This vision is written from a perspective of what the district will be like in the year 2030. To understand it, readers will need to imagine that the year is 2030.
A critical key to success lies with our people. Individuals have changed, but we retain a strong sense of continuity. Our new residents have brought with them a wide variety of experiences and skills, and they contribute to the shared values of our community.
Communities within Wider Gwydir work cooperatively towards shared goals while retaining their independence and unique identities. We have recognised that the diversity of our communities is a great strength. Each community has a better understanding of others’ qualities and special skills, and sharing those skills has developed local commercial benefits.
Community Skills and Training
Community development is conscious and deliberate. We have invested and continue to invest in training across all age groups. Skills include leadership, listening and learning, customer service and personal development. We regularly conduct a skills audit throughout our communities, and this surprises in the depths of interests and talents it reveals.
Our communities are now more optimistic, resilient, outward looking and cohesive. Volunteer groups remain the backbone of the community, and we now have a depth of participation and management which is extraordinary. This forms part of the rich matrix which attracts like minded people to our communities.
Talking to each other
Communication is excellent: Between GSC and the community, community groups and members, residents and visitors, businesses and customers, and between different demographic groups in different geographic areas. Communication is taught as a skill in schools and community service groups, and the use of different mediums is understood.
Young people develop speaking skills, confidence and civic pride through community radio. Whatever communication platforms exist, we are using them.
The Gwydir Directory provides a comprehensive list of residents and businesses and is expressed in 2030’s format. Attention to detail has ensured all residents are included, wherever they live.
GSC understands how each community accesses information and uses this to ensure effective consultation about important decisions. ‘Log-jams’ in communication between GSC staff and the residents of smaller settlements have been addressed.
Community Participation and Engagement
Our strong sense of community is in marked contrast to that in our major urban environments. It is one of the most important things which stands us apart, and is proving a significant attraction to people suffering the disconnect that comes with city living. People come to Gwydir wishing to contribute.
New residents with relevant skills are canvassed through targeted promotions. Rural living requires specific social skills and a measure of independence and resilience; by attracting people with these qualities, a critical mass of population is retained and so are important services. Whilst privacy is respected, new residents are not isolated by the lack of opportunities to socialise.
Physical infrastructure, such as gardens, halls and libraries, as well as improved social interaction are encouraging socially engaged people to join us.
We have re-thought volunteerism, recognizing that many people do not want to sit on traditional committees. Volunteerism is now largely task-based, pitched to skills and interests. Participants have the opportunity to dip in and out of volunteering roles as they have the interest and the time.
The focus of new projects in the community has not been to make busy volunteers busier, but to free people to contribute in their area of interest, and to create more paid employment within Wider Gwydir.
Community groups have the opportunity to use shared administrative facilities, allowing better access to grant funding, as skilled staff members are available to help with applications.
A broad cross-section of the community volunteers, helping new residents to integrate and making younger people more engaged, as well as providing succession in long-established volunteer groups.
Our communities are more multicultural, and richer for the experience. To reach this point required much discussion, education and planning to ensure that our new arrivals feel at home, and our older communities are welcoming.
Up to 5% of local residents (350 people) are from migrant families who have brought with them new skills and ideas. Warialda and Bingara take turns to celebrate Harmony Day, showcasing different cultures and bringing our communities together.
Residents and visitors have a better understanding of the area’s indigenous history, including differences between the northern Bigumbul/Kamilaroi and southern Weraerai tribe. Marked trees, grinding grooves and stone artifacts are used to illustrate the pre-European era. The tragedy of the Myall Creek Massacre destroyed the greater part of the Weraerai, but modern inhabitants, who arrived long after that event, appreciate its importance in developing the nation’s 21st century consciousness. The site was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2008.
The Myall Creek Memorial site, visited by an estimated 5% of Gwydir tourists in 2016, now forms part of an integrated visitor experience that includes TLC permanent ‘welcome to country’, the bush tucker garden and the Weaving Water Way. It is a major destination for recreational vehicle travellers, bus tours and bikers, culminating in the annual commemoration ceremony held during the June long weekend. Reproductions of dendroglyphs from the Mungle Scrub (North Star) and Keera, made with the consent of Aboriginal elders, are on public display and provide markers guiding visitors towards Myall Creek.
Education and life skills
Gwydir has exceptional education infrastructure, including schools and trade training centres for agriculture, hospitality and motor vehicle maintenance. These are now fully ulitised. Our education system has strong links to the community.
Primary schools continue to flourish and more realistic funding arrangements mean that parents in smaller schools can ensure adequate programming for their children.
The loss of pupils to larger regional towns and boarding schools has been reduced as more residents and parents take an active interest in education. Local residents and groups work with education staff to improve leadership and establish our schools as centres of excellence.
Each high school focuses on what it does best and students use facilities across the shire; for example, the Warialda TTC for automotive courses, TLC for horticulture and sustainability, the Roxy for visual and performing arts, and the Roxy café for hospitality training. These external facilities allow a focus on life skills, imagination, personal growth and stimulation.
Gwydir Learning Region is embraced by both high schools, and pathways through the education system are improved for those who choose a trade. Suitable support exists for home schooling.
Adult, and especially young adult, illiteracy is better understood and classes are readily available to help those who fell through cracks in the education system.
The issue of drug addiction is acknowledged, with safety nets and rehabilitation programs available locally. Whilst support is given to those who have had exposure to drugs, our communities have zero tolerance for drug dealers.
A sheltered workshop is established and financially disadvantaged residents are helped by a food bank.
A place for all ages
Gwydir communities offer families a safe and stimulating environment: the toy library, play groups, mobile pre-school and child care facilities allow the very young to interact and provides emotional support for mothers. Established community gardens and play areas provide a natural playground and gathering place.
Sporting facilities and clubs abound; children can safely move around the urban area of our small towns in a way that they cannot in larger ones, whilst libraries and swimming pools provide safe after-school activities for older children.
Young adults are excited to be here and to contribute; schools, communities and sporting clubs provide a sound education, a sense of responsibility, strong values, and enthusiasm and excitement for life.
Interaction between all age groups happens through volunteering, sport, theatre and community gardens. Gwydir makes sure that no group is isolated because of age. Attention is given to interaction between the residents of Naroo and Touriandi and the broader community, especially children, and fund-raising for both facilities is another point of social contact.