Take charge of your own destiny

A transition centre where the community would “own its own future” has received a $20,000 funding boost to get off the ground.

Voices of the Valley’s idea was named winner of VicHealth’s Latrobe Valley Community Challenge – an initiative aimed at community groups driving jobs growth in the region.

The group plans on holding community consultations in Latrobe Valley towns – big and small – before feasibility studies are eventually undertaken.

The end goal is a transition centre that fosters and supports localised community cooperatives producing food or energy the community itself would use and sell.

“You can’t transition a technology or an economy without transitioning a community,” VotV’s Ron Ipsen said.

“A lot of the plans (we’ve seen) seem to overlook that.

“So we’ve had an overall view of what was needed and we’re just putting the pieces together – it’s like a big jigsaw puzzle and everyone has a little bit of an answer that all sort of fits in.”

The transition centre would involve education or re-skilling capabilities, community-owned projects such as ‘solar gardens’ and a community energy bank to act as storage.

Mr Ipsen said the centre’s research facilities would tap onto the storage and look into future directions.

VotV’s Wendy Farmer said the funding was a great starting point “for the work that needs to be done”, with potential to “push the ideas and the transition centre further”.

Despite being named the $20,000 funding recipient, VotV hopes to continue working with the three other teams involved in the challenge.

VicHealth executive lead of the policy development office Kellie Horton said the organisation intended to work with each of the initiatives and find out how best to support them in their next phase of work.

She said the teams discussed future opportunities to work as a collective following yesterday’s funding announcement.

“We are really interested in working with the four teams as a collective, because it feels like there’s a real movement now around community driven approaches,” Ms Horton said.

“We want to support what happens next with that collective group. And so the session today is about exploring options there and seeing how VicHealth can best be part of the next step.”

VicHealth launched the Valley challenge this year following conversations surrounding the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

Ms Horton said the organisation had learnt a lot through its program, which supported the development of four “very different, very strong initiatives” that had “great potential for success”.

VicHealth will now evaluate the initiative and share its findings with other organisations.