Reactivating Latrobe Valley: Creative Changemakers & Entrepreneurs Creating Positive Social Impact In Gippsland

Impact Boom recently collaborated with Reactivate Latrobe Valley to offer a series of social impact Masterclasses in Gippsland, Victoria, which ran from March-May 2019, with kind funding support from LaunchVic.

Latrobe Valley, like many regions globally, are facing a transition, with new technologies, diminishing resources and a changing economy. The masterclasses focussed on creating a supportive, friendly and rich learning environment to foster collaboration, personal growth and provide the support needed to help local changemakers and social entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into impact.

Participants applied for the program from across the region and the cohort were a delight to work with; driven, passionate, friendly and focussed.

We covered purpose definition, theories of change, impact modelling and measurement, business modelling, human centred design, communication, marketing, pitching and shared case studies from a range of different social enterprises. But most importantly, connections were formed and the entrepreneurial isolation was reduced. We can’t wait to track these changemakers into the future and continue to work in this beautiful region.

If you’d like to collaborate with Impact Boom to provide strong community support, tackle local transitions and help social entrepreneurs and innovators to accelerate positive change, simply get in touch. We’d like to sincerely thank the entire Reactivate team for the collaboration, the sponsors, funders and presenters involved. Find their links at the bottom of the article.


How might we transform Latrobe Valley For a Vibrant and innovative future? The ten changemakers featured below are all focussed on creating positive social and environmental change, and with passionate, driven people like these, Gippsland has a positive future.

Discover their stories…


[Tom Allen] - We're with Kyle Bush, who's the Project Coordinator at Reactivate Latrobe Valley. Kyle, thanks for joining us and thanks for helping put these workshops on.

[Kyle Bush] - It's been an absolute pleasure Tom.

So Kyle, tell us a little bit about your involvement with Reactivate Latrobe Valley and the sort of work you've been doing in the community.

I'm the Project Coordinator of Reactivate Latrobe Valley, which aims to enable local communities like the Latrobe Valley to respond to change and thrive while doing so, and we do that by supporting and working with local community members and groups in the delivery of different initiatives. We bring a whole lot of skills and expertise, and space to community driven initiatives which aim toward broad change.

How long have you been working with Reactivate?

I've been with Reactivate probably for five years now, and I started as a recent graduate of Landscape Architecture. I'm a designer, and the reason I became involved in the first place, was because I'm really interested in the role of design in the shaping in cities and towns over the coming decades. Because I think there's a lot of changes happening globally and, the changes happening in the Latrobe Valley particularly, represent a lot of big shifts that are happening in the global economy and global landscapes and environments.

What have been some of those core challenges that you've seen Latrobe Valley facing?

Latrobe Valley faces a lot of challenges and many of them stem from a big industrial shift. There's three coal mines that over the next 20 or 30 years are going to close down and that's causing a big change in the way that the community and the economy works, and so some of the big issues that are present here are high unemployment rates, high rates of drug abuse, high rates of depression and mental health issues. But, regardless of that, there's a real resilience in the community which becomes more evident the more you get engaged with the community at the level of the community.

Yeah I can really see that from the entrepreneurs and people who've come here as part of these community organisations to take part in these workshops. So, what sort of impact do you believe Reactivate can really have on local community in doing this sort of work?

The impact that we aim for is to just be a really solid and responsive and agile support for things that are already bubbling under the surface in the local community, whether it's small businesses or initiatives which have some sort of social impact agenda.


We aren’t necessarily the ones who decide how all these changes happen but we want to be a big part of shaping them and empowering others to be part of that process of change in whatever way that we can.

Wonderful, well, you've certainly done some great projects through Get Cheffed and a number other community initiatives in the past, and now with these workshops. So, thanks for all the really hard work that you're putting in Kyle, it's much appreciated, and it'll be great to collaborate with Reactivate again in the future.

Awesome, I can't wait. If you want to get involved in Reactivate Latrobe Valley or see what we're up to, go to the website and just hit subscribe, and keep in the loop.


