George Kerferd and the founders of Beechworth have left us a fine heritage. It has become the foundation of our community's wealth. Beechworth is a wonderful place to live work and visit. We have much to be grateful for 154 years on, we have some important choices to make.
The aim of my talk is to motive us to be inspired by their work. To ask us what is the inheritance we will pass on? To share some ideas on how we can do our bit to create a prosperous, caring community, which is alive with opportunities for everyone and renowned for its harmony, its beauty, its innovation and its sense of social justice.
While this talk is about Beechworth. It's also about the Indigo Shire. It's about NE Victoria and the Murray Valley. It's about Australia. It's about us and how we chose to live together. It's about the future. I believe it's about our common-wealth.
In coming to an understanding of my role I checked the dictionary to see what an oration is: and found "Formal address of a ceremonial kind and the orator is an "eloquent public speaker."
In "Well May We Say.. Speeches that made Australia" Graham Freudenberg tells us an Oration is "fine words knitted together with care. Words that interpret our times and say what we are thinking." He suggests there are two essentials " a passion to persuade and a deep respect for the intelligence of the audience". I can assure that the words have been knitted together with great care. I offer them to you with humility; I trust they will help in the process of understanding our times.
I see my role as to present a formal talk, An Oration. It will share with you the journey begun - in one way - in April 2005 when the Major of the Indigo Shire made the request. But in another way and in a much more real sense it began in 1861 when my great, great, grand parents John Terrill and Elizabeth Brown from Co Cork Ireland were married in the C of E Church in Chiltern.
While George and Anne Kerferd were establishing their large family- in all Anne gave birth to 10 children, and beginning their community work up here in the hills, my relatives were doing their thing down on the plains. All part of the same shire and at that time the same parish - Beechworth.
The talk is in three parts. The introduction offers some definitions and outlines my motivation and connections with Beechworth. The second section turns to the present and to share with you the process we have undertaking in preparing the talk: The Kerferd Conversations and what we have learnt over the past 7 months. I will conclude with some ideas opportunities for designing our future.
Having said what the talk is, I'd like to clarify what it is not. Its not a planning blueprint about the future of subdivision and development. Though planning does get a mention. And, it is not a critique of the Shire of Indigo's role in Beechworth's development, though I do believe that the Shire has a very important role to play.
In setting the scene for the talk, there are 2 terms which I would like to introduce: The common and common wealth, and three motivations.
There are lots of different ways we can judge our wealth.
We can be wealthy because we have lots of things: money, assets, and resources
We can be wealthy in terms of our environment,
We can be wealthy in our family and friendships,
We can be wealthy in our community having a sense of belonging, of being able to contribute and have a sense of connectedness,
We can be wealthy because we have the potential to earn money, to have a job or to be self-employed,
We can be wealthy because we have choices and opportunities - the freedom to choose and to reach our potential,
We can be wealthy because we feel safe and secure, we are free from persecution no bombs raining down on us. We can expect justice,
We can be wealthy because we have strong institutions: courts, schools, government systems, service clubs, museum, arts, public servants and a local news paper.
We are a community rich in common wealth when we have effective infrastructure, which brings us fresh clean water and effective transport systems.
In all these ways Beechworth is indeed a wealthy community.
The concept of the "common" comes from English during the feudal times. The common was freely available land used by the community to grow food, feed animals etc. Where the common was rich fertile land, well looked after and productive, the community grew wealthy. These towns became the market towns, places of trade and industry, of training and wealth generation. If the common was poor land - people went hungry. The common represents the collective - the place for cooperation - for coming together - networking - sharing information and resources - for building community infrastructure, deciding on values and the culture of the community. What is our common? What will generate our common - wealth in the future - I don't think it will be land.
With the initial invitation to do this talk I had misgivings. It would be a challenge. I would be talking in my own community. I was humbled by the request and felt privileged too. My decision to say 'yes' was inspired by three things: A recent trip to the USA, my recollections of the struggle to form the Historic Towns now the Indigo Shire, and my affection for Beechworth.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Last year with some colleagues from the Australian Rural Leadership Program, I attended a conference in the USA. As part of the pre-conference activities we were taken to the HQ of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture - a most imposing building. Above the entrance were the words Department of Agriculture - Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I was surprised to see the word there - I'd never thought of the USA as being a commonwealth type country.
