Leading Australian Resilient Communities

Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) was a national pilot program supporting regional communities to meet challenges and collectively drive the positive changes they want to see in their region. It recognises that true resilience is not merely about ‘coping’ or ‘surviving’, but about change, readiness and opportunity.

Delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and the Regional Australia Institute in partnership with Leadership Victoria, Leadership WA, Tasmanian Leaders, the Leaders Institute of South Australia, and the Australian Resilience Centre.

Building resilient communities together

Funded by the Australian Government’s $5 million Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot) commitment, LARC took place in ten regions. Each of them affected by floods, bushfires, drought, the pandemic and unique social challenges. The program included community-based future forums, place-based leadership development sessions, coaching and a webinar series. Participants in each region identified challenges and opportunities using Regional Australia Institute data and designed community initiatives to help address these.

“I had never been on a leadership course where they’ve taken us out bush. It was restorative to meet leaders from other sectors and get to know their experiences. We’re too siloed in Alice Springs and most programs are centrally managed through Darwin. [LARC] created a network of connected advocates, and the mix of representatives was spot-on.”
Cassie Arnold
Director of Regional Coordination, Alice Springs
Participants in 28 one-day regional future forums.
“My a-ha moment was that you could take a group of people who didn’t know each other and, through an exercise of storytelling, nurture a deep connection. The value of sharing stories and being vulnerable created a shared sense of commitment, understanding, and empathy with each other in a short time.”
Rebecca O’Leary
Environmental Consultant, Clare Valley

43 community action initiatives

LARC participants in all regions worked in project teams to focus on a complex issue in their community as part of their leadership development. Project team members collaborated to make observations about how their selected issue is currently being addressed, used relevant data to assess and confirm the issue and listened to diverse stories to ensure multiple perspectives were considered. As a team, they applied their leadership learnings to ideate, explore and agree on an approach to the issue that they then presented at local community forums.

Creating a skills bank for ongoing connection

Creating a resource to support ongoing connection and skill sharing of LARC participants post-graduation in Tasmania.

Improving succession planning

A forum to consider diversifying land use and improving succession planning for the Tasmanian North-West Coastal agriculture sector.

Experiential learning for young people

Rethinking education to connect young people with community members to provide experiential learning opportunities in Tasmania.

Resilient and ethical leadership training

Training or a tool to support elected local government members lead in resilient and ethical ways in Tasmania.

Mapping mental health services

Working with the Burnie Works community organisation to map mental health services and gaps in the region.

Stimulating tourism

Improving signage and building in ‘things to do’ along a pathway connecting Wynyard and Burnie to stimulate tourism.

Facilitate local knowledge sharing

A process for connecting members and alumni from Gippsland community projects and programs to facilitate local sharing of knowledge, skills and resources.

Understanding systemic issues in sports group

Be Well Gippsland is a self-audit questionnaire/survey that focuses on understanding and making progress on systemic (adaptive) issues within sports groups that negatively impact on well-being.

Helping community groups initiate projects

Get Tanked is the development and launch of a blueprint that guides community groups through the key steps of initiating a project in Victoria.

Addressing technology and social media impacts

Exploring how leaders and existing mental health groups can work together to address the impact of technology and social media on youth mental health in the Rivers to Plains region.

Challenging mindsets of young people towards learning

A co-designed, practical approach to challenge the mindset change that COVID has caused among young people towards learning, and the worrying decline in essential life skills due to reliance on digital technology, online services and AI in the Rivers to Plains region.

Bridging the digital divide

Bridging the divide between country and city in relation to digital connectivity in addressing access, affordability and education in the Rivers to Plains region. Since the group began this project, telco and related businesses have requested more information on how to get involved.

Lifestyle security in the Rivers to Plains

Exploring the role of community gardens, food networks and local food systems on building strong local partnerships in the Rivers to Plains region. Produce shortages due to flood impacts on the transport sector highlighted how these gardens can sustain communities.​

Empowering community-led initiatives

Empowering community-led disaster response initiatives by fostering connections and bringing groups together to share knowledge, skills and resources, and support towards common goals in the Northern Rivers region.

