This is both a plug for our city and community, and a serious question to which I think the answer is ‘YES’. That is, if you want to progress some form of social change at a community-scale then Geraldton may the best place in Australia to do it. If you’re a Geraldton resident, then you can take advantage of these opportunities to easily make your community and world a better place. If you are reading this on the other side of the country then it may change your perceptions about regional Australia and may convince you to change your place of residence : )
Here’s four reasons why, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on more….or even if you think your town or city is similar or better : )
Just look at what’s happening THIS WEEK…
This week is full of amazing opportunities for those wanting to learn about or progress social change. I very much doubt that any community or city has such an incredible agenda of opportunities in one week like this, and this is far from a complete listing.
- Global sustainable communities guru and social entrepreneur Pooran Desai is giving a free talk.
- We’re launching the national Changemaker’s Festival at CityHive on Friday,
- Environmental and sustainability professionals are meeting to learn about the 5-minute walking city.
- You can collaborate on ideas for the next 10-years of Capital Works projects for the council. Got a great idea? Collaborate, submit, and your fellow citizens will judge its value.
- Social entrepreneurs, enterprises and community and sporting groups are being supported to grow through Catalyst and the new ‘Our Club Rules‘
- Connecting the Dots conference on what it takes to grow a child is on this weekend.
- The State’s most senior public servants and NFP leaders are discussing Community Sector collaboration and reform in the morning and Social Innovation and Enterprise in the afternoon
- Australia’s best regional coworking space and only member-based organisation support social entrepreneurs is doing free tours : )
The drivers for change are matched by the opportunities and capability…
Whether its environmental, cultural, economic or social, the combination of pressures and possibilities creates a perfect storm for change:
- We’re amongst the fattest places in Australia, has one of the highest densities of fast food, and some of our suburbs are ‘food deserts‘ with no access to healthy, nutritious food, but we also have incredible local produce, endless opportunities for healthy recreation and support of public health initiatives like GoGero and a Universities Centre dedicated to research in Health,
- We’re at major risk of climate change impacts on coastal infrastructure, fisheries, agriculture and lifestyle. But we’re also a partner in the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, CRC for Low Carbon Living, have a TAFE that’s won national awards for its green initiatives and other climate-change related initiatives that prove we’re trying their darndest to help us be a case study for positive change. Combine that with perhaps the world’s greatest combination of renewable energy potential and local green innovators like FootPrint Free on Fitzgerald and Energy Farmers Australia and the forecast doesn’t look too bad.
- This report by IBM as part of the Smarter Cities Challenge outlines many of the opportunities, including the $27 billion of investment planned for the region which gives us the cash to do something better, differently, smarter.
- Geraldton and its surrounds is part of one of only 34 global biodiversity hotspots, being both very high biodiversity value, yet also under significant threat. Only 6,041 ha of vegetation remains in the LBS study area, representing only 18% of pre-European extent of native vegetation, and well under the 30% threshold recognised as a level at which species loss accelerate exponentially at an ecosystem level. But, the majority of the community (based on a random representative independent survey) say the environment is more important than the economy and we’ve got some great groups, strategies and even Permaculture Research Institutes working to regenerate and sustain the beautiful landscape.
- The same sort of balance of challenges and potential exist in other areas of our community, including Technology (we’re isolated, but we have the NBN fibre to the home / premises), Arts & Culture (we’re small, but have gallery openings, GFest and regularly host international artists and performers), and more.
We’re a connected, collaborative, creative community…
Geraldton has been internationally-awarded for its work on making democracy work better, and has numerous ways it encourages, mentors and rewards those who lead change in a place that’s conn:
- Annual “Goodness” Awards and Festival celebrating the best in social entrepreneurs, innovators and social change projects that received 53 nominations this year,
- A Futures Governance Alliance that meets monthly, bringing together the heads of all levels of government, business, education, industry with community representatives to try and implement region-scale change initiatives,
- A local government that’s committed to a more open and deliberative form of democracy, with #changesCGG being it’s latest initiative involving participatory budgeting and citizen’s juries to guide decision-making,
- There’s lots of random opportunities — one main street, with a few cool cafes and bars and one coworking space so all sorts of serendipitous meetings happen,
- Most people are savvy and frequent users of social media (esp. Facebook) and local platforms like EverythingGeraldton are great community-connectors, so word gets around even if you’re not in the meeting, on the street,
- Most changemakers or even normal citizens have 4 different roles (work, volunteering, boards, clubs) so there’s high-levels of communication, cross-pollination and connection.
You can step back, reflect and recharge…
While the opportunities are incredible and sometimes pressure on a few people to drive change quite unbearable, there’s space to think, reflect and relax. Most people live and even work on quiet streets a few minutes walk from some of the best beaches, kite-surfing and windsurfing on earth. When it’s school holidays the whole town gets 50% quieter and there are long periods over summer when you can disappear, turn off your phone and email and meditate or write a novel and there’s a good chance no-one will notice. Check out GeroGram (the Geraldton Instagram aggregator) for a taste of the lifestyle here.