Regional leaders tackle local challenges together towards solutions

Attracting foot traffic to flood affected CBDs; a ‘brains trust’ of locals with expertise, influence and networks to help with flood recovery and future challenges; and identifying community resources and skills are among the initiatives local leaders will work on together to help strengthen the Northern Rivers region.
Seventeen current and emerging leaders from across the Northern Rivers recently came together in Lismore to further develop their leadership skills and build a network committed to action and outcomes. They were selected to attend the leadership development program as part of the Leading Australian Resilient Communities (LARC) program, delivered by the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (ARLF) and the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

LARC is funded by the Australian Government’s Building Resilient Regional Leaders Initiative (Pilot) grant on the back of recent challenges faced by regions such as drought, bushfires, COVID and floods.

“LARC aims to support regional communities in meeting challenges and collectively drive the positive changes they want to see. This is effectively done through a collaborative network of individuals committed and invested in where they live,” ARLF chief executive Matt Linnegar said.

RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said the program includes place-based multi-day leadership sessions held locally to identify challenges and opportunities.

“Region-specific data from the RAI underpins the program. The group will receive coaching and support for practical, community led projects they decide to pursue.”

The participants come from diverse backgrounds and experience including small business, agriculture, childcare, education, communications, environment, urban planning, engineering, local government, community and youth engagement and tourism.

Alstonville business owner, Prudence Blennerhassett, is keen to address the challenges of youth homelessness.

“I am profoundly aware of the power of diverse thinking and opinions. Being able to build on an idea and be part of the solution.”

Lismore-based communications specialist Rachel Quilty will use her new skills toward strategic planning for the region, with a focus on social infrastructure.

Owen Trembath, a finance manager in Lismore, says his immediate focus is on economic recovery from the floods in the region.

“The CBD has early green shoots of recovery. We have to come up with some ideas, not only to replenish our spirits but to create opportunities to make it attractive for people to visit, live and work here.”

Grafton-based Aboriginal Landcare officer, Michael Kennedy, sees the program as an opportunity to reflect on the challenges of the last three years (floods, fires and COVID).

“The impact of floods, fires and COVID have had a detrimental effect on our community. We need to look at the total impact and start to make steps forward to recovery. This program will allow us to work on adaptable ways to build resilience.”

Each project group will be sharing progress with the participating cohort in February 2023.

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