The Murray Connect Co-working Space is a community initiative that aims to provide a central hub for the purpose of connecting people, industry and research for the purpose of facilitating adaptation within the community to grow economic sustainability within the region.
This concept was initiated and driven by the Western Murray Land Improvement Group (WMLIG), with the support of a diverse consultative committee filled with local government, business representatives, community groups and industry. The committee received $5,000 from the Murray River Council to begin a lease contract for the old Barham Catholic School building with the Barham Catholic Church, who have also been avid supporters of the concept.
At the beginning of 2019 WMLIG received funding from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal to fit out the building as a co-working space, employ a Community Support Officer and run Drought Support Workshops across the region. This project is due for completion in March 2022.
Once operating, the local community hub will offer high quality office, meeting and workshop facilities; co-working spaces, mentoring support; information services and a base for WMLIG and business, government agency and staff operations. Key activities to be undertaken within this project include the following:
Create a community co-working space for the co-ordination and facilitation of ideas, information and projects that build capacity and new perspectives in individuals, the community and local industry. This space will provide networking opportunities and access to leading technology, such as teleconferencing facilities to assist in closing the current rural-urban divide and potentially expand employment opportunities locally. It will also serve as a precursor for entrepreneurial thinking and leadership development through the provision of skills training services, mentoring, information sharing and connection with external professionals. The Centre will be filled with positive messaging artwork to encourage a “can do” attitude, including the display of local project case studies, posters and digital presentations of local events.
Offering rentable private office spaces for use by external stakeholders such as industry or research professionals, with the aim of strengthening networking opportunities and information sharing within the region.
Facilitate local Ecotourism & Agritourism opportunities to educate community members, domestic and international tourists about the unique environmental and agricultural systems we are surrounded by. Barham and Koondrook have particularly interesting wetland areas which support an array of breeding birds, mammals and reptiles, Wakool hosts the historical salt evaporation lakes and the local Murray Irrigation channel system is one of the world's most efficient engineering systems for water regulation and supply. The farms surrounding this are leaders in on-farm water management, especially in terms of rice cropping. This initiative would also support the creation of a regional brand for the area to support the marketing of premium productions domestically and overseas.
Information brokering services for the community to provide up to date, relevant information on funding for business and community initiatives, contact information for financial services, support for understanding government relief package eligibility requirements.
Education services to engage and provide school children with information packages on environmental and agricultural facts relevant to this region. "Potentially we could have an interpretive centre where kids come up from Melbourne. They watch a video about the region, we have a speaker or two, they get a booklet with exercises in it, we take them out to the farms, forests, wetlands, rivers in our regions and they learn about how the systems interact", (Roger Knight, Local Landcare Co-Ordinator).
Providing a space for community workshops to improve knowledge about technology, business start-ups, marketing, agricultural innovations and best-practice and environmental systems.
We want this facility to bridge the gaps and connect people, we want it to bridge the gaps between two states (NSW & VIC), to bridge knowledge gaps, skills gaps, bridge scientific knowledge to on ground adoption and connect metropolitan people to country people.
This concept has already been widely supported by community, industry, local government and business groups, with 26 groups or organisations involved in the planning process for development of the Co-working Space with 37 individuals attending planning meetings or have attended private meetings and discussions about the Space.
These groups include: Central Murray BestWool BestLamb, Murray River Council, Barham Catholic Church, Murray Irrigation Limited, Barham Consolidated, Mallee Rising, Murray Local Land Services, Regional Development Australia - Murray, Petauraus Education Group, Irrigated Cropping Council, Future Pulse, Barham High School, Mecardo, Wakool Landholders Association, Young Country Networkers, Moulamein Cropping Group, Koondrook Development Committee, Peek Designs, Murrakool Land for Wildlife (MLFW) and Latrobe University, Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship (ACRE), University of Melbourne, Smart Specialisation Strategy, NSW Farmers, Co-operative Research Centre, Charles Sturt University & NSW Department of Primary Industry