16 September 2015
Last week,members of the Paroo Shirecommunity came together to participate in a three-day Leaders’ Collaboration Workshop with the overall aim of overcoming a cycle of disadvantage that has undermined their south-west Queensland region.
Held in Cunnamulla’s Town Hall, the workshop kicked off with an Aboriginal smoking ceremony and a welcome to country – tributes to the region’s proud Aboriginal heritage.
Forming part of a ‘Whole of Community Change’ program, the workshop was commissioned by Kerry Crumblin, CEO of Cunnamulla Aboriginal Community Health (CACH), in consultation with the Paroo Shire Council. A key objective was for participants to identify core values and community-led solutions to local issues, and to create a visionary 10 year plan for the future development of their Shire.
Working through group sessions participants came up with five core values: community engagement, working together, accountability, community ownership and community sustainability. Day three concluded with the group reaching agreement on a vision statement for the Shire: With vision and unity we grow together.
The workshop’s facilitator, Annalise Jennings, explained the workshop was about shifting the conversation – from discussing problems across the community to creating possibilities for the future.
Possibilities that encompass the essential pillars of a healthy community: social wellbeing, community-owned infrastructure and services, direct employment and business partnerships.
Ms Jennings emphasised that this community is not a problem to be solved but is full of potential that needs to be recognised and supported.
“Creating a connected community is about respecting differences and identifying common goals and values, she said.”
Ms Jennings explained that the Whole of Community Change framework opens the door for the community to create a vision and be supported by policy makers and service providers in making it a reality.
The three-day workshop follows extensive focus groups and discussion sessions undertaken over the past several months, which involved input from more than 430 Paroo locals. In addition, 200 residents completed community questionnaires and surveys offering suggestions for economic opportunity, positive social change and community growth.
Those surveyed included Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents – school students, young people, farmers, retailers, unemployed people, local councillors and local service providers. The focus of this extensive community engagement has been to understand the hopes and aspirations the community.
One highlight of the community engagement was a full-day youth motivational session ‘Your Voice Matters’which involved 60 students from Cunnamulla State School creating wish lists and setting goals for the future of their community.
CACH CEO Kerry Crumblin said that although it’s early days and generational disadvantage doesn’t go away overnight, the outcomes so far are very encouraging.
“People are walking a little taller and there’s a general feeling of empowermentthat was missing before – the community now realises it has the capacity to address the entrenched disadvantage that many of our peopleface, she said.
“What’s especially heartening is the way people, who would not normally associate with one another, worked together during the workshop to identify common values. And now we’re all on the same page, Cunnamulla can continue working together to change the record for a better future.”
Cr Lindsay Godfrey Julie Fox
Paroo Shire Council Cunnamulla Aboriginal Community Health