On Thursday 5 April, the City of Ballarat launched a report
summarising the achievements of the City of Ballarat's Engaging Communities Program, in which Brown Hill took part.
Over two years $200,000 was invested in Brown Hill to seed a number of community-inspired and community-led projects. Several of the projects were used to leverage funding from other sources, bringing the total investment in Brown Hill to $745,217.
Six members from the Brown Hill Partnership attended the review, held at the Community Hub in Lucas. Brown Hill Progress Association's Vice President, Ian Fullerton, was the guest speaker, highlighting the success of the program in Brown Hill. He spoke about the way in which the Program helped to bring together individuals and groups in Brown Hill for the good of the community, through projects such as the Brown Hill Community Newsletter, Online Hub, Festival and Hall Redevelopment.
The City of Ballarat's Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh, spoke about the success of the Program. She said, "It’s a story of community empowerment and achievement over the past six years. Back in 2012, council decided to take a different approach to working with local communities across the municipality. One of its most important aspects was an emphasis on listening to those communities and what they wanted to see happen in their local areas."
The Mayor said, "The benefits of this are obvious: everyone takes ownership of the projects, local knowledge can help solve problems before they arise and community input can refine works to make sure they hit the mark."
The feedback about the Program reflects the difference this approach made. One participant said, "Now council will go out and ask, 'What do you want?' before starting something, instead of coming out with a developed plan and asking, 'What do you think?'"
Mayor McIntosh spoke of one of the intangible but very real benefits of this program. She said, "In all the locations in which the Engaging Communities Program has been introduced, the benefits did not stop when the buildings were painted, the trees planted and signage installed. Members of the partnership groups have told us that the connections forged through the program have had an enduring impact on the places where they live. One participant said the program “... had brought about a sense of renewal which had nothing to do with the money.” And another “... things are still happening even though the program has finished, because people now know each other. Often some people didn’t know their neighbours.” This sense of optimism and these connections might have started at a BBQ or in a community hall, but they might endure for years to come."