Listening to the community

A thorough investigation by Oberon Council into its various community sentiments is leading the way for the future direction of Oberon. Located some 150 kilometres west of Sydney, residents were invited to voice their opinions as part of a 12 month long investigation for Council’s Community Development project.

The results are now in the form of a detailed report entitled Voices of Oberon District, Issues, Opportunities, The Future. This will guide Council’s future planning.

Council worked with the Central West Rural Financial Counselling Service (CWRFCS) on the project. It formed a project team that comprised of community stakeholders and the regional CWRFCS. A process of interviews, workshops and forums, involving a broad cross section of residents, was undertaken.

Some of the major issues highlighted by residents included lack of youth recreational facilities; lack of childcare options; appropriate accommodation for the aged; diversified and sustainable development; improving the image of their forestry industry; and diversifying and promoting their attractions.

Council obtained financial support from the Department of State and Regional Development totalling $19,000 to conduct public forums and workshops and appoint an Interim Planning Coordinator.

“The community development process undertaken was participatory, not expecting others to solve problems, but acknowledging the strengths, skills and resources within people of the district to envisage and take charge of their own future,” said Council’s General Manager, Bruce Fitzpatrick. “Whatever the long term outcome of this action, there has already been an enormous benefit achieved merely by seeking the thoughts and opinions of so many people. Special interest groups have emerged which are being actively driven by motivated residents. Single interest groups have also evolved with the aim of bringing about a picture theatre in the former Malachi Gilmore Hall, a roof over the heated swimming pool, and a Community Technology Centre.”

Council recently took out the Management Innovations Gold Award for Rural Councils at the 2002 LGMA/Sydney Morning Herald Management Excellence Awards with this project.