Listening and responding to community matters

Community matters in the Northern Rivers improves impact by ensuring community concerns are listened and responded to. It will be driven by a group of locals including subject matter experts who will combine their skills, knowledge and networks to drive action and outcomes.

Creating a leadership network

Create and promote a collaborative network of leaders in the Northern Rivers region who are available and on standby to help communities as required.

Promoting collaboration for community connection

Exploring strategies to promote effective collaboration. This has been recognised as a widespread challenge among communities and support is needed to overcome it in the Charters Towers and Townsville regions.

Removing biases in decision-making

Aiming to highlight the dangers of bias by decision-makers that often leads to inappropriate solutions for communities. The group wants to see a shift in how challenges are addressed and advocate for greater awareness in decision-making processes in the Charters Towers and Townsville regions.

Progressing youth issues

Assessing the progress made against existing recommendations on addressing youth issues, including youth crime, in the Charters Towers and Townsville regions.

Increasing youth engagement

With an overarching vision of making local communities in the Wide Bay Burnett more liveable for youth, the aim is to increase engagement by youth via additional questions, to be included in the 2023 Australian Liveability Census.

Breaking the cycle of multigenerational unemployment

Investigating strategies and resources to drive meaningful conversations and action to positively impact and break the cycle of multigenerational unemployment in the Wide Bay Burnett region.

Listening toolkit for community leaders

Developing a toolkit that provides resources and examples for how community leaders can better listen to communities and engage them in the design of initiatives to meet real community needs in the Wide Bay Burnett region.

Establishing a unified regional voice

Creating the Wide Bay Burnett profile - a resource to help residents effectively advocate, share priorities and target funding requests to the right people in the right places.

Improving community health and wellbeing

A pilot project to improve community health literacy, access, and ultimately timely and appropriate health interventions (focused initially on the South Burnett region).

Youth support services and cultural immersion

Ensuring local youth in the southern Northern Territory and Alice Springs get the adequate support services and cultural immersion.

Taking control of the local story

Taking control of the southern Northern Territory's and Alice Spring's regional story through a community newsletter rather than outside media and external biases. The newsletter will prioritise community connection and unity and sharing genuine, locally-driven stories from the region.

Tackling family and domestic violence

A community approach to tackling domestic and family violence by supporting those involved to talk openly about challenges and working together to address them in the Southern Northern Territory and Alice Springs region.

Reducing homelessness

A community conversation exploring new ways to improve community wellbeing and reducing homelessness in Port Pirie, South Australia.

Hosting community conversations

‘What does a thriving Port Pirie look like?’A facilitated conversation looking at community connections, whether that be through services or building stronger relationships with each other.

Discussing green futures

Enviro Legends is a significant conversation about the desired green future for the Clare and Barossa Valley region, exploring how to preserve and protect the cherished aspects of the region's natural environment.

Retaining young people

Discussing what's important to locals about this challenge and exploring ways to foster youth engagement and local employment within the Clare community and effective strategies and initiatives to help retain young people in the region.

Improving access and connection for young people

Aiming to connect and engage local youth in the Goldfields Esperance region with a sponsored bus service. Youth aged 12 to 17 will be able to better access and benefit from greater opportunities in their community.

Sharing regional images and art

The community ‘PAIntbrush’ initiative aims to generate community conversation and create the ideal image and art of the region’s communities to promote regional living and celebrate a shared vision in the Goldfields Esperance region.

Activating local markets

Activating a local market to showcase Kalgoorlie-Boulders multiculturalism, connect the community, celebrate diversity, promote a sense of belonging and community cohesion, share knowledge, skills and cultures.

Improving community health and wellbeing

Development of an Esperance Compassionate Community Charter (a set of guiding principles) that will guide Esperance decision-makers in identifying and prioritising programs to improve community health and wellbeing for a resilient and cohesive community.

