It is within communities that the complexity of an issue can be best understood.
Strong diverse rural communities are intrinsic to Australian culture, economy and society. The vulnerability and prosperity of rural and urban communities are inter-dependent through access to water, natural resources, food, fibre, fuel, recreation and lifestyle. Creating connections and partnerships to facilitate interaction between rural communities, government departments, the private sector, community organisations at all levels benefits from an investment in skills, knowledge and resources within communities.
In the absence of an Australian rural policy, rural people and communities were traumatically impacted by economic rationalist policies introduced in 1993 by the Victorian Kennett government. Policies of centralisation and privatisation regarded ‘bigger as better’ and rural communities of under 3,000 people as problematic. The Centre originated in 1995 to create a home where impact and complexity of issues could be better understood and responded to not in isolation but collaboration with knowledge, skills and resources.
At times of change, education has a critical role to play (Freire…) Concerned people included regional educators and regional development workers. Monash University provided a home for the Centre.
Community development frameworks of balanced development looked beyond outdated econ models and by using strategic questioning good practice. Views from within rural communities began to initiate conversations and relationships. Partnerships with tertiary institutions and philanthropic organisations were critical – this is an unfunded organisation – resources of the Centre are from project and contract work.
Designed into study circles – investing in democratic engagement – as in Sweden to provide access alongside mainstream education systems. Key to this – skilled facilitators – identifiable skill and knowledge gap – led to design and accreditation of professional development program at post-graduate level by Monash University.