[Tom Allen] - We're talking with Joh Lyons of Reactivate Latrobe Valley and The VRI. Joh, it's great to be talking to you, and thanks so much for helping organise and put on some great workshops.

[Joh Lyons] - Thanks Tom, it's been equally fun and inspiring for me too, so, thank you for coming all the way down here to deliver them.

Our absolute pleasure. To kick things off Joh, you're really big in this community, you're doing a lot of projects, you're working with a lot of organisations, you're really passionate about working in Gippsland to tackle a lot of really key social and environmental issues, so tell us about the work you're doing.

I started working with Traralgon Neighbourhood House and we realised that there wasn't much engagement from young people and in community education. So, The VRI was basically an experiment, I guess, to create a space for learning by doing, and we were lucky enough to be crowd funded to repair the old VRI hall in Traralgon. We partnered with Reactivate Latrobe Valley to help us to retrofit the space because it was an old hall that was a beautiful old building really, but had been neglected for a long time. It had tennis courts next to it that we've been able to built a community garden in, and we've done about three stages now of repairs and restoration and building new spaces so that the whole community has a space to try new things, to share what they know, come together, connect.

Delightfully there's such a range of things that have happened in the space over the five or so years since we first did our consultation with community about what the space could be. It's delightful to reflect back on the different groups that have used the space, the different activities that have happened, classes.


It's difficult to plan these things but I think neighbourhood houses are great at being responsive, and so as people, it's that real grassroots community development that responds to what people actually want rather than imposes any kind of agenda on the community.

That's a great insight. So, even in the last five years there's been a lot of transformation in the Latrobe Valley. What are some of the keys changes that you've seen and what are some of the key challenges moving forward?

I have seen some changes in Latrobe Valley, I've seen some things stay the same.

I think a lot of the things that are happening in Latrobe Valley are global shifts and I think we need to be careful not see ourselves as too different in the transition that's actually happening everywhere; with new technologies, with diminishing resources. There's lots of change.

I don't need to go through all of it, everybody knows what the changes are.

So, I guess, when Reactivate came and Rose and Craig had their plans to help transition our community from coal to creative future, I was very inspired because they'd brought a lot of data with them and a lot of international experience, which I felt we needed here because in small communities, as beautiful and as connected as they are, there can also be a tendency to be too much inward gazing and I think having a global perspective has certainly improved and informed my work. Also, I've learned plenty. It was a truly capacity building exercise working with the OUTR group and Kyle was part of that team as well.

Since we've become a social enterprise in our own right, I guess we've been working towards our sustainability without the massive institution of RMIT that we once had behind us. So, the last couple of years have been interesting times. But, this current course of activity is pretty aligned with our desire to see positive change in our community and I social enterprise is very much like what I was talking about with community development with The VRI. It's helping people to solve social problems with the individual as expert in their own life. So I've really enjoyed this, it's actually been really energising to be able to listen to other people's journeys. The journey, whether they become successful or whether they have a learning experience, they will be better and we'll all be better off for having shared it with them.

Yep, absolutely. I can't wait for more collaborations like this. It's exciting. So what's the bigger goal here for you Joh? If you were to look five years down the track; what sort of change are you really looking to create with your work?

I would like people to acknowledge and be acutely aware of the abundance of resources that we actually have in Latrobe Valley. We have amazing infrastructure, and we've got heaps of resources, and if we share, and we learn, and we work together, I don't see that there's many problems that we can't overcome.

I would like to see some shift in the ways that we deal with problems, and getting back to that grassroots stuff. I think the people I work with at The VRI, we have work for the dole projects, so unemployed people, some long term unemployed, if they're given a little bit of resource, and actually ask questions, they can actually solve there own problems.

Sometimes it's self esteem that needs lifting and even just a safe space. The interventions don't need to be that big, but…


I think getting people helping people to solve their own problems is long term more effective than actually trying to find more food relief.

You know, I see what Jon does in the garden with people and when, through teaching people how to grow their own food they start growing food then they bring their excess into us. They're unemployed but they're still happy to share what they've grown that they don't need. Things like that that make them feel very good; those small things have a big impact.