Some of you will know the story - in 1681 Charles 11 King of England gave William Penn a Charter to a very large grant of land. The Charter gave Penn the power to sell land and establish a Frame of Government which was in effect a contract guaranteeing the settlers certain rights. Penn had been inspired by the period in English history where the monarch was over turned and Cromwell the Lord Protector established the Commonwealth.
And as I explored their Congress buildings, I too was inspired by the vision of those founders - a free society built on idealism and vision where Quakers and others who suffered religious persecution would find refuge. It touched a cord in me. What idealism. What courage. What a vision. And 400 years on it thrives. What a wonderful word "Common Wealth"
Historic Towns and Indigo Shire
As outlined in the introduction - my early professional career saw me working in Beechworth on a contract to the Shire. My first job was to prepare a scheme for providing meals on wheels, home help and transport. It became the HACC program. I had other contracts including preparing a municipal health plan, a recreation plan which involved support for the High School Community recreation centre and background work for the 1988 study of Small Towns which included Beechworth.
However it was my involvement in the movement to create the Historic Towns Shire, which really bought me back in touch with the people of Beechworth. I was inspired by the spirit, the grass roots 'want' for us to determine how to be governed and what we defined as our community. (Who were involved - remember the march down high St in Wodonga?). It was my first taste of the effectiveness of rural people power. It was fun. It was exciting. We had such a dream. In preparing this talk I wanted to revisit the dream. Was our dream still relevant?
My final motivation was my affection for Beechworth.
Beechworth has always been a part of my life. My earliest memories are of Mum or Dad meeting the school bus when the big kids - my older sisters came home from school. And remembering the excitement and great anticipation when it was my turn. I did grow to dislike that hour-long bumpy dusty bus trip up the La Sarina and down the Rising Sun.
It seems the things which impressed me then are still impacting on residents of Beechworth. I'd like to share some of these early impressions. These are the gifts Beechworth has given me.
The people. (photo of netball team)
I am using this image of our A grade basketball team in 1965 to capture the essence of the people of Beechworth. Rosemary Steve, Barbara McHarg, Patience McCarthy, Brigitter Lehmayer, Pam Ryan, Paula Lemayer and Carol Hill. The family names: the McKenzie McHargs, the Fannings, Jessups, Goldworthys, Peter Fartishinski.
Wonderful exotic food and names of people from Europe escaping the second world war. Lunch times exchanging vegemite sandwiches for sausage. I was envious of Michael Freeman who's mum owned a shop. Wishfully wanting to have my plaits wrapped gracefully around my head like Olga Denisinko.
The people - Mr. O'Malley who helped the nuns around the convent. Mr. Meredith who ever so patiently, taught us dancing. Mrs. Edmunds who helped me over-come my lisp. And Mother Conleth - teacher of values, ethics and morals among other things.
Play, space, freedom: (Pic of The façade of the old hospital - known as the "Hossie Grounds")
Only those of us who went to St Joes can really know the job of playing, for hours at a time in the "old Hossie Grounds". The grand old Monkey Puzzle trees under which we built magnificent cubbies. The cold - crisp winter days with the wind blowing in from Mt Buffalo. The fear of hitting the soft ball 'out of bounds' and having to run down into the gorge, and up again. Not hearing when the bell went and being late for class - delighting in our legitimate excuse. It was a totally stimulating environment. Did the state school have a similar space next to the prison?
Sense of the sacred (pic of a very old gnarled tree)
Fr Lane's history of Beechworth Parish tells us that Mass used to be said under this tree. It was old in the 1850's. It still is a landmark and I understand many significant meetings took place here. This image captures another gift, which Beechworth has given me - not only my introduction to religion, its more the sense of the sacred, the role of the spiritual in my life and the connection between god and nature. Land and soul. Country and self. I love old trees.