Introducing a neighbour day

Introduction of ‘Neighbour Day’ as a way of bringing people together and creating a sense of belonging within the Esperance and Goldfields community. The project aims to improve the liveability of the region and forge stronger community connections and resilience in times of need.

Establishing a community workspace

Creating a vibrant, professional space for Esperance-based small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn, collaborate, innovate and grow.

Creating a boy's mentoring network

Lifting the level of mentoring of young men by identifying and supporting existing mentors in Western Australia's Midwest Coastal region. The group believes more male role models can provide positive guidance to disadvantaged young men and benefit local communities more broadly.

Progressing local projects

Collaborating to support and progress three existing community projects: The Muster Point – an Indigenous tourism on Country opportunity; Assessment of infrastructure gaps and opportunities for liveability and growth in Kalbarri, Western Australia; Development of a 10-year strategic plan for a local swimming club.

Connecting isolated communities

Improving accessibility and inclusiveness for isolated communities in Western Australia's Midwest Coastal region by raising awareness of local activities and resources that offer community connection, physical and emotional well-being, mentoring and job opportunities.

Improving existing mentoring programs

Improving access to existing mentoring programs, training and activities for vulnerable youth through collaboration, training and support in Western Australia's Midwest Coastal region.

Preserving local cultural sites

Exploring the elements impacting on the Southgates Dune Area in Australia's Midwest Coastal region and nearby registered Aboriginal burial site, which will contribute to its future stability and use.

Employment pathways for youth and disadvantaged

Stimulating supported training and employment pathways for at risk youth and existing workers, disadvantaged and older people in Western Australia's Midwest Coastal community.

It’s time to get off the fence for Ellie Tonkin 

Queensland’s Fraser Coast is known for green walls of sugar cane, white sandy beaches, and of course, the renowned Bundaberg Rum distillery. It’s a reputation that hasn’t changed much…

Generosity of spirit guides Cheryl’s leadership journey

Wiradjuri elder, Aunty Cheryl Penrith OAM, has an open-armed approach to life, and a passion for embracing opportunities at every turn. It’s a way of being that reflects the…

The LARC effect: From culture-shocked to confident 

When Sal Allen left the Gold Coast and pointed her car in the direction of South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula, she was ready to start a new life. The former…

Strong network of leaders on hand to combat media storm of negativity in Alice Springs

Cassie Arnold is an Arrernte woman from Mparntwe—a self-described ‘Alice Springs girl’. She loves the area for its diversity, the characters it attracts, and its unique landscape and weather….

Youth services a priority for Western Australian local politician

When Tracey Rathbone is describing her family’s move to Western Australia, it’s hard not to conjure mental images of the settling of America’s wild west. Setting off from eastern…

Succession planning on the farm seen as crucial to regional resilience

Stafford Ives-Heres farms in the North-West of Tasmania, in a ruggedly scenic area fringed by the deep blue, cool clear waters of the Bass Strait.  Surrounded by inspiring natural…

Claire’s transformative experience during LARC program

On the 28 February 2022, Claire Sowden told her husband she ‘had a thing she had to do’ and he needed to cook dinner. ‘That thing’ was co-ordinating the…

Solutions in Alice Springs start with supporting families in crisis

With deep community connections in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, Tania Kells uses three main tools to uplift her community: education, access, and compassion.  Tania Kells’ ancestors—the Wakka Wakka People—are Native Title…

Goldfields leaders tackle tyranny of distance

It is early in the day, but already the sun has a bite that is a portend to the savage heat that lies ahead on a February day in…

Inspiring Wide Bay Burnett youth to aspire

An area of great innovation of everything from coral growing to automated boats, Wide Bay Burnett also faces significant social and climate-related challenges, making it an ideal location for…

Townsville employer commits to dramatically decreasing youth crime

Townsville is the biggest regional centre in Queensland. It’s famous for access to the Great Barrier Reef, the gateway to outback Queensland and Jonathan Thurston.   In recent years Townsville…

Georgetown LARC graduate commits to sustainable change for local health services

With an official population of 300 people, the Georgetown community is a tight knit one. Situated at the gateway to the Gulf of Carpentaria, locals are accustomed to driving…

