As Uncle Bob sang all those years ago –‘The Times They Are A Changing’. This has never been truer than today and in every aspect of our lives. This is especially so when we are confronted with maintaining and managing community life and community assets.
With the shrinking tax base, less government money is available to promote life as creative rich and fulfilling. It is being channelled into making it survivable and bearable for people in most need. This is also true of the private and independent philanthropic organizations as they are put increasingly under pressure. Communities are being forced to cope, utilizing their own resources in new and creative ways. Hence the development of the Social Enterprise.
Rural remote communities like us are increasingly doing it tough and have to be particularly creative, resourceful and strategic if a life style above mere survival is going to be sustainable. Organizations like The Mallacoota and District Business and Tourist Association (MADBATA), The Mallacoota Progress Assoc (MPA) and Mallacoota Halls and Recreational Reserve Grounds Committee of Management – henceforth to be known as Mallacoota Community Precinct Management Group (MCPMG)., and other community based groups are keenly aware of this.
Emerging locally and right around rural Australia is the major social and economic challenge – how do we create a socially healthy community with a balanced demographic that is economically viable. How do we achieve this without creating the runaway growth that would destroy the reason that prompted most people to move here in the first place and additionally create an environmental catastrophe?

This is the core challenge being met by the development planning underway through Madbata, Regional Development Victoria, The Shire and the Mallacoota Community at large to future proof our community. An inaugural forum was recently held that has resulted in a very useful preliminary working paper.
The Mallacoota Community Precinct Management Group is developing ideas in line with the general scope of the community plan. As you know, we have been working for a number of years on a broad ranging strategic development and management plan for the area under our care. We have been doing this with your tireless community assistance and a great deal of help from East Gippsland Shire. Last week, in these pages, we gave a brief outline of the physical scope of our project.
Gone are the days when you throw up a building with little regard for an economic and social plan for its use, development and upkeep. So we have been engaging in a great deal of formal and informal consultation before the plans are drawn up. Before we embarked on the spending of scarce resources in the public interest a great deal of work needed to be undertaken in determining what these interests were and how they best could be served.
The need for a better situated modern amenities block was unanimous. This is coupled with a reroute of The Muddie access road responding to broad concern for children’s safety in relation to the playground and the skate park.
The building of a sports pavilion/clubrooms is a response to widely held need for a venue for our sporting and other community clubs to meet and store their equipment. The needs of the shire caravan park for amenities over the Christmas crush period has formed a useful synergy creating a mutually beneficial funding pathway for the construction and continued maintenance of the building. Fees levied on the clubs for the use of the building, plus in-kind support from The Shire will guarantee the continued viability of the building socially and economically. Well serviced facilities like this make our community more attractive for families looking for a life style change to come and live with us.

The redevelopment of The Muddie (our entertainment, community and arts hub) is more complex. This project will be the central focus of The Social Enterprise at the core of our development plan.
Our community consultation has indicated what is wanted in our new look ‘Muddie’. Separate rooms dedicated to a number of purposes –
• A larger, well equipped, acoustically balanced, performance space able to present works toured by music, dance and drama companies (the current Muddie Hall is below minimum standards to meet modern needs) and provide a venue for local drama, dance and music combining a recording studio to service our school music program and other local musicians.
• A movement studio for yoga, dance and exercise classes with an appropriate floor and other facilities.
• A room for lectures, classes, children’s parties and meetings with appropriate facilities, including being attached to the kitchen.
• An arts/craft studio and community workshop for practical workshops, classes and the use of our artists and artisans.
• A community commercial kitchen so that locals can prepare foods for sale and cater for functions and events.
How are we going to make this happen? Enter the Social Enterprise. Here are some strategies that will support our community needs in a socially, environmentally and economically responsible and viable fashion.
They centre on three major factors –
1. We will have high quality purpose built, well-conceived, assets and facilities.
2. We live in a beautiful and relatively unspoilt part of the world.
3. We have a wide variety of accommodation choices.
The Social Enterprise would initiate niche advertising, promoting our facilities to city based – clubs, educational institutions, individuals and organizations –
• Health retreats including yoga, exercise etc.
• Individual artists and arts institutions and clubs to attend retreats and short courses here to draw inspiration from our environment and to learn skills. Opportunity for local artists to teach courses to visitors and locals.
• Seminars and forums for education and industry.
• Musicians come to Mallacoota to develop new material or lay down CD recordings.
• Residential courses in First Aid, Bush Survival, CFA, SES etc
• Residential retreats for bird watching, flower identification, photographers, nature trails etc. Local guides would back up their expeditions with lectures and workshops.
• Using community facilities we offer residential cuisine courses in various ethnic and life style foods
• Establishment of a bike maintenance workshop where locals can service local and visitors bikes. In conjunction with the Shire establish Mallacoota as a bike safe exciting place to ride.
During the off season, in partnership with local accommodation places, we offer graded accommodation packages to our clients, from the budget to the luxury trade. Doubtless other ideas will occur to you over time.
Funds raised from these enterprises will be ploughed directly back into resourcing our community’s facilities for the use of our community members. They will also provide significant added employment to support families, especially in the quiet season, increasing the overall economic wellbeing of our community. It will grow our tourist trade with low impact environmentally sensitive visitors. It will be the job of our Social Enterprise to maintain a balance between visitor use and community availability.

Next week – How you can join in to help Mallacoota grow in a socially, economically and environmentally responsible way.
What we can do in the meantime.