Goongerah is a small hamlet situated 70km from Orbost. It is nestled between the Errinundra and Snowy River National Parks and is dissected by two rivers, the Goongerah Creek and the Brodribb River. There is a population of about 60 people, with another 35 or so absentee landholders. There is a P-8 school with 12 kids and 4 staff. There is also a community hall, CFA shed, food co-operative, and a long history of community-run enterprises in the town, including a community bank, two environment groups, and numerous other community groups. There are no shops, no TV reception and intermittent radio reception.
The Goongerah Study Circle
The inaugural Goongerah study circle was started in June 2006. It consisted of 9 people, four men and five women, ranging in ages from late 20’s to early 50’s. Six of the nine had children living with them and there was a mixture of employed, self-employed and unemployed people in the group. There was also a mixture of landholders and tenants in the group.
Themes identified by the group
Lack of education services were identified as something that is affecting our community. The lack of high school education means that people have to leave Goongerah when their children reach year 9 or even earlier. The lack of adult education means that people are travelling long distances to access education. Although there are some more flexible learning opportunities, education is one of the reasons that people leave the community and has an economic and social impact on the community.We would like to see options for education, both for children and adults explored.
Some ideas include
- More flexible high school delivery
- Encouraging exchange students/overseas students, leading to increased knowledge base and cultural diversity
- Skillsharing by members of the community
- A more holistic system of education
Lack of employment is a major issue in the community. Most of the group had to leave the valley and travel long distances for their work. Travel time and cost is affecting everyone in the group, which has flow-on impacts on the community and family life. We would like to see an increase in the population of the valley, and lack of employment opportunities may prevent this from occurring. A difference between private and collective income has also been identified. As well as income, employment means independence. Some possibilities have been identified. They include
- Family day care
- Fostering Tourism
- Festival/ markets
- Home grown produce
- Grants eg. Bike path, wildlife, history
- Drama workshops
A lack of accommodation is preventing more people from living here. There is a need for short-term accommodation and long-term accommodation, especially if more kids are to be attracted to the area. There are empty houses in the valley in various states of repair, but not many opportunities to rent. There is a concern in the group for the homeless people in Goongerah. Some ideas to address the lack of accommodation include:
With the need for realistic goals that can be achieved with current resources, the group decided to undertake some projects around networking eg:
Networking is a collaborative engagement strategy and is compatible with valuing local skills and culture.
The end of the study circle occurred in November 2006. There were a number of ideas for projects, however none of them occurred immediately and there was a sense that the study circle had “failed” despite the acknowledgement by participants of increased confidence, skills and that the process had been worthwhile.
Comments by participants included:
A sober gathering of minds - constructive
Social contact - sharing ideas
Summarising at start really good
Potential has been realised - working together without ego, open forum
No pressure for outcomes or “save the world”
Commitment - everyone showing up
Going to other meetings and noticing dynamics, more confident to speak, taking skills to others
Learning to listen to others ideas
Most people want to continue the group after the course is over
The group wants to broaden the participation into the wider community
Applying the skills learnt into other community groups
Feedback from people has been that the experience is valuable,a worthwhile project to undertake, and have learnt facilitation skills and the need for ground rules and summarising in meetings
However, over December and January, after the official “end” of the study circle group, participants suddenly became extremely active in a community group that had started about a year earlier with a lot of enthusiasm, but that had been experiencing a lull over the winter months. This group is called the Goongerah and District Arts Education and Employment Group (G’DAEE) and is an incorporated association that started in December 2005. GDAEE was then used as a vehicle for some of the ideas that arose from the study circle, as well as from early meetings of the group which identified some projects that seemed to have widespread community support. These include:
1. Bike Track
A proposal for an off-road track that runs the length of Goongerah to be used for walking and pushbike riding, to enable safe access for school children to get to school, as well as recreational use by residents and tourists. The track could include interpretative information on the surrounding forest and history of the town, thereby incorporating history, environment and health and safety. An emphasis on using local knowledge and local people to build the track would provide employment, addressing some of the themes identified by the study circle group.
The project has been speeding along since January. A Victoria University student who did her placement with GDAEE for her community development course developed a proposal for the track. This was used to gain support from the Shire, vicroads and DSE, a now there is a promise of $55000 funding and the employment of a local person to manage the project.. This person has been liaising with the funding bodies and has met with officials on a number of occasions to mark out the first section of the track. There has also been two community walks, attended by 30 people, to identifiy a potential route.
2. Family Fun Day
A proposal for a family fun day arose from the study circle as a way to bring the community together with an event that could encompass a market, BBQ, kids activities and “test” some of the ideas for the community in a broader community setting. Ideas included the construction of a “community banner” to express why we like living here, as well as information distribution about GDAEE’s activities, local parks in the area and parenting information. There is to be an emphasis on locally made produce. A small activities grant has been received from the Shire to facilitate the event, which is proposed for October 2007.
A lack of childcare was identified as an issue for the community during the study circle. A grant was received by GDAEE from the Communities for children Local Initiatives Project to facilitate education of local people in order to provide more childcare locally. Ideas included Family Day Care, Certificate III in childcare to allow childcare in the children’s homes as well as in venue, with some support for the existing Remote Family Services weekly preschool, and after school activities. After receiving the grant we discovered some problems with this, as some of our ideas did not comply with government regulations. The initial confusion and difficulty in accessing information, as well as the feeling that we would not be able to do what we set out to do led to some inertia with the project. However, it seems that some of the things holding us back have now been lifted, including the Federal Government’s suspension of all “in venue” care. The project has been readvertised in the local newsletter this week (June 14 2007) and hopefully will progress now. There has been progress made on the after school care project, via the Goongerah School Council. Family Day Care is being proposed at two houses in Goongerah.