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Bodye Darvill.

Brace yourself for a force of positive change and social justice in Gippsland: Bodye Darvill!

Apr 21, 2023


Words: Gippslandia
Images: Supplied

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“What I’m interested in is support-ing the transformational change across the region and the opportunities that brings,” explains Bodye Darvill.

Bodye, now the manager of regional programs: energy with the Latrobe Valley Authority, originally hails from near the gorgeous little South Gippsland town of Port Welshpool and went to school in Yarram.

“Then I did what a lot of young people do here, I went away to Melbourne for uni…where I did a communications degree and then worked a bit in educational publishing.”

She was then staring down a common juncture for many Gippslandians who study in Melbourne: what next?

“I decided that community development was much more where I wanted to be. Working directly with people… working to empower them and focusing on their strengths and assets.
“I moved back home and managed the Rosedale Neighborhood House.

“While I was studying my masters in community development, I was doing really grassroots, on-the-ground work at Rosedale.”

From there, Bodye joined the team at Wellington