Indigenous Australia (Pic of a sign to Yeddonba caves)
At school we were introduced to stories of the aboriginal people and how they lived. Exploring the cave art at Mt Pilot and learning about visits to the high country to catch bogong moths. I think we were envious of such a life; certainly we wanted to know more. We were told that there are other stories and we have responsibilities beyond our own time. Mt Pilot is a magical place for me and the view over the Murray valley with the blanket of trees continues to inspires me
Water and environment (Pic of water and the indigo falls)
This was our almost favorite summer picnic and swimming place. Such memories of fresh, clear, cold water gushing over our bodies, cooling us down. We were farm kids. We knew about muddy water in dams and stored water in tanks. This was different. We experienced the precious nature of fresh mountain water, flowing water. Available water. Free water.
Historic buildings & gardens (pic of old house at Mayday Hills)
Once a year we would have interschool sports and make the long walk to the 'Asylum'. I remember one visit to watch my brother play footy on the cricket pitch, feeling terrified that we/I would get left behind. Mayday Hills, the lunatic asylum, La Trobe this place - it has so much symbolism. The care, love and service given here. The beauty of the gardens. Grand buildings. The connection with Kerferd and sense of history. Transformations. Wonderful summer concerts catching the sunsets, and galahs singing. Conferences. And now today.
So with all that inspiration, it was a warm "yes" and the Kerferd committee was great supporters. Here I would like to acknowledge the committee Di Thomas, Peter Graham, Brian Millar, Vic Issell and Joan Simms. Joan has been my partner in this project- I would like to acknowledge her wisdom, skills and generosity. She has been a real partner and friend to me.
The Kerferd Conversations.
Our aim and process.
We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to get together and talk about things, which were important to them and to the future of Beechworth.
We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to meet each other - for newcomers such as Joan and John to meet locals like me.
We wanted to involve people in the idea of Kerferd and in understanding the history of Beechworth.
We wanted to build community. To have fun. We wanted to not make it too hard. To not be over burdened by 'should's and oughts'.
We wanted it to be community driven and voluntary. No one was paid.
Good food has always played a part in my experience of living in North East Victoria. My dad had been a councilor in the old Chiltern Shire. I recall him hosting many an informal (delicious) meal as we chatted, discussed, argued about the future. And Beechworth is famous for its fresh produce and its great restaurants.
So Joan and I thought - why not - lets give it a go. Let's invite people to join us for a meal.
Who to invite? - A diverse group of people who valued community.
We drew up a list. New comers and locals, young and others not so young, leaders with formal roles and responsibilities and community leaders, activitists and citizens of the year.
And Joan hit the phones. Would they come? Everyone we asked accepted the invitation!
We made a budget. We checked with the sponsors and Brian agreed that we could host the meals at La Trobe. We looked at our diaries -and got underway in late January of this year
Over 2 months we held 5 dinners of 8 and one combined meal of 30plus.
We talked about why we were living in Beechworth. What was Beechworth's gift to us? We talked about the issues we faced. We talked about Beechworth's common wealth and we asked about the future?
We asked the participants - the conversationalists - to talk to their friends about these topics. To invite friends, neighbours and newcomers to 'drop over for a bite to eat" And they did. Over 70 people participated.
Kerferd Community Conversations
We also wanted to invite the wider community to be part of preparing for this event today - to create a community conversation. We worked with Megan at the Shire to get articles in the local paper. We spoke to school groups. To young people around town. To the junior council. To Service clubs, to artists and members of the arts council, to students at La Trobe. We spoke to the Council and council staff.
We read reports and history books. We listened, listened and listened.
We asked people: what is Beechworth's gift to you? What do you value about living here? What are the issues for Beechworth? What do you hope for the future?
We were inspired by what we heard. We were excited and encouraged.
Report of the Conversations
Once the Kerferd conversations got underway it became obvious there was a widely shared sense that Beechworth is a special place -that it is held in high regard. It wasn't just my experience. Beechworth has been the bearer of many gifts, to many people.
Gifts of B'worth "An arty, crafty, foody, winery, sort of a place"
There were so many gifts; I have prepared a full appendix. Here's a taste.
