 January and will feature features Ben Winchester, University of Minnesota, who will be talking about ‘Re-writing the Rural Narrative in rural US’ 

A community leadership workshop will also be held on Monday 17 February in Birchip in the BCG boardroom. For more information please contact Phillip Guthrie, Innovation Projects and Partners Leader, 03 5492 2787.

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