Smallest municipality a national champion

Like many rural municipalities Murchison in Western Australia, population 210, has faced the cumulative problems that arise when changing conditions lead to dwindling incomes and population. But the Shire of Murchison refused to accept a slow death. It is determined to fight back.

For its efforts the smallest Local Government in Australia, earned the title of 1998 Australian Community of the Year. Ten years ago when the Shire operated from one room in the CEO's house, it was decided to buck the trend of downsizing. Further land was leased to build the kinds of facilities that provide a focal point for community activity.

Land was cleared for cricket and polocrosse, while a multipurpose hall was built with Government grants and local 'peoplepower'. Within a year, an Administration Centre with a Library and Communications room was also built.

"Establishing these facilities led to growth in community activity, pride and ambition," said Dick Child, Chief Executive Officer. "Since then, in spite of its small size Murchison residents and Council working together have established a place rich in facilities, culture and community spirit."

The community has built its own reticulated water supply, generates its own electricity and has constructed worker housing. It has also established a two way radio net and four airstrips to increase safety and access to medical care for travellers as well as local residents.

Among Murchison's many worthy features is a commitment to cultural and artistic pursuits. This is evidenced by establishing its own museum, and bringing the WA State Symphony Orchestra to the remote settlement on two occasions.

Commitment to the environment has won Murchison several Landcare awards. Perhaps Murchison's most significant feature is the degree to which, in spite of its small size, it takes an active role in Local Government and other affairs on a statewide and national basis. It has active representation on the Country Councils Shire Association, industry bodies and development boards.

Dick Child believes Murchison, being built on concern for others, courage, enjoyment of life and outreaching, will continue to be a community worthy of the name Australian.

For further information contact Dick Child, telephone (08) 9963 7999.