- Strong sense of community
- Shopping and service
- All the different sorts of visitors
- The people
- Community leadership
- History, heritage and traditions
- My wife, a job, a family, our lifestyle
- No pokies
- No traffic lights
- No crime, security
- The clean clear fresh water
- Tolerance of difference
- Ability to care
- Meeting people up the street
- Festivals, Opera in the alps
There were issues too, which caused people concern - many issues. Again there is a full list in the appendix. For this talk I have summarise 5 of the major concerns.
Planning is a big one. Discussion about rights - individuals versus community; about decision-making powers - state versus local government; about management of growth and rate revenue; about community input into decision making. People could see that planning is important. But they wanted to know whose purpose was being achieved, who is benefiting? They understood that planning was for a purpose. They questioned who checks that the goals and targets of the plan are being achieved. There was lots of anxt.
Communication and how it happens was another popular topic. Processes to engage people in communication were well discussed. The various roles and responsibilities of a community newspaper; of the Shire; of groups; of neighbours to share information; How to communicate with other communities in the shire and neighbouring shires was also an issue.
How to find out what is going on - I learnt there are two critical meeting places - the bakery at 6am and the Post Office at 9am. I am also informed that the staff rooms at the hospital and at the schools (and I suspect play grounds) are buzzing with news.
Community Engagement: This picture of the "No Pokies" banner captures a number of issues - the strength of the community power within Beechworth and the power of the community to govern its own future; the relationship between the Beechworth community and the Indigo Shire; the role of the community in festivals - the famous meeting about the Golden Horse Shoe Festival took place during this period. It also captures for me the need to care for those who are not as well off and the need to work to including them, and most particularly the young people "in".
Services and infrastructure were often raised. This image of the Post Office captures more than just the potential closure of the PO, it is also the issues of living in an historic town; about the protection of the icons of the town, the historic buildings - including the goal, While these buildings are privately owned, in a complicated way, they are viewed as part of the public's common wealth. There's a sense of community responsibility about them - concern for example when the grass around the goal went un cut - who's responsible? People were keen to be part of the public conversation about these buildings.
Protecting, preserving and maintaining the environment was another well-discussed topic. Development meant that some long held 'sacred sites' were being threatened, views might be lost, roads built. While it was acknowledged that lots has been done to reserve and protect the heritage - the parks, the prescient, the rotary walk, and the Chinese garden there was a real fear that development would win out over the environment.
Very early in the process, we could see there was energy and interest for people to 'do something'. There were a number of issues we felt we could do something about. "Well let's give it a go. Lets see what we can achieve." We formed what became known as the Kerferd project working groups. The 'team leaders' for lack of a better name are all here and if you are interested I encourage you to connect with them over lunch.
The O and M Advertiser working group - training at the BNC: Gabrielle and Andrea,
The Beechworth Community Forum working group: Noelene Allen
The multi functional landscapes working group: Digby Race
The Beechworth Charter working group: Bernard Bolan
A sense of the whole shire -1/15 Indigo shire-working group; Frances Walsh
I will return to these projects and working groups a bit later.
What else did we learn about Beechworth?
Research gave us information about the population, about employment trends, about changes in voting patterns and crime statistics.
Let's see what the statistics show us: The population has been on a slow decline. Need for careful in interpretation because of the impact of deinstitutionalism.) For example in 1980 Mayday had 350 patients and employed 650 staff with a budget of $26 million.
It is interesting and relevant to building community to see that aprox 50% of residents lived at the same address 5 years ago. That means the rest most likely are newcomers.
1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
Total population 3,154 3,252 3,136 2,953 2,791
Visitors on census night 255 340 192 282 147
Population in non-private dwellings 885 874 633 494 390
Popn living at same address 5 years ago 1,734 1,586 1,571 1,492 1,462
Proportion of LGA's population (%) 28.2 26.8 23.3 21.6 20
Source: Towns in Time, 2001
(The census next weekend)
It is interesting to see that the highest employment is (not unexpectedly) in the health and community services 24.8%. Retail trades are second with 14%, followed by Manufacturing with 10.4%. Education with 9.7% is forth and fifth highest is accommodation, cafe and restaurants with 8.9% of the workforce working in this area.