Leading Australian Resilient Communities graduates harness compassion to create a better future

Compassion is being harnessed by a leadership network in Esperance determined to foster a healthier and stronger community. They’re graduates of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program and…

Need for proactive preparation for natural disasters in Northern Rivers

The New South Wales Northern Rivers region has faced a torrent of adversity over the last few years. Between complicated COVID border restrictions, a blistering drought and then record…

Collaborative regional leaders bring their key learnings to the nation’s capital 

The Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program, which focused on building leadership skills through a local lens, last week celebrated 12 months of success, and impact across the country. …

Connections increase digital connectivity in the Rivers to the Plains region

A group of Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) graduates from the NSW- Victorian border is taking on a complex issue which threatens their community’s wellbeing. Through the Bridge the…

Digital technology and community sports both part of patchwork that forms resilience in regions

A banking career is probably not what Andrew Hannaford had in mind during his younger years, mustering sheep at Goolgumbla Station on achingly cold mornings, fingers frozen and with…

Latrobe and Gippsland LARC graduate strives to connect people to community

Tragedy has marked Dean Sutton’s leadership journey, but failed to derail his commitment to his community, serving instead to underline the importance of its resilience. Dean spent his early…

Looking inward for a stronger sense of community in Kalbarri

Ellen Nightingale says ‘yes, I was a nurse when I was younger,’ with the weariness of someone who has been responding to predictable questions about her name for a…

Leading through crisis into a resilient future for the Northern Rivers

If you hadn’t heard of the Northern Rivers region of NSW before February 2022, it’s likely that the horrific floods changed that. While news understandably focused on the 14-metre…

Jobs boost key to Fraser Coast’s future resilience

For decades Mark Lourigan has enjoyed an idyllic life on Queensland’s central east coast, lured by a good job, stunning beach views and an affordable lifestyle. He believes more…

Rivers to Plains graduate sees the future in today’s young people

Angelique Bennett was deeply affected by the closure of the Savernake Primary School in 2021.  Like all schools in regional Australia, the small three student primary school was a…

LARC project targets compassion as a quality enabling better community engagement and resilience 

Lori-Ann Shibish’s work as a community engagement practitioner means that she has seen the way forced change can affect cohesion when imposed without good leadership and genuine consultation.  Originally…

Strengthening the leadership ecosystem is all about building trust

When Rebecca O’Leary was a team leader on Raoul Island, her biggest accomplishment was that nobody died on her watch. It sounds dramatic because it is. Raoul Island is…

Encouraging breadth and depth in education an important part of strengthening resilience in Tasmania’s North-West

Fossil Bluff beach is at one end of Jacqueline de Jonge’s Wynyard street, and at the other the Inglis River flows, wandering from the Campbell Ranges before ending its…

Six-part national webinar series

Specifically designed in collaboration to facilitate engaging discussions and provide valuable insights on relevant issues and concepts, the series brought together participants and community members from across the nation to interact with renowned national thinkers and knowledge experts, fostering a collective exploration of key topics.

Place-based approaches

How to partner and collaborate with others on an issue or project.

Co-design principles

How community collaboration can improve local outcomes.

Facilitating funding

How to make the most of regional funding opportunities.

Talking tough topics

How to have difficult conversations, successfully.

Regional wellbeing

What does wellbeing really mean and how we achieve it.

Cultural connections

The importance of networks, contacts and the power of alumni.

“LARC helped me better understand my own values and leadership style, which strengthened my capacity to work alongside those who see and engage with the world differently to me.”
Rohan Prowse
Community Lead, Geraldton

Coaching unlocks leadership potential

Collaboration and coaching were key parts of the LARC program. Empowering participants to navigate the unique challenges they face in their communities and leadership roles. With a focus on fostering growth and driving impactful change, the coaching component has proven to be invaluable to participants’ personal and community development.

Guiding regional groups to take action

The program's experienced coaches worked closely with groups from each region, guiding them in creating, designing, and implementing Community Action Initiatives. This hands-on approach ensured that participants gain the practical skills and knowledge needed to make a real difference in their communities.

