On 2 August 2019, some of our team were lucky enough to attend Shaping Regional Victoria with guest speaker John Brumby AO, hosted by the Victorian Planning Authority. This event brought together the minds of public purpose leaders currently grappling with the challenges – and opportunities – of the development of regional Victoria.
Mr Brumby, Chancellor of La Trobe University and former Victorian premier, delivered the keynote address. Drawing from his wealth of experience advocating for the regions, Mr Brumby identified several exciting prospects for regional growth. He pointed to tourism, manufacturing, communications and higher education as areas not just in need of development but also rich in opportunity.
With a sense of urgency, Mr Brumby emphasised the importance of revitalising regional towns to capture opportunities that are already presenting themselves, such as foreign tourism. Mr Brumby was sober about the barriers posed by regional Victoria’s ageing population and exodus of jobs. Even so, he spoke about the future of regional Victoria with distinct optimism.
Allison Leighton, CEO for Baw Baw Shire Council, and Beth Jones, Deputy Secretary (Rural and Regional Victoria) for the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, were guest panelists in a Q&A that followed Mr Brumby’s address.
Ms Leighton reflected on the challenges facing her own council amid rapid growth and change. She was frank about the challenges she faced balancing the expectations of generations-old families and new residents in the area. In meeting these challenges, Ms Leighton highlighted the need for her council to quickly adapt and build new capabilities in order to best respond to and advocate for her community.
Ms Jones also emphasised the importance of using evidence-based approaches to collaborate with experts and communities on the ground, highlighting in particular the need to build connections across traditional portfolio barriers.
The prevailing tone of Shaping Regional Victoria was both urgent and hopeful. The energising dialogue underscored that openness to opportunity and new avenues of cooperation will be crucial to regional Victoria’s resilience into the future.
Written by Judy Kuo, Programs Coordinator, IPAA Victoria