Help shape priorities with Barwon Regional Assembly

News

Communities will have opportunity to elevate local priorities on the State Government’s agenda at a second Barwon Regional Assembly in Geelong.

Regional Development Minister Jaala Pulford urged residents to become part of the conversation, having a say on local matters and providing a direct voice on government decision making.

Registrations are open for Geelong’s assembly to be on September 14, and community consultation is already underway via Barwon Regional Partnership, and opportunity to contribute online.

“Our 2017 regional assemblies are now well underway. We have had a great turnout across the state and we are now looking forward to the chance to hear from locals in the Barwon region,” Ms Pulford said.

The State Government established nine regional partnerships across Victoria last July.

Leading priorities established after input from Barwon region included the revitalisation of central Geelong, investment in the Great Ocean Road visitor economy and improvement of digital learning for students.

The government has since announced $11.7 million in upgrades for central Geelong and more than $500 million for improvement of regional roads including the Great Ocean Road.

The region will also share in funding under the Connecting Regional Communities Program to support digital initiatives, where some schools in the region will be the first to receive new virtual conferencing systems.

G21 CEO Elaine Carbines welcomed the digital schools funding shared to a limited number of primary schools, however she said it fell well short of what the Geelong Secondary Schools and Community (GSSC) Digital Learning Hub proposal, adopted as number one priority by the Barwon Regional Partnership, would deliver.

"It's shameful that our secondary schools in the region have very, very poor access to broadband connectivity - which means that many of our students cannot use the internet for their classes," Ms Carbines said.

"It's a disgrace in the 21st century, where digital connectivity is an essential service and important to good education, where many courses now have on-line components.

"G21 is not giving up on the government coming around to funding this crucial $4.7 million project to provide super-fast internet to all of the reigon's secondary schools. This is about our children; the region's future generation of leaders. We've had a couple of knock backs from the state government, despite the project being identifed by the Barwon Regional Partnership as it number one priority last year.

"The Digital Learning Hub – a G21 priority project – is ‘shovel ready’ and has proof of concept, aiming to access world-class high-speed internet through the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet), owned by the CSIRO and Australian universities.

"If the Barwon Regional Partnership is to have credibility as a means for the community to 'voice' its priorities to the state government this number one project must be taken seriously by government and must be funded.

"So, sign up to support the Barwon Regional Partnership again this year, and vote to drive home to the Education Minister and the local MPs the importance of funding the G21 Digital Learning Hub proposal to our children's education," Ms Carbines said.

Other priorities identifed by the Barwon Regional Partnership last year included:

• Enabling children through education;
• Securing jobs for the future;
• Improving transport networks;
• Protecting natural assets;
• Transforming industries; and,
• Building safe and inclusive communities.

Barwon Regional Partnership includes the municipalities of Geelong, Queenscliffe, Colac Otway and Surf Coast.

Chair Kylie Warne said it was a collective of community champions.

“We have a shared passion in our region and its future,” Ms Warne said.

“We’re collaborating with our community and stakeholders to provide strategic advice on government policy, service delivery and budget priorities across social, economic and environmental domains.

“You’re invited to have your say by attending our regional assembly and taking part in the conversation online.”

People can go to engage.vic.gov.au/Barwon to register for the assembly or to contribute online.

Member for Geelong Christine Couzens, Member for Lara John Eren and Minister for Bellarine Lisa Neville said the government was there to listen.

"This is yet another important opportunity for our local communities to have direct input into government decision making," Ms Neville said.

"We know the best ideas come from listening and responding to locals and that's exactly what we'll do."

Sources: State Government media release and website, together with additional comments from G21.