Dr Helen Sheil
The Developing Ourselves–Developing Community project provided learning and skills development for people living in and/or working with rural communities in Gippsland.
It was recognised that these communities are increasingly taking on new responsibilities to support their families and communities socially, economically and environmentally. Most generally there is no support provided to enable these new responsibilities to be undertaken.
Through the extensive networks of the Centre for Rural Communities local and regional, paid and unpaid workers from a diverse variety of backgrounds were enrolled in the Graduate Certificate of Regional Community Development.
As part of their education these workers established 15 study circles in local communities. Each study circle involved an average of 8 local people who – through the process of the study circle’s focus of learning from local situations – gained valuable (and TAFE accredited) skills in personal and community development. Strategies to work together, overcome past divisions and facilitate activities that promote community interaction are the fundamental basis of the learning.
The project was structured to enable ‘levels of learning’ to benefit a broad cross section of the community. This strategy ensured that skills remain in the community (and continue to develop) well past the formal end of the project. The levels include the Graduate Certificate, the TAFE level with the study circles, observational learning for those community people who attend ‘events’ that form part of the study circle participants ‘hands on’ learning, participation by committee members and students in the regional affair forum and the opportunity for some to present at a national conference.
The Developing Ourselves – Developing Community project aimed to achieve the following objectives:
- Increase the skill of local people through accredited training and participatory practice to ensure community building skills are accessible within local communities for the long term.
- Strengthen the engagement of people in community life by increasing the number and diversity of people involved in community building activities and community decision making at a local level.
- Strengthen community capacity and build problem solving capability to enable communities to positively overcome issues of local concern.
- Facilitate broader and more cooperative networks between communities to develop stronger support frameworks and alliances across the region.
- Support the establishment of ventures able to re-invest in communities in order to build social, cultural, economic, environmental, political, personal and spiritual capital.