Local government, farming and energy leadership network to drive positive change in renewables transition

Local government, farming and energy stakeholders are working together as part of a leadership network to address the challenges related to energy transition and capitalise on opportunities.

Their commitment to take action in the interest of their communities across the Western Downs and South Burnett was why they applied for the aptly named Shape Your Energy Future (ShEF) program held over recent months.

Funded by Boundless Earth and delivered in partnership by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation and Queensland Conservation Council, the program specifically targeted communities at the forefront of energy transformation in the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy region.

Bringing stakeholders together from diverse backgrounds, having their views and values heard and respected, and working collaboratively would be the most effective way to make a difference – the very outcome of the program.

Connected network to drive positive change

Community relations adviser with Powerlink Bec Coffey confirms the residential leadership program based at the Bunya Mountains inevitably led to a strengthened connection with each other that’ll enable collaboration with impact.

“The course environment largely contributed to the deep and personal connections that we gained through this incredible program,” she explains. “Together we dedicated a week away from our normal day to day lives to fully engage in the course and network-strengthening activities. We shared residential houses and focused on connecting throughout the week, which truly strengthened the amazing networks that we walked away with.”

Tension and discomfort…a positive sign

Landholder and ag construction consultant Adrian Story reflects how the cohort stepped outside of their comfort zone and put aside their views to engage.

“That’s good. If you get that many people in a room and we all sit there and smile and nod, we’re not engaged. We’re not thinking, we’re not actually getting any results. We’re not going to change who we are. And the fact that we actually had some tension…it might be a little bit uncomfortable, but it’s actually very healthy.”

Interactive workshops also equipped participants with communication, planning and advocacy skills, and tools to help drive change in the interest of their community. It includes collectively working on projects going forward that drive the adoption of renewables that resonate with their region’s needs ranging from end-of-life recycling of renewables infrastructure, upskilling workers, landholder consultation to community engagement.   

Leadership critical for meaningful impact

“Everyone has a part to play to help shape the energy future of your community and region, but the pathways and tools to influence change are not always clear,” says ARLF chief executive Matt Linnegar. “We understand the power of collective leadership in navigating such change and the potency of networks to support ideas and projects that make a difference.

“Regional leadership programs don’t just benefit individual participants, the community benefits by gaining a group of courageous and influential people, committed to action and outcomes.” 

QCC director Dave Copeman adds: “Every community has different needs and visions that must be considered as renewable energy projects are developed. It’s the local leaders that are vital to ensuring the best outcomes for their own region and their learnings and skills gained from this program will support them to do that.”

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