A community of people, brought together by common location and common experience has a power big business and government cannot match. It’s a strength forged like that from the blood ties of a family and something people in the country understand very well.
However, it’s a power that in many cases has been hibernating for 30 years only appearing at times of extreme hardship and adversity, such as in a bushfire, flood or drought.
Our society has been increasingly caught up in busier lives, focused on consumption and somewhat neglectful of the inherent potential of our communities.
This has led to a high level of dependence on government and big business to solve problems that we just don’t seem to have time for anymore. For the most part, government and big business have benefitted from this trend to dependence, so it wouldn’t make sense from their viewpoint, to want to encourage communities to be more independent.
A few nights ago in Goomalling, over 120 local people and some outsiders, demonstrated that this 3 decade trend is changing. They attended the modest Living Communities™ launch event celebrating Goomalling’s small businesses, community groups and its community spirit.
The turnout represented about 10 percent of the Shire’s population and included; seniors, baby boomers, Gen X, Y and Z, parents, local dignitaries, business people, farmers, teachers and artists, just to name a few.
Strange, because Living Communities is an economic development program not a rock star! Something’s is afoot, if ten per cent of a Shire turnout for an event championing local economic development.
Perhaps it was the free food, perhaps it was the band or perhaps it was something deeper than that. Although the food and band were brilliant I’m guessing it was something else.
Personally I believe the turnout was indicative of citizens deciding that maybe, just maybe, all these well meaning bureaucrats with university degrees in economics don’t really know anything about the real world after all…all the ‘rational’ solutions and programs they have offered haven’t delivered on the promises over the years and like true country people, communities in places like the Wheatbelt are saying ‘thanks, but it’s our turn now, you’ve had a good go.’
Perhaps is just a return to the natural order of things - local people generating local solutions.
Goomalling residents realize that they are actually the people in charge. They proved that to themselves in 10 years ago when they lost their banks and became one of the first places in Western Australia to obtain a community bank.
They did it again with their medical services.
Now they are about to attempt to build resilience into their whole economy by first deciding what sort of community they want to be in 5 or 10 years, then discovering where the money is leaking out of town and what enterprises are missing that could keep that money in for longer so more businesses and more people get to benefit from it.
The process of discovery and the decisions to plug certain financial leaks will all be down to Goomalling residents, not Living Town’s consultants, not the shire or even state and federal government bureaucrats.
The work and actions required to turn ideas from discovery and decision into reality will be challenging but fulfilling and not every idea will work, but that is the nature of entrepreneurial activity.
This enjoyable, challenging and lengthy task must be the responsibility of the residents of Goomalling because only their blood, sweat and tears will ensure they have full control and full ownership of their future. Of course it’s not easy and it takes maturity, dedication and a degree of risk. But as Loretta Johnston, the Goomalling telecentre manager said in a speech on Thursday night, “This community was founded by pioneers and we’ve always been pioneers. We’re pioneering again, it’s something we’re bloody good at.”