Two years ago, a few of us got together and rolled up our sleeves to make something great — not for ourselves, not to make money and not to be noticed.
Instead, we saw a problem on the horizon and came forward with the resources we had to do something within our power to make a positive difference. As designers and creatives who solve problems every day, we were about to tackle one of the biggest design challenges we’d face — designing positivity for Gippsland.
A few of our eager and inspiring readers may know the prologue. It was late in 2016 and, motivated by the recent announcement of the Hazelwood mine closure, we stepped forward at what I think was the first Gippsland Regional Assembly (a major forum that initiated dialogue on the next steps for the region) and crashed the party. Held at the Moe Racing Club, it was attended by Premier Daniel Andrews, several state ministers, many of the local government members and numerous other government and business leaders from the wider Gippsland community. Everyone who took their seat after the midway break was presented with a brochure announcing a new voice in the local media — Gippslandia had arrived.
The brochure read:
The newspaper isn’t right leaning, nor is it left, and it most certainly will not be down (there’ll be no negativity in these pages). Instead, Gippslandia will keep its outlook directed up — promoting stories of success and innovation, seeding ideas for positive change and spreading the upside of life in Gippsland.
You are now reading our ninth edition and, over 60,000 copies later, we’re barely scratching the surface of all the good news to share. Not to mention that Gippsland is getting noticed. There’s an endless list of people playing their part to bring eyes, visitors and investment to the region, but at least we can say we’re on that list. I’m quite proud to be part of a team that saw a problem and decided not to just let it happen, but to put our hands up and do something about it. With Tim, Michael, my wonderful team at The View From Here and a host of other inspiring creatives and partners, we’re getting busy and doing that one cool thing we can do to help. This issue is all about acknowledging the great work of individuals and businesses who are picking up a line and getting busy doing what they do well. Each and every innovative, prosperous and forward-thinking group that is in operation in Gippsland is, in effect, helping pull the rope.
If I may, here is a short burst of overdue shoutouts — massive thanks and kudos to the incredibly generous local businesses who’ve supported Gippslandia from the start: ROPAN Financial Services, The Cape Kitchen, Gippsland Cosmetic Laser Clinic, Abbey Gardens and Millar Merrigan. I hope all of you reading this will jump online and hit their website, like their Facebook page, drop them an email, or better yet, give them some business! The same should be said for our other current partners: DFP Recruitment, Kingbuilt, West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority, Bank Australia and Traralgon Automotive Group. This paper is only in your hands because of their hard work in creating successful enterprises that can afford to generously support a magazine like ours. Thank you all for helping us do this.
Whatever side of the political coin you fall upon, I want to also acknowledge that all our local politicians, council members and workers, charities, community groups and business leaders across this region are all ultimately trying their best to help. Sure, you may disagree sometimes with the direction of their efforts, but in the spirit of constructive positivity, may we all be a little more patient with our comments on social media and see how we can work together.
As our original manifesto read:
Gippslandia aims to bring an air of positivity to the local media landscape. Yes, there may be events in our region that can frustrate us, but there are already plenty of forums to vent negativity — Gippslandia will endeavour not to be another one.
The local landscape has changed a lot in the past two years, and there’s a range of initiatives on the go right now that have definitely caught my attention, and I’ll be watching their development eagerly. Here’s an attempt to name a few: The team at Destination Gippsland, relentlessly seeking new and interesting ways to drive up visitation to the region; Nina Burke and the league of inspirational retiree founders of the Great Latrobe Park who are putting their own dollars and time on the line to envision a tourism asset for the region through a giant parkland linking revitalised Yallourn and Hazelwood mines; Andy McCarthy and his tenacious appetite to make Gippsland a national renewable energy leader, which in some ways is echoed by the work of Ian Southall and the Gippsland Climate Change Network who are trying to pioneer closed-circuit power hubs in the area.
On the other side of the spectrum the work being done by Australian Paper on its Energy from Waste Facility is revolutionary compared to methods of the past; the Latrobe Valley Authority is driving scores of jobs into the area, including projects as innovative as that of hybrid truck manufacturer SEA; nor should I forget to recognise the long-term property owners, developers and investors who pour so much of their capital into the towns of this region providing jobs and apprenticeships — their belief in their Gippsland towns keeps so many employed.
The Gippsland recipients of the federal funding packages have much to be excited. These form part of the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages (RJIP), which includes investment in staple industries like timber, through to the development of technology as advanced as next-generation rocket motors, and initiatives as exciting as the Haunted Hills Bike Park. The bike park should provide a significant gateway trail network and skills development facility that will attract strong interest within the visitor economy.
On the cultural level I’m continually impressed by the work of Simon Gregg at the Gippsland Art Gallery and Mark Themann at the Latrobe Regional Gallery for bringing world-class art and dialogue to our communities; the selfless fostering of local creatives in their communities by Lake Tyers’ Andrea Lane, Bairnsdale’s Jes John, Mary Sullivan in South Gippsland; plus the many destination venues that punch above their weight putting their relatively small towns on the map, like the General Store and the Garlic Festival in Meenyian, Tamsin Carvin and the founders of The Borough Dept Store, Korumburra, including Udder and Hoe and Kilcunda General Store; the guys at the Tinamba Hotel, Long Paddock Lindenow; Sailors Grave in Orbost; not to also mention staples like Little Prince, Neilsons Kitchen close to our Traralgon home; Sally Jones and Gippsland Jersey; Elena Kelareva at Gippstech; Joh Lyons and The VRI, Latrobe Streetgames…
I could go on (in fact, I think I gave it a pretty good go!). Of course, there are so many more projects and initiatives that I’ve failed to mention. My regular column couldn’t ever fit them all in. I’m sure to feel terrible for forgetting anyone’s great work — sorry to whomever I’ve missed — but really, the shout out isn’t the actual point.
There are scores of people across Gippsland pouring their time and energy into their skills, crafts, businesses and investments to keep this region prosperous.
People are innovating in Gippsland. People are working hard, getting busy and making things happen in Gippsland that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.
For what can we thank all these trailblazers? What is the result of all this hard work?
Opportunity. Options for our youth entering the workforce. Liveability. Sustainable employment. Diverse economies. The prospect of a prosperous future. All of this doesn’t just magically happen, it takes hard work, a few calculated risks, and the guts of a few to step up and make it happen.
As for our role?
We believe that the consistent delivery of ideas, opportunity, innovation, optimism and success can foster a similar outlook in our community, which can ultimately be good for our region and hopefully great for us all.
As we tuck into the lamb shoulder and salad over the Christmas break, let’s pause for a moment to ponder this groundswell of positive energy emerging out of Gippsland and consider what we can do to support it. Then strap in and get ready for what’s to come in 2019. I’m excited to see what Gippsland can make of it.