They’re great community building activities. It's been a fantastic opportunity to collaborate Joh, I much appreciate it and I appreciate all the hard work you're putting into The VRI and Reactivate. Thank you and we'll look forward to touching base in the future.

Yes, and if anybody is in Gippsland please get in touch with us. We have a great coworking space at Reactivate Latrobe Valley and I'd love to take, one of my favourite things is to take people around The VRI and show them what we've built together as a community and ask them how they would like to use the community space.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Jon Bundy from The VRI community garden. Jon, thanks for joining us.

[Jon Bundy] - Good to see you.

So Jon, tell us a little about The VRI and the work that you're doing there.

The VRI is a community hall that's basically about people learning by doing and community connectedness. We are about sustainability.

We have a vision and what I'm doing at the community gardens is trying to create a world where people have a chance to grow their own way.

Bit of a pun on words there, but yeah it's all about being creative and learning by doing, having connections with each other to be able to cooperate, produce new ideas.

Our purpose really is to empower these people by trying to encourage them to do so, that they can gain self-actualisation by that, and knowledge by sharing with other people. Our impact, we're actually starting to see that people are growing their own food, they're being able to go and take seedlings and seeds home and also the knowledge home to be able to grow their own food, pass that knowledge onto other and hopefully build up a bigger sense of that in the entire community.

We're also really trying to, by spreading this knowledge and encouraging people, we're letting them just feel like they're being a part of a wider change that is actually happening in Latrobe Valley.

It sounds like a great community group, and something that you're really passionate about. So, what got you into growing food?

I've been growing veggie patches since I was about nine years old, but, I really got into growing when I was at university, being very poor and got sick of two minute noodles and spaghetti and so forth. So, I realised I could live like a king from my own backyard and then I spread that to my friends, and so forth. It's all kind of an extension of that.

Wonderful. So what do you see as the next steps for your community garden? Where do you see it going into the future? And what sort of impact do you think you can really create?

We've got a lot of space to work with, we're finishing off some workshops which means that we'll have the actual physical space to run learning workshops, teaching people techniques of propagation and so forth. And also a space for people to teach themselves things; working on little projects and getting ideas, which is currently happening but in limited space. The actual physical garden itself will be expanding greatly. We'll probably expand it by another 60 percent of what we already have so it's going a huge space. I think about half an acre of gardens. It's a lot to work with.


It sounds like there's huge potential there Jon. What's something that you're taking away from the workshops that you think might be relevant to someone listening who's keen to start their own community garden, social enterprise or local organisation?

Well, because I have been involved with Reactivate, and Get Cheffed and Get Swapped and all that, I'm getting a real sense here that, similar to what I wanted to encourage in participants, that they are naturally part of a larger thing and a bigger movement in Gippsland itself.

That's a great insight then. Jon, it'll be good to watch The VRI grow into the future and see your garden blossom, pardon the pun. Thanks for joining us.

Thank you very much. If anyone's interested in getting involved, we have a Facebook site, we also have Instagram and we really welcome people to come down and be involved and become a garden ninja.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Cheryl Jakobi from Gippsland Pearls who creates some amazing gourmet foods. Cheryl, nice to have you in here. Tell us a little about your work.

[Cheryl Jakobi] - Thank you for having me. We're growing gourmet mushrooms and developing escargot caviar.

What is that?

Well, it's a snail's eggs. It's not romantic when you just say snail's eggs, so escargot caviar is for the high end market for export, and the reason we've gone for such labour intensive products, and such really unique products, is to develop employment in the area. So, that's our core desire, is to create employment for a broad spectrum of the community.

Is that something you see as really important for the Gippsland area in which you're operating?

Yes, I do. There's several groups of people that are underrepresented in the work place and we're wanting to help people have a stepping stone into the future that they want for themselves. Kind of recognise that people don't want to pack mushrooms for the rest of their lives, but if they can improve themselves and feel good about themselves and find it as a stepping stone into something better; great.

It sounds like there's really strong potential for some great, strong positive social impact there. So what does that impact look like for you five years down the track?

