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Focus On Community Workshops
- Grassroots Project Development & Training

What is it? More than 35 innovative and creative project ideas resulted from a series of community development workshops facilitated by Deanna Neville in 2008. An eclectic group attended from around the Mount Alexander Shire, attracting a broad spectrum of people from a local community health centre, the hospital, a mental health organization, community house, local government, private health practice, sustainability group, festival organizations, community arts groups, visual and performance artists, volunteers, environment activists, social workers, and community members interested in exploring ways to make their own contribution to local community capacity building.

Who is involved? This program has been designed to explore and develop bottom-up, grassroots community development skills for people within their own communities. It has a strong focus on social justice and environmental sustainability. The aim of the program is to assist people to gain a clearer understanding of the principles of community development and community capacity building, increasing awareness and understanding of the main themes, terms and definitions.

How does it work? A workshop with practical step-by-step guide that describes how to develop creative, engaging and meaningful projects with people from across the community that make a difference in a social, cultural, economic and environmentally sustainable way. We all have the right to instigate and lead community projects, and that the wealth of information and support to good project development is very often available or accessible within one’s own local community. We are all potential community leaders with a capacity to share our voices and passions, energies and strengths, connections and skills. To be able to share these strengths with others enables us to work together towards a more sustainable community and environment.

Project Outcome Ideas
Jac Semmler: Sustainable environment capacity building with young people
Often young people are so exhausted juggling the challenges of school and after school activities, as well as important social lives and commitments at home they can find the world-wide much-publicized issues of climate change and challenges around sustainability both daunting and overwhelming. Some young people may think that adults and community leaders are the ones fixing the problems and are not feeling impacted by the long-term implications of climate change. However, the value in engaging young people in solution-based actions around environmental issues is not just essential but smart. Young people want to be active in their own way. They have innovations and expertise as young people that will make sense in their own circles. If you are working with young people or wish to build on age-diversity and sustainability within your group, consider inviting young people interested in this field.
Sharee Mangan: Compost collection from local businesses
Several ideas for recycling in the community have been discussed locally. A food scrap collection from local restaurants and businesses to be processed into nutrient-rich fertilizer for local farmers and producers; a collection point for recycled offcuts, timbers, plastics, shapes, strips, foam, packaging etc. from businesses and factories to be used for school craft and artists, and a bio-char system that reduces rubbish into charcoal for sinking into the ground. These systems are active and effective and already in place in communities like ours around the country and over the world. It just takes a beyond-the-ideas person to make it happen.
Dorothy Wright: Community Gardens inclusive of people with disabilities.
The idea of a community garden in the Castlemaine area is often in discussion locally, and its conception seems only a carrot seed’s breadth away from becoming a reality. Local food growing is a simple way to help reduce the climate impact of food transport on the environment, as well as increased costs that affect us all. Supporting people on lower or fixed incomes in a community setting is paramount. Successful community gardens come out of grassroots ideas and actions by people who build gardens together with each other first, then add to it elements of broader community inclusion, funding, expansion, revenue raising, workshops and other enhancements only at a manageable and needs-driven pace, and with emphasis on community capacity building.
Dorothy Wright: Inclusive weaving & textiles
A program of weaving and textiles will be introduced at Windarring, a local disability support service that encourages and supports socially inclusive activities within the community for its clients and other interested participants. <www.windarring.org.au>.The program will include workshops and the production of a communtiy tapestry. Materials will include any yarn that people need to clear out from their cupboards, which a couple of the Windarring people are very good at untangling, as well as good old material such as strong cottons, wool, old silk shirts etc, to be made into rag rugs - a great way to recycle and reuse unwanted but un-wasted off-cuts. The activity is currently seeking funding to support the project. Volunteers interested in textiles are invited to contact the organizers as well as those with expressions of interest in participating in the program when developed.
Email: dorwright@netspace.net.au  Phone: (03) 5475 1257
Cheryl Jakab: Environment information centre, stories of change
Imagine an environment centre that is open to the public where documentation of sustainability projects and the process of adapting to the changed climate world is the focus of displays. The centre would collect stories of community projects, be available to visitors, schools, and the wider community.
Wendy French: Closed vegetable and aquaonic systems in housing communities for the aged and other communities
Growing your own fish and vegetables locally is a terrific way to reduce the climate issues of food transport and increases a balance of low impact fish farming with well balanced nutritional value. Developing an aquaponic system within a community housing environment adds particular value to social engagement and sharing of resources.