Employment by Industry 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 62 33 30 35 51
Mining 3 3
Manufacturing 50 53 63 71 121
Electricity, Gas and Water Supply 3 3 3 19 7
Construction 40 53 33 40 58
Wholesale Trade 8 12 19 25 20
Retail Trade 81 90 103 162 164
Accommodation, Cafes, Restaurants 52 57 74 85 104
Transport and Storage 17 18 13 42 28
Communication 17 22 15 19 14
Finance and Insurance 17 20 25 19 7
Property and Business Services 17 21 36 36 56
Government Admin & Defense 49 72 68 53 59
Education 65 68 80 83 113
Health and Community Services 518 494 479 261 288
Cultural and Recreational Services 10 9 20 22 24
Personal and Other Services 38 45 40 57 45
Total 1,044 1,073 1,101 1,032 1,159
Note the swing between Labour and Liberals making Beechworth a swinging booth.
1972 1980 1990 1996 2001 2004
ALP 879 850 601 802 634 643
Libs - 487 687 901 488 906
Nats 954 172 - - 198 -
DLP 173 - - - - -
Greens - - - - - 252
Total 2121 2636 1887 1958 1989 1924
CRIME in Beechworth - July 05 - July 06
Type of offence
Cleared (offender processed)
Difference from last year
Property damage reports
Theft from shop reports
Drug offenders processed
Public order offences
Offensive behaviour offences
Source: Beechworth Police Station July 06
Comment on crime in Beechworth: The local police officer tells me
"Over the last year there has been some success with a drop in assaults around the town which is a direct result of a 'hotel reform', where the publicans have joined forces with the police to eliminate bad behavior in and around the hotels. "Any person that is banned from any hotel in the town for bad behavior is subsequently banned by the other hotels, usually for a period of 3 months.
"We are currently suffering a number of damages around the town that are likely to be fuelled by alcohol and drugs. There is obvious anger involved and it would appear that it is aimed at society in general. We are also finding it extremely difficult to combat the drug problem. "We would dearly love to get assistance from any quarter to help us identify and combat the drug use situation amongst our young people.
"The number of domestic disputes and burglaries (break ins) that we attend are low and it is not a major issue at the moment.
What we have learnt:
It has been a great experience: I think I can speak for all the conversationalists when I say this.
Coming together to talk about "real" issues was good fun
People enjoyed getting to know each other
We generated lots of energy
People wanted to do things
We also learnt that thinking about the future is difficult. It was the most challenging aspect of the conversations. It is difficult to imagine the future when we are so caught up in the issues of the present.
Joan and I have been amazed and delighted by the interest and enthusiasm and willingness to be part of all this. It was fun. It is possible. It was voluntary. It was 'us'. It was about how we wanted to live and be. There were no shoulds. We didn't get into trouble (we couldn't because it was 'ours') We didn't have to write a report and there's no timeline. We found that our community is full of leaders working in so many ways on so many different projects. We were pleased that the Kerferd Oration had provided the opportunity.
What does all this information mean for us in Beechworth?
In 2000 the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services undertook a research project about community development. Called The Success Factors, the report documents what's needed for communities to successfully manage change. In summary, the major critical factor for communities to successfully manage change, is how people feel. The theory tells us that communities with a strong sense of belonging and connectedness will manage change well.
When people feel good, feel welcomed, feel they belong, feel they matter; they are prepared to become involved. To give of their time. To share their knowledge skills and experience. They volunteer.
They go out of their way to help, to give, to care. And amazing things happen. "More' is created rather than less. Not like the financial market where there is a scarcity of resources - exactly the opposite happens. We move into abundance.
Where there are strong active involved and caring communities there is enough for everyone. Communities become good places to be. People want to live there. There is fun and laughter. There is growth and economic development. There is art and music and theatre. There are community celebrations. There is innovation. And it's as simple and as hard as 'belonging'
Of course the opposite happens. Where there is no belonging, people don't feel welcomed. They are reluctant to volunteer to give of their time. These become unattractive places to be.