I would hope that we've got a strong community, an ongoing community that actually is self propelling, that people recognise Gippsland Pearls for far more than just its products, that it is actually a community, developing and growing a board spectrum of people so that more people actually cling on and come for the ride.

Is there something that you've taken away from the workshops that you'd like to share with the audience? Something that they could use in starting their own social enterprise.

The workshop has enlightened me on social enterprise, that it is real, it's actually valid, that you can be for-profit and still do great things. You can be ethical and still do great things, that it's not all about the dollar in my pocket but that actually community, and even being part of this group, is about community and about developing that sense of 'we can do this'. I think that's what I've got most from this.

Cheryl, it'll great to watch Gippsland Pearls develop into the future.

Thanks Tom. I would love to have people come visit us and, if you're in the Gippsland region please come out and see us, have a chat, talk mushrooms, talk snails, talk community, it's great.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Donna O'Callaghan who's an artist from Gippsland. Donna, tell us a little bit about your work.

[Donna O'Callaghan] - Thanks for having me Tom. Well, I'm an abstract artist from Gippsland and I'm really passionate about art and the environment.

What sort of art do you create? What does it look like? Give me a picture.

I create ocean based artworks and they incorporate corals and coral spawn and they always have an ocean focus because that's my passion. I love diving, and I love to incorporate that feeling that I get when I'm diving in my artwork. It's a wonderful feeling when I start a new artwork.

They're beautiful artworks, they’re really vivid, lots of colour in them. I really enjoy having a browse through what you do. So why did you come on the workshops? What are you here to do with your art? You've spoken about social impact over the previous sessions. What are you planning on doing?

Well, I did a community arts project and I just absolutely loved it and I think that that's something that I would really like to do again, and I thought this masterclass will really help me in finding out what exactly I want to do. So I feel like the direction has changed a little and, my focus has always been the environment and the ocean and, I hope that my artwork can have a voice and create a conversation about climate change and the ocean and its inhabitants.

Fantastic. I know that you do commissions, Donna, but you've also spoken about potential events or workshops or some other ways to use your art to create impact in the future. What do you see this looking like?

I see it as being exhibited in larger galleries with a real story behind the artwork, so, a big long artwork with lovely colours in the beginning showing how healthy a reef can be and then slowly becoming whiter and darker and then showing the impact that we're having on our environment and water warming and coral bleaching.


So the core of what you're doing then it sounds like you're using art to tell stories and plant a seed in people's head around the sort of change that you want to see in the world. So what's something that you're taking away from the workshops that you think the audience could also use?

I think this was amazingly beneficial for me. I've learned so much about social enterprise and how my artwork can help the environment. And also networking, this has been an amazing networking experience.

Wonderful, thank Donna. It will be great to see your art progress into the future, and next time I'm down in Gippsland it would be good to catch up.

Thanks so much Tom, I really appreciate it and if you want to check out my art you can pop into my studio or hop onto my Instagram page @donnaocallaghanart and have a look at my recent works and upcoming exhibitions.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Sam Forbes from Elbow Community Building. Sam, thanks for joining us.

[Sam Forbes] - Thanks a lot for having me.

Sam, tell us a little bit about your organisation. What are you doing and why did you join the workshops?

I'm starting an business called Elbow Community Building that's focussed on community development and health promotion initiatives in the Gippsland region. The key thing there is being involved in local community development activities, and I joined the workshops to find out about how I can make sure my values, which are aligned to social enterprise and having strong social impact, how I can best do that.

What experience do you have to date? And what's your background?

The easiest way to describe it, is a generalist who loves problem solving. But, I have qualifications in philosophy and public management and economic analysis, but what I really love doing is problem solving and I've done that for public policy and community development at the federal, state and local government level and now at a community organisation level as well. So I really feel that I've seen quite a lot of approaches, that kind of problem solving, and I'm ready to step out on my own and start having a bit of autonomy in that space, and contributing off my own back.


Fantastic. You said you're really focusing on working within the Gippsland region, so what sort of change do you see Gippsland going through and some of the core challenges that you find the region in at the moment?