Matt Wobbly: Graphic Design for small community organisations via large corporation websites
The cost of high profile websites and media for small non-government organisations and community groups is an impossible feat when important work needs to be funded. Instead, large corporations could sponsor small groups’ websites and link them to their own communications; a bit like a sponsorship program or big brother helping hand.
Sas Allardice: Free harvest table & community food and water sharing
Imagine bringing a dozen of your spare eggs or excess silver beet to a local vunue each week, and simply leaving it at the harvest table. You might not need any lemons that week or pumpkin, but someone who dropped by with some home-made jam or honey might. Do you get it? This system of growing extra food for those who share other spare goodies not only reduces the food miles of what we consume, it also helps share water requirements by consolidating food production.
Email: sasalberry@hotmail.com
Diane Thompson, Vanessa Johnstone & Lisa Mitchell: Meditation garden created by and for people experiencing loss & grief
Introductory sessions are in progress for a mediation garden project to be built in Castlemaine. Under the auspices of Mt Alexander Hospital and the grief and loss project, the workshops, through a hands-on, fun and creative approach, allow individuals to come together as a supported group and explore things meaningful and enjoyable in life. The aim of the workshops is to produce beautiful mosaic pavers and hand-made tiles to be laid in a labyrinth pathway. Many recycled materials will be used, and excavation of the site will ensue materials such as ashphalt are recycled as part of the structure. Strong social links will form between local churches, the hospital and the competence is a discovery still waiting to emerge.
Lisa Mitchell - Phone: (03) 5473 4542
Email: theoldschoolteachershouse@gcom.net.au
Robert Maio - Phone: (03) 5471 1542
Email: griefsupport@mtalexhosp.vic.gov.au
Rex Odgers: Wash Against Waste Trailer
A mobile wash against waste trailer has been designed and built by Rex with assistance from other volunteers at the Mount Alexander Sustainability Group (MASG) in Castlemaine. The trailer operates at local festivals and events, lending at a nominal cost crockery and cutlery to food vendors, and sponsored by event organizers and clubs to reduce the cost and environmental impact of single-use plastic or paper plates and cutlery. The trailer also promotes the use of renewable energy and minimizes landfill. Local community organizations can explore opportunities to offset their carbon emissions in a partnership arrangement.
Phone: (03) 5470 6978
Email: info@masg.org.au
Rex Odgers: Garden boxes for people with limited access to gardening
Growing herbs & vegetables isn’t always easy for some people in the community with limited space, movement, health or mobility. Meanwhile, considerable quantities of useable timber is received at the local landfill, only to be shredded for mulch whilst the local community house boasts an underutilized well-equipped carpentry workshop. The opportunity for this scrap timber to be crafted into basic garden boxes and other creations could easily lend itself as a strong and meaningful community project ready to kick-start.
Leanne Corkran: Community Kitchen, cooking for individuals & families to share meals & develop skills together
For some individuals and families, learning the basic skills to create affordable, nutritious meals can be daunting, confusing and costly. A community kitchen enables people to learn the basic principles to selecting and preparing enjoyable food in a comfortable, friendly and enabling environment. The participants can sit down to a shared meal with the group or take their meal home to enjoy with their own families.
Tash Harris: Farm workshops around sustainable development and youth support programs
Living and learning in a rural environment is widely accepted as an essential rite of passage for some young people who might otherwise be struggling in the urban environment or in mainstream school. In a supportive farm space, learning can be an invigorating experience where the values of sustainability and the natural rhythms of far production are shared and the young person’s holistic self nurtured.
Lucy Young: Providing community information and easy access to grants information and support
The opportunity exists and is very sought after for the myriad of grants information and support be made available to all local community organisations and groups. Grant assistance and support is sometimes presented via local government and community support groups, and a network to draw all these resources together for continued access at any given time would open up possibilities for all levels of the community seeking these resources.
Varun Simons: Youth driven, youth organised youth activities
Enabling young people to be the driving force behind activities and events that target youth could include regular bike rides, music events, social functions or part-time work experience. Volunteering is also another way young people can drive local events, by being included on local committees of management so that the youth voice is heard and represented.