Our ancestors knew this. Kerferd knew this. My grand parents knew this. Your ancestors knew this too. It is what makes Australia and especially rural Australia such a great place to live.
This Kerferd project has shown that in Beechworth most people feel they belong. However there are a few exceptions: some of the young people feel out of it, some newcomers find it hard to fit in, some long-term residents are feeling left out and for some, there is a sense of loss and grief that the old world is passing. There is a small group of people who just don't have the confidence or skills to take that first step to become involved.
We need to continue to work at building a caring community.
We need to continue to work at communicating with each other.
We need to continue to think globally and act locally. We live in a global village. Our visitors come from all over the world. Many people in Beechworth have lived and worked in other countries and our children already are citizens of the world.
We need to be better at being inclusive.
We need to make sure there are opportunities for everyone to be included 'in' to be educated and to find work. In this context I place particular emphasis on our young people - their request for a BMX track, for opportunities for them to be included 'in' the discussion.
There is a second important thing we learnt about building long-term sustainable communities.
It's about community leadership.
During this project we experienced many many examples of modern, sophicated, effective community leadership in Beechworth.
For the sake of this talk there are 2 examples of community leadership, which I would like to draw particular attention to. I know I am doing a disservice to the many others I could mention (the Beechworth Investment Group - BIG and their work with the gym; The bike riders group and their work with young people; the people behind the rail trail; the Montessori school group; the young people working for the BMX track, La Trobe, the Main Street Traders; Festival organizers, Service Clubs, B&B proprietors; The Beechworth Community Welfare Committee.) There are obviously many more - too many to name. We can see their results everywhere - everywhere someone has said, "Well I suppose if it's going to be, it's going to be me"
I'd like to focus on two examples where a sense of community has successfully created great local common wealth.
Lucas Mills - Tess and Geoff and the Lucas family. Based in Wooragee they employ 30 full time staff, the mill was established in 1994. It's a family business with the parents and 2 children and partners running the company. They make mills to cut-up saw logs. They export to over 80 countries. Jenny tells me she that one of the things she is most proud of is that people use their mills to create their own small businesses. One customer paid $8,000 for a mill and over a period of time it has grossed $160,000. One of their biggest customers is the Solomon Island. They give and they give and they give. And they belong and they create belonging. They create great common wealth for us.
A second example is the work of Christine and Tom O'Toole. The bakery. "Making dough their way" You know the figures. Annual turn over of $3m, 670,000 customers in one year, 65 staff Tom gave Australia this quote " What if I train my people and they leave. What if I don't train them and they stay?" And they give and they give and they give. And they belong and they create belonging. They create great common wealth for all of us.
Both these examples of community leadership - show us how to do it. How to do it locally. They clearly show how community building creates economic wealth. They are great models for us. They are local people. Christine O'Toole and Geoff Lucas went to school here. They are home grown businesses. We know the people. We know they are legitimate and genuine. They are generous and I am sure if asked, would teach us what they know.
And to the Future
Before I get too far into this part of my talk, I'd like to share a story from the past. About Capability Brown. He was a garden designer in England in the 16 and 1700's. If any of you have been on a tour of the stately gardens of England then you would have seen and probably experienced his work. What fascinates me about him, is that he deliberately designed his gardens to be at their peak in 400 years. Which is just about now.
I am told that he planted the oak trees, for example, in very thick clumps so that as the competed for sunlight they would grow tall and straight. The instructions given with the garden was that after a period, lets say 50 years; every 4th tree was to be thinned out, after 75 years every second tree. So that eventually we have the park like gardens we see to day. He was also multi-functional in his approach. He designed independent watering systems for each garden; usually these were based on large ornamental lakes, which could be viewed from the main house. The lakes acted as wetlands and attracted the birds which both added to the beauty of the gardens and also kept the insects in control.
