Here are two very inspiring stories of mainstream communities thinking outside the box to create collaborative solutions to local sustainability issues in Goulburn and Geelong.

The Tale of Goulburn Valley…  “Our agenda is food sovereignty, food sustainability. This is what we are creating with this broad community cooperative.”

 

Goulburn, heart of a major foodbowl in rural Australia, was devastated by the news in 2011 that Heinz was closing down the Girgarre tomato processing plant. The closure impacted not only directly on the 146 factory workers but 600 growers and other local businesses and service providers dependent on the processing plant for their livelihood. After negotiations for a community take over the plant were rebutted and the plant’s equipment and infrastructure effectively gutted by Heinz, the community rallied together to set up a cooperative.  The news was circulated nationally, offering ordinary people the chance to support the project with a $50 shareholding and an ambitious target of finding 1 million shareholders.

In May 2012, the people of Goulburn officially launched the Goulburn Valley Food Cooperative, a “community cooperative” that brings together “growers, workers, other traders and enterprises in the valley that depend upon this initiative, and also the broader community, locally, nationally and to some extent already internationally”.

GVFC  will be addressing operations through the entire production chain from consumer, supply chain to the growers.  Dr Tony Webb, founding member of GVFC and senior lecturer in Agricultural Supply Chain Management at UWS stated in a  recent interview by Green Left Weekly:  “there’s now a growing understanding that things can be done differently, in a way that helps build cooperation and works out, from the ground up, what this whole project could look like.

“We feel we are doing something significant because all of the problems that are in a sense epitomised by what we saw with the Heinz factory in Girgarre are being replicated all over that region and in every other food bowl in Australia, whether that’s Lockyer Valley, Liverpool Plains, Riverina, Sunraysia/Riverland, south Western Australia or Tasmania.

“Each of these regions has many of the same problems, and if we can find a way of doing something different, then maybe this is something that could be replicated nationally. It might sound like a crazy idea and may not be possible, but it’s necessary, so the sense here is ‘let’s have a go, at least we won’t die wondering’.”

Read more at http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51140

and get involved….  Good Food Cooperative

 

A Tale of Geelong

Geelong, a major industrial city in Victoria, has a very different story emerging, as reported in the Geelong Advertiser.  Driven by business and the Geelong Manufacturing Council, which represents 550 companies and 14,000 workers, responsible for 42% of the cities economic output, the focus in Geelong is clean technology.

Launched with a city-first conference to network, share knowledge and explore new work opportunities in the emerging ‘clean industry’ sector. Directions include raising awareness of renewable energy technologies, reducing businesses operating costs and carbon emissions through retrofits and new technology, converting waste products to create clean energy, and exploring the potential to diversify manufacturing for a post carbon economy.  

Geelong’s Austeng has moved into wind power, making a silent turbine for Renewable Energy Solutions Australia. “raising awareness about possibilities in the clean energy sector is important, because Geelong’s strong manufacturing base has the ability to move into new fields. We have got the experience and expertise in the city to diversify into those areas”

 

Such solutions, pioneered by communities coming together to pool collective knowledge, skills and resources, are what will instigate the changes that can turn things around.  Governments have become increasingly ineffectual, being cowed by large corporations and their mainstream media mouthpieces. These stories of community empowerment and action need to told and shared to inspire more communities and business leaders to take a stand and create local resilience.

Robyn Francis, June 2012