Look, it's similar to a lot of other regions, it's facing change, and some of the changes are more pronounced in other regions because of the mix of the economy maybe. If you think about agriculture, power generation, timber and things like that, but the unique challenges to Gippsland are the breadth and diversity, but that's also a strength. It's a huge region; I often think it's kind of a ludicrous region to bunch in together. If you think about it we're talking about the tip of Phillip Island, to Pakenham, to the border of New South Wales. It's huge, it takes probably six hours to drive across. So, there’s quite a few unique challenges there.

So how can you help local organisations?

What I bring, and one of the reasons why I called it 'Elbow', is about creating those connections and linking people together with each other. That's organisation to organisation or person to person or person to funding or idea to funding. That's really what I see as being my unique value that I bring to the table, is knowing what's out there, having the relationships with people but also seeing the wider trends and fitting people into that.

So what's something that you'll take away from the workshops that you think the audience could also latch on to?

The thing that I've really gotten out of it is coming here and meeting the other people who are also at this stage of starting their enterprise and wondering, how do you think about starting full stop? How do you think about being a social enterprise? How do you think about incorporating your values into what you do? But then there's all the practical things that you've been helping us with, Tom, like branding, and pitching, and making a website. But going through that experience with others at the same place has been the most valuable thing to me and what I think other people could get out of it too.

Fantastic Sam. Well, it'll be great to watch you on your journey with Elbow Community Building into the future, and we'll look forward to visiting you next time we're down in Gippsland.

Thanks Tom, and if anyone's out there, either working in local government, state government or a community organisation, or even an individual who is passionate about building a community and thinks that they're aligned to what I've been talking about here, I encourage them to get in touch and the easiest way to do that at the moment is through my LinkedIn.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Yvette Atkins from the Arts Resource Collective or Arc Yinnar. Yvette, thanks for joining us and thanks for jumping on the workshops.

[Yvette Atkins] - Thank you very much, it's been great being part of it.

So tell us a little bit about ARC; what do you do?

ARC is an artist run, non-profit organisation that started off as a social enterprise 36 years ago. I'm a current member. We provide support resources, mentorships, space, various programs and educational employment opportunities to aspiring artists or artists who are somewhere else in their career, and anyone who is interested in getting involved in the arts.

36 years running; that's a long time in the community. How've you seen the Gippsland community change over that period in time?

There's been a few changes, but a lot lately so with the changes in the coal industry, shutting down Hazelwood Power, we're situated very closely to that particular industry. With changes in population, people looking for tree change, other people leaving the community; we've found all of those changes have had a major on Gippsland as a whole and ARC is really primed and in the position to address some of those changes with the programs that it's delivering.

So what sort of programs are you running?

We've got a whole range of programs that go from having an exhibitions space, an art gallery, to providing space for artists, anyone interested to come along and do workshops, and for artists specifically to work within their own spaces. We hold events, we move into all areas of the arts from visual to performance and music, and so that's all there. We have an actual performance space where you can come and rehearse anything that you particularly want to be putting out there to the rest of the world. There's an audience in that space, you can get that feel for performance with a live audience or the right lighting and sound, and we constantly put on events within that space as well.


It sounds like a lovely supporting community.

It is, it's great. It's been going for quite a while, but is impacted by those changes, and one of the things we're specifically focussing on is maintaining our relevance, and also looking at having that intergenerational exchange. Having started 36 years ago, we still want to have that relevant exchange with everything that is happening now within the Valley and Gippsland particularly.

So, what's something that you're going to take away from the workshop that you think the audience may be able to apply to their own community organisation or social enterprise?

Okay, well, I've found this particular series of workshops really enlightening as to what social enterprise is today and in all its breadth, and how it really relates to this more local community. Because, there was always this idea, that in terms of impact, it needed to have this big international impact that was generated from an idea and that there was repetition of that idea and then people would set up franchises. But, bringing it way back to what we do in this organisation, and within this region, there has been some really helpful information that I've been able to take onboard in how our organisation runs, and in our future direction as a social enterprise.

Well it's been great to have you as part of the cohort Yvette. We look forward to tracking ARC's journey as you move forward, and visiting you next time we're in Gippsland.