If we think back to the time of George and Anne Kerferd and my great great grand parents, when we see the buildings here at La Trobe, when we see the trees in these gardens, 150 years doesn't seem to hard to imagine. And when I think of the gardens in England, or when I visit Florence, or Beijing or the Taj in India, I get the tiniest feeling that for us it might be possible, that just maybe we could create something that would be that special and last that long.
But it is a scary thought. It takes courage to think that big.
I'd like to take some courage, to quell my fears, my sense of doubt and for a short time in the safety of this hall and audience to imagine if....
To imagine a possible future for Beechworth and for the Indigo Shire where the common wealth experienced by a future community is even greater than what we have inherited from the founding families of 150 years ago.
Don Chambers when he was mayor included this quote in the Indigo Informer.
"The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating
The paths to it are not found, but made.
And the making of those pathways changes both the maker and the destination"
I take this quote to mean that in designing the future both what we do and how we do it matters.
While we know many things will be really different - fashion for example - there will be much that is the same. Let's assume that there will be at least two constant elements we could work with: The land and the people.
What do I see?
I see landscapes, treed, maintained, unique and managed to cater for a wide diversity of people and activities. I see beautiful buildings nestled into the environment.
I see that the research carried out by the Kerferd Multifunctional Landscapes working group has paid great dividends. All our planning systems are multi functional. The component parts work together to achieve outcomes for the people, and for the land, for the animals, for the air, and for the forests. We have integrated landscapes where the sum of the parts is much greater than each individual part.
I see beautiful trees in grand eucalyptus forests. I see clean water, which is safe for drinking and fresh pure air, blue skies, and views from hilltops; the magic mix of autumn colors with the grey green of the native trees.
I see that we have retained the beauty of the farming landscape surrounding the towns. New houses are screened using locally native plants that blend into the landscape and limit the visual impact of modern 'townhouses'. Bike paths and walking tracks connect all the small rural communities.
I see a Shire which values its home-grown goods and services, especially its food and arts. Most popular are the regular farmers' markets which specialize in the nutritional and health benefits of natural foods.
I see that we truly value our children. We nurture in them an excellent grasp of local knowledge. Works of art including story books, theatre, sculptures, and moving images portray the history of their land. All the children are familiar with the names and attributes of local native plants, native birds and animals.
I see people belonging. People being welcomed into the community, invited to join and participate. When they are ready to leave they are acknowledged and thanked. They are invited to stay in touch. To become part of the Beechworth extended family and donate money to the foundation. They subscribe to the newspaper and keep in touch with local activities.
I see honour boards and public recognition for people who build community, for the carers, the volunteers and for those who hold true to the communities' vision and values.
I see the Visitor's Information Center renamed as the Community Information Centre and visitors are regarded as integral parts of our community.
There is extensive information flow and community engagement. There are lots of ways of finding out, of being involved in the diversity of debate, discussion and activities, which are taking place. The Shire is renowned for its relationship with its neighbours, for its innovation in community engagement and participation, for its civic pride.
We have become deliberate in our creation of common wealth. We have become skilled builders of community. We have learnt how to really include people in all their diversity, so that everyone feels able to share their gifts. We have renamed the Shire and it's now The Commonwealth of Indigo.
Listening to me, you might think its very similar to how things are now - perhaps - but the difference would be that this future has been created with intention, with design and with clarity about the purpose. The "how" it is done would be what matters.
And how do we do it? During the conversations we talked about how we might go about this magical undertaking. In bringing this talk towards its conclusion, I would seek your indulgence for just a few minutes while I share with you some of our ideas.
I have summarized it down to 6 steps.
1. A vision - beginning with the end in mind
2. Clear principles for the design - a charter, a map
3. Solid foundations, on going resourcing and maintenance
4. Method for on going communication to keep the vision alive
And processes for checking, implementing, reviewing
6. A process for developing community leadership and trust to enable the people to have the resources and commitment to follow the plan,
The vision of Indigo Shire as outlined in the strategic plan has some great words "A united prosperous and admired community enriching our environment, heritage and rural lifestyle. A great place to live, work and visit." I'd be happy with this.