Jacqueline Brodie-Hanns: Strengthing Volunteerism project development
A shire-wide community capacity and strengthening project is rolling out of the local council. Support has included numerous events and activities that acknowledge and thank volunteers, workshops to support grant seeking activities, and plans are underway to build a resource network to support volunteer groups, coordinators, individuals and members of the community seeking volunteer opportunities.
Allison Nye: Community retail outlet & gallery for textiles & other local products
Operating as a community arts co-operative, local craftspeople will work together to operate a local outlet featuring crafts, textiles and works of art that have emerged using recycled materials and traditional production techniques. This will become a retail outlet staffed by the artists, with skills development and demonstration workshops for community participation to be offered.
Email: waggawagga123@hotmail.com
Julie Henchman & Kate Osborn: Taradale Mineral Springs art exhibition focus on inclusiveness & sustainability
The recent success of the inaugural Taradale Mineral Springs festival in 2008 has forged a pathway to planning a repeated success in 2009. Inspired by heritage archives, the organizers of the festival art exhibition are working with the Taradale and region artist community to present local artworks with a local heritage theme during the festival. They are planning to offset the carbon emissions of the event through local Landcare tree planting.
Kat Evans & Rylka Laycock-Walsh: Recycled clothes & reversed garbage
Funky new clothes are expensive for most young people and students, so why not put together your own cost-effective, very original recycled and re-claimed costumes? They’re also great as gifts for friends and family. Op shops are an excellent resource for second-hand clothes and accessories, and besides, buying at these thrift shops means you’re donating to a good cause as well as reducing the overproduction of excess new ‘stuff’ that is saturating our buying culture, where the poor people involved down the production line are missing out. And what about reversed garbage? There’s a great avenue in our area for the collection and sale of factory, business and manufacturer materials scraps and off-cuts that artists seek for their unique productions. It just takes a little innovation and creative thinking.
Susanna Miller: Dance and song inclusive of people with disabilities and the aged
Susanna, a movement and dance-trained scientist, is passionate about dance and song. She says getting together to dance and sing is enabling not only of the joy to be found in movement and song inherent in all of us, and generally neglected amongst the aged and those with disabilities, but to provide a safe environment to encourage the expression of feelings through the performance arts.
Jill Gibson: Cycling and recycling project development to increase cycling activity
Bicycle riding and activities associated with bikes are always head turners - a peleton that rushes past, a solo bike-hiker on a lonely road, kids trundling around a park - it’s hard not to notice these activities. Even visual bike art representation is eye-catching - decorated bikes at children’s festivals, displays of artist-painted reclaimed bikes or sculptures from old rusted bike bodies welded into creative, fancy fences or works of art including moving parts. And all along are the important messages about bike riding and health: reducing car use and pollution, social and family inclusion; these messages are able to be strongly incorporated into many creative and artistic bike activities.
John Sawtell: Increasing creative projects within the health sector
The possibilities of using visual and performing arts in the health sector are unlimited. Ideas may include photo prompts in narrative therapy, poetry writing as a form of self-expression, photography for story-telling or as a confidence and skills development tool for seniors, using photos and story telling to explore themes such as drought assistance, sustainable living, health benefits of being in choirs, celebrating a group with an art exhibition or calendar, film-making or hip-hop danz; hand-in-hand with youth, craft to bring young and older together, creative dance with people with special needs, theatre and circus that be-dazzles the multi-cultural sector … virtually every age-group, culture or circumstance can be captured and engaged with the aid of a good idea, community consultation and shared project development with local artists in partnership with supportive health professionals.
Paddy O'Sullivan: Project development for men & kids doing activities together; including men's shed
‘Blokes on Bikes and other balancing acts’ is a new program piloted at the Castlemaine Community Health Service. It openly invites men and the children in their care, including fathers, uncles, family friends, grandfathers and big brothers to spend quality time with children (boys and girls). The activity is a weekly session sharing a meal and activities that increases their activities together, such as bike riding, circus activities, woodwork and cooking together. Recent research indicates that in Australia, the average time a father spends with his kids between Monday and Friday is 6 minutes in total. This program will run in 2009 on Thursday evenings from 6-8pm.
Email: paddytoasty@gmail.com
Eliza Tree: Art installation exploring and mapping local indigenous history & culture
Eliza is a local artist passionate about nature, especially that of it that is rare and endangered, special and unique. Eliza also has a long-standing interest and affinity with indigenous Australia and is creating a visual arts project that focuses on pre-colonial Central Victoria mapping and layering the past and exploring the pathways of the Dja Dja Wurrung, the land rush and the gold rush, all of which had such an impact on our landscape and culture.
