Leadership Skills – Bridgewater, 18 March 2016

On a cold, windy and wet Friday (18 March) – a bit of an anomaly for our region at the moment – there was plenty of energy at the Ceramet Solar Facility just outside Bridgewater.

The 2016 Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP) participants met to explore a “Vision for the Region” starting with a visit to Ceramet Solar, a Ballarat based company which has recently taken over the solar research facility as part of the change adaptation program from the automotive industry to solar components.

This was followed by a panel of speakers from the North Central Catchment Management Authority, Bendigo Sustainability Group, Parks Victoria, Ceramet Solar and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, who discussed the challenges and opportunities regional communities face, such as climate change, water availability, soil and farm productivity, natural disasters, environmental management, alternative energy sources and adapting to rapid change.

Bendigo Sustainability Group’s President Chris Weir shared his vision of a region with no petrol stations, when our cars, homes and businesses are battery powered and recharged by solar energy.

“Communities need to be able to adapt nimbly to rapid and disruptive technological change” he said, “Successful crowd-funding of solar electricity in regional towns shows that people are ready to support change.”

Next, the group toured Southern Stockfeeds, which had a major upgrade in 2014. The visit showed how innovative management, advanced technology, and clever engineering have turned the business around. David Jemmett, Chief Operating Officer explained how the mill has increased production every year while reducing the electricity used by 18% per metric tonne produced, with 30% savings predicted in the long term. This, and a focus on waste reduction helps make the mill sustainable into the future, providing a market for local grain growers and ongoing employment in the local community.

In the afternoon LMCLP participants got a different vision of the region, abseiling at Melville Caves. This was a huge challenge for many, especially in the gusty conditions and saw great team cohesion and support and the recognition that if you think you can do something, you actually can!

The Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program asks it’s participants to push personal boundaries, listen, learn and support each other, while developing the skills to make a difference in their own communities.

Report written by 2016 LMCLP participant, Lisa Cox