That'd be fantastic, thanks. If you are an artist, or you have a passion for art in anyway, you haven't taken that step forward but have been thinking about it for a long time, please come along to ARC. Whether you're an individual, an organisation, a community group, come along and see what we do and see what we have to offer you.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Brooke Bridge from the Latrobe Valley Beekeepers Association. Brooke, thanks for joining us on the workshops and on the podcasts.

[Brooke Bridge] - You're welcome.

So tell us a little bit about the association. What do you guys do?

Well, we educate people on the importance of pollinators, so bees, which are responsible for two thirds of food that we eat at the moment, so they're pretty essential to life as we know it. We create mentor opportunities for people interested in beekeeping, and a community for them to safely get together, and connect, and share ideas, and talk bees, which people get pretty sick of if you're not interested in bees.

Totally. So it sounds like it's a passion for you; how did you get into bees?

I actually got to do a free course funded by the Latrobe Valley Authority recently, last year, because I was just aimlessly drifting, and, I've always been a nature lover, and I love honey, so I thought it would be a great way to combine my interests and teach my kids about the importance of the environment, and help them nurture, and experience the awesomeness that is local honey, and apparently it's the best; they're sharing it at school.

Wonderful, well that's always a good sign; that kids tick of approval.

Yeah, especially teenagers.

So, as an association then, what sort of impact do you believe that the Latrobe Valley Beekeepers Association can make into the future?

Well, we aim to change people's behaviour around use of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, you know, things that are impacting on the health of bees in general, and pollinators in general. Which we've said, they have such an important role in our ecosystems.

There's been a global decline in the populations of pollinators in general, and that's basically catastrophic for the world.

If we can change people's behaviours to be more pollinator friendly so that they can see the beauty and the value in bees, rather than, say, calling an exterminator straight away, they call the beekeeper instead. Also, boosting the local honey economy, we're such a generous food bowl around here. We have such a variety of produce and we actually have quite a lot of beekeepers so maybe you can connect the two there and say, thanks to the beekeepers for the abundant produce we have around here.

If we can infect as many people as possible with the passion for beekeeping, because it is addictive, then we can create change.

Absolutely. So, in joining the workshop then, what is something that you'd share with the audience; someone who is starting a social enterprise or local association, that you feel would be valuable knowledge for them?

You're not alone. There's a lot of inspiring people out there and all you've got to do is ask somehow. It's easy to feel isolated, like you've said, to feel like you're basically on this lofty mission that doesn't really have an endgame, but if you get together with other people you find some direction, and inspiration, and actual usable ideas that you can set and apply to your own course.

It's a great insight Brooke, and it'll be great to see the association grow into the future, so thanks for joining us.

Thanks Tom, and if you're interested or passionate about beekeeping you can check us out the first Tuesday of every month, 7-9pm at Frank Bartlett Memorial Library in Moe.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Mark Giddens, and Mark's joined the masterclasses as part of Gippsland360, a project that's using drones to tell stories or solve problems in unique ways. Mark, thanks for joining us.

[Mark Giddens] - Thanks Tom.

Mark, tell us a little bit about your project. What are you doing here and why are you working with drones?

Okay so, basically, I lived overseas for the last 20 years and moved back to Australia, and moved back to my hometown, and, wanted to find something a bit different. Like, there's so many television productions companies out there, it's quite a crowded environment. I love flying, I love telling people stories, so trying to somehow ravel them together and basically using drones to solve problems in industry, because we do have a large amount of industry here, and being able to use the drones to be able to make things safer, rather than doing things the more old-school, manual way. Also, telling stories, I love telling stories, it's what I've done my whole career.

You've worked in some amazing countries.

Yeah, I've spent some time in some pretty unusual places around the world and met some pretty amazing people on that journey. Coming back here it would be nice to be able to tell people stories that they don't normally have the opportunity to tell. And so, hopefully I can get there story out there.

So you plan on doing that through a production style type way, with drone or other videography, or, how do you see that?

With the drone work, I'm planning on using that to help make a change in the way we do work in the industry, but the money I make from that drone work, I'm wanting to use to tell peoples' stories and get the story of how we can help the environment out more.