Ashley Mariani: Traditional crafts project exploring the response of senior women and young women in the media
Ashley is a visual artist who is working towards the Castlemaine State Festival with flair. Her project sees the blending together of cultures around the production of traditional women’s crafts, created in response to the theme of young women in the media.
Danni: Fringe Festival magazine & harvest festival
Heavily involved in the running of this season’s Castlemaine Fringe Festival, Danni is busy with the team rolling out an eclectic platform of music, film, visual and performing arts, slapstick by nature and kooky by association!
Jen Sharman: Fringe & State Festival collaboration of youth exhibition & performance at Old Gaol
Inspired to see collaboration between the Castlemaine State & Fringe festivals, Jen has helped fashion a community project that will see exhibition and performance space rolling out at the Old Castlemaine Gaol; a place for young people during Festival time.
Julia Scoglio: Development of creative information sharing for MASG info tent
The Mount Alexander Sustainability Group is an organisation dedicated to reducing the carbon emissions in the shire. Diligent volunteers give free of their time to support an information tent at local festivals, events and activities. Visitors to the information tent are often seeking ways to reduce their own carbon footprint and want to know what they can do to make a difference, so a creative and engaging way is being explored to increase information sharing with the public. This may include joining MASG and receiving their weekly e-news, information flyers on various actions, products and programs, such the solar display home and carbon rationing action groups (crags), and displays of local actions such as the Carbon Heroes banners.
If you have input that would support information sharing on sustainability please contact MASG:
Phone: (03) 5470 6978
John Terry: Broader access of information about holistic health & Chinese medicine
Access to and a wider understanding of Chinese medicine is increasingly providing benefits to more and more people in the community. John and colleagues are wishing to build on the application of wider holistic life balance and spiritual growth and connectivity within ourselves and everyday living, in particular to children and adults who may otherwise not have the means to seek such information. A series of engaging and uplifting discussions on these elements provides foundations and groundings for understanding of these such life connections.
Janet Phillips: Community forums & transition initiatives that build resilience & supports change
A transition or shift in thinking can create a new arena for thought and action around climate change and community resilience. Inspired by the Transition Towns movement, Janet and a collective of like-minded locals have begun to develop information tools and platforms on which to build community action-based transitions to change.
Email: janet@consentric.com.au
Peter Barber: Collection and sharing of stories from poeple with a mental illness telling how it is
Via a psyco-social supported group of regular participants at St Luke’s, stories and comments have been written down of people experiencing voices or challenges living with a mental illness. Some of the stories are matter-of-fact, humorous, or harsh and eye-opening. The group wishes to share these stories through a visual art project such as a calendar that brings to the wider community some of the words, phrases, descriptions and accompanying visual interpretations of what it’s like living their lives.
Phone: (03) 5470 6266
Ann de Hugard: Community social meal at the Anglican Church Hall, Agitation Hill, Castlemaine
Sharing food with others is a great activity. It always leads to confidence building compliments, recipe swaps, story telling, a good laugh and getting together with friends, family or acquaintances, not to mention a good feed! Research tells us that the more social links we have the healthier we are. For those who don’t have strong, regular connections a weekly social evening meal is planned at Christ Church, Castlemaine. It will enable people who live on their own to get out, engage people who don’t have easy access to a regular meal, people in the community who like an occasional meal with others, those who like to cook, and others who wish to bring along ex
Ros Young: Sustainable sewing and mentoring program for young people to explore the traditional crafts & skills of our Nannas
What’s in Nanna’s Closet? This is an engaging project that reflects on the traditional crafts that our Nannas were creating. The Castlemaine CWA (Country Women’s Association) will be supporting interested individuals in learning the skills and techniques that made our Nannas and theirs before them the amazing women they were. Through a series of mentored workshops, women with the skills in ancient crafts will pass this knowledge on to others. Crafts will include tatting, rag rugs, doilies, knitting and crocheting, as well as how to funk-a-fi your old clothes in thrifty and imaginative ways with buttons, ribbons and ric rac, utilizing your imagination instead on purchasing new clothes or wares.
Email: cwacastlemaine@skymesh.com.au
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