As part of the conversations Bernard has begun some thinking about this. A set of words and key principles and a process which the community would agree to abide by in the development of the future of Beechworth.
Preserving the Solid Foundations
The physical buildings and landscape foundations already exist; we would need to ensure they remain strong and there is ongoing maintenance and resourcing.
During the time of the conversations the idea of a Beechworth Heritage Trust was floated. Tammy - economic development office with the Shire is working on this. A Philanthropic Trust, to which people make donations, perhaps a gold coin from each visitor. The money would be invested and the interest used to do what is needed. The Yackandandah Community Development Company has some great experience in this concept. (Only 4 years old and last year it had a total gross income of $2,304,749 an increase of 34.8% over the previous year and it donated $17,717 to community projects.)
There has also been some interesting work around young people and foundations. I'd be very keen to see the young people of Beechworth actively included in this process and special scholarships made available for them.
There is a role for our education providers - La Trobe, TAFE, and schools to be part of this process. The proposal was discussed that Beechworth become an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in learning the arts of restoration and maintenance and particularly in the trades of stone masonry and restoration. There would also be opportunities to explore other skills of which Beechworth has high reputation; for example art of building and maintaining community; B&B hospitality; the arts of caring and our art art.
Effective forms of communication are essential. Ideally a local community newspaper would fill this function. Hopefully it would be the O &M Advertiser playing a key role. Gabrielle and Andrea have begun work on this. They are planning to run classes at the BNC on ways to increase the use of the newspaper by community groups.
Some sort of Beechworth community forum is also needed. A regular meeting place for the groups within the community to gather, share information and act as a sounding board for all levels of government. This forum could also provide a process for passing the vision on. For checking its relevance and regular review and change. Noelene Allen - after next weekend - she is coordinating the Kelly program - has expressed interest in getting something happening along the lines of a Beechworth Community forum.
Linked to the need for a Beechworth forum is that of a Shire wide forum. An event where all the communities and groups within the Shire could gather to share information and ideas. Once a year a facilitated process which would bring together elements of a conference, a workshop, a market place, a community consultation and a celebration. This process, known as Our Indigo Day, could be especially relevant for projects such as the current review of the Municipal Strategy Statement (MSS) and building the Indigo Shire strategic plan.
Importantly these forums would need to build close relationships with our neighbouring municipalities. We could learn so much from Wodonga, Wangaratta, Alpine, Towong and Moira. There is enormous potential for cooperation, learning and partnerships.
Underpinning all these strategies is strong, skilled community leadership. Our experience with the conversations shows there is interest in a more formal approach to building and supporting community leaders through the provision of an Indigo Shire Community Leadership program. Such a program could build on the work of the Alpine Valleys Community Leadership Program and be targeted at those who are already playing key roles in our community - the secretary, treasurers, presidents - and support them in this work.
One of the responsibilities of these community leaders would be measuring and reporting to the community on progress against the plan. This is where the concept of Gross Domestic Happiness would really come into its own.
It may be a grand vision, but I don't think it is too unrealistic. My experience with the Kerferd conversations has clearly demonstrated there is the interest. With the exception of the leadership program, there are minimal costs. We have the skills in our community. We have the resources. We have the people. We have the motivation. And I believe we have the vision.
In closing: There is a story told that Napoleon was sending his soldiers to invade Russia. It was summer, very hot and there was no shade. Neapolitan ordered his soldiers to plant some trees. "But they will take 100 years to grow" the soldiers complained. "Well then we had better hurry" Napoleon is quoted as saying "there is clearly not a moment to lose."
400 years or150 years, whichever time frame we choose, there is not a moment to lose:
To join us in a celebration of our common wealth - our community, our heritage, our future, we invite you to join us for lunch. To make a beginning.
As we did during all the Kerferd meals we ask that you turn to your neighbour and say Hello and answer/ask the question 'What is Beechworth's gift to you?"
And afterwards you may like to think about becoming involved in one of the projects, or create your own. You may like to think about organizing a neighbourly BBQ. Or having conversations which start with.... imagine if...
Delivered at Beechworth July 2006.