Empowering impactful leadership

Participant feedback highlights the immense value of our coaching program in enabling them to have a meaningful impact within their community. By complementing their leadership learnings, our coaches helped participants unleash their full potential, driving positive change that resonates both personally and professionally.

Experienced coaches with a purpose

The coaching team consisted of seasoned professionals. These coaches have a deep understanding of the challenges faced by regional leaders. Their expertise and guidance ensure that participants receive the highest level of support on their leadership journey.

Dr Kim Houghton

Regional Australia Institute

Deanna Hutchinson

Regional Australia Institute

Susan Benedyka

The Regional Development Company, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate

Gary Saliba

Strategic Journeys Consulting, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation alum

Dr Anna Carr

Anna Carr Competencies, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation alum

Dorne Wallace

Greater Whitsunday Communities

Antoinette Du Toitt
Greater Whitsunday Communities
Tanya O'Shea
IMPACT Community Services Bundaberg
Jo Clarke
Leadership WA
Jon Eddy
Leadership Victoria Associate
Maree McPherson

Maree McPherson Leadership Coaching

Mark Answerth
Committee for Gippsland
Erika McInerney
Committee for Gippsland
Sarah Ballantine
Leaders Institute of South Australia
Cathie Brown
Leaders Institute of South Australia
Josie McLean
Leaders Institute of South Australia associate
Ben Pangas
Be. Accredited Counsellor and Executive Coach, Tasmania
Tanya Lehmann
Aurora Meliora, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate
Tony Liston
Beyond Performance Leadership
Dr Chao Shi

Regional Australia Institute, Senior Researcher

Luke Jeffress

Regional Australia Institute, Senior Researcher

Dr Ziyang Zou

Regional Australia Institute, Senior Researcher

“After the LARC program I am feeling more empowered to push for change through the platforms I currently have access to, and to put myself forward to seed further growth.”
Ellie Tonkin
Marketing Manager, Bundaberg

Uniting facilitation, data, and resilience for regional success

The combined resources and facilitator experience of the ARLF, Regional Australia Institute, Leadership Victoria, Leadership WA, Leaders Institute of South Australia and Tasmanian Leaders represented a unique consortium of expertise in developing this leadership to benefit regional and rural Australia.

The unique curriculum developed six leadership practices enriched with practical expertise on-the-ground, RAI data insights for each region and exploring system resilience – all taking place in a residential and immersive environment allowing for strong bonds to be formed.  

Andrew Bryant

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

Simone Carroll-Germech

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

Andrea Hogg

Australian Rural Leadership Foundation

Liz Ritchie
Regional Australia Institute
Dr Kim Houghton

Regional Australia Institute

Deanna Hutchinson

Regional Australia Institute

Anita Kuss

Regional Australia Institute

Paul Ryan
Australian Resilience Centre
Sarah McGregor

Leaders Institute of South Australia associate

Angela Driver
Tasmanian Leaders
Joanna Giannes

Leaders Institute of South Australia

Jo Clarke
Leadership WA
Jon Eddy
Leadership Victoria associate
Lynda Jones
The NOA Group
Benny Callaghan
Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate
Annette Simpson
Murri Matters associate, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation alumn
Sarah Ballantine
Leaders Institute of South Australia
Cathie Brown
Leaders Institute of South Australia
Josie McLean
Leaders Institute of South Australia associate
Ben Pangas
Be. Accredited Counsellor and Executive Coach, Tasmania
Tanya Stevenson
Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation alum
Adam Smith
Reef Ecologic, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate
Briony Arnold

Jouerdine Consultancy, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate

Liz Brennan

AgDots, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation associate

“To me, community resilience is being able to form deep partnerships with other leaders both within my and neighbouring communities that means whatever comes along we can quickly tackle anything together.”
Mark Lourigan
Executive Manager, Bundaberg

Want to know more?

Download the national wrap up event brochure.

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