So from a social impact perspective, what sort of change are you looking to create?

When I travelled over sees I saw a lot of different things happening with the environment; some of it was good, some of it was not so good. In a lot of villages in really poor parts of the world, people were doing amazing things to help the environment and I really loved it, but then other places you would see terrible things happening to the environment. Coming back here, I'm just really wanting to show people how important the environment is, and that we have to take care of it, and if we ruin things, a lot of the time things will never be the same again.

I think it's really important that we be able to tell stories to show people how important our environment is, and we've only got this one environment. It's not like we get to go somewhere else and start again.

What's something that you've taken away from the workshops that you'd like to share with the audience?

I think a different perspective, and how to solve problems. I've really just broadened my mind about how I can look at solving the problems I've got and sometimes it's a bit overwhelming, and the one thing I've taken from this is to be able to just break things down and just go through step by step by step. Then, after that, the problems aren't so insurmountable, things become a lot more achievable.

Thanks for sharing that Mark, it'll be really great to watch the journey with Gippsland360 continue on into the future, and see how you progress.

Thanks Tom. If anyone needs some help shooting industrial drone work around Gippsland, let us know, and also more importantly if anyone has a story that they would like to tell also please let us know so I can help you tell your story.


[Tom Allen] - We're with Sarah Tate from the Latrobe Valley Authority. Sarah, thanks for joining us.

[Sarah Tate] - Thanks for having me, Tom.

Sarah, it's great to have you as part of the masterclasses. Tell us a little bit more about the work that you're doing.

Yeah, definitely. So, I'm a concierge of the business support service at the Latrobe Valley Authority. The idea of the role and the business support service is it's a new program that's set up to support businesses in the region to access relevant information and opportunities, really to help them establish and grow their business. So the reason the service came about is, speaking to businesses in the region, is that there's a lot of disconnect. There's already existing funding and programs and services out there but it's really about navigating all of that information and finding what's relevant to them. So the role is really just connecting people to opportunities, to help them establish or grow their business, and also another key element is keeping them up to date on opportunities as they arise.


It sounds like a fantastic department to have, especially given Latrobe Valley's transition at the moment.

Yeah, so the work that the Latrobe Valley does is really delivering actions to improve outcomes for the region, so it's a great program to be a part of. But another part of the work Latrobe Valley focuses on is also, this needs to be achieved by collaborating with a lot of different other government agencies and private service agencies. So there’s a big element of co-design in this service as well of getting everyone in the region onboard to help support the businesses.

So what would be your strong vision for Gippsland five years down the track? Where do you see Gippsland heading?

A lot of the work, not just in the business support service but in Latrobe Valley is really to set the place up to have a sustainable future beyond government funding, so it's really about finding longevity in the programs that we run, to find backbone organisations, or other ways to keep it sustainable so it's not dependent on government handouts.


In terms of the masterclasses, do you have any insights or takeaways that you wanted to share that might be relevant to our audience of social enterprises or innovators?

Yeah, definitely. There was two things I really took away. So, one element was key practical information that I learned was really about the different revenue and impact models. I found that really useful, just to get more of a definition of what a social enterprise looks like, and how you would have a business model to set that up.

But the other part that I've really enjoyed, Tom, is you've been a fantastic facilitator and that you've really let the class be led by the group and the needs of the group. I think the highlights for me, really, is just getting a greater insight into others' businesses in the region that are in this same stage, and all the conversations that have taken place. It's just been really eye opening, and I'm hoping that that will also help me to support other businesses in similar stages in the future.

That's really encouraging, Sarah. Thanks for that feedback. I certainly believe now that there's a great culture in the group there and it can only really move forward in a positive way, so I think you'll play a really key role in helping shape that. Thanks for all the the work that you're doing in the region. It'll be great to track the work that you're doing into the future.

I would really love that Tom, it's been fantastic. Any Gippsland listeners that have small, medium or any sized business really, and you're looking for more information or some support in any way shape or form, get in touch with the Latrobe Valley Authority and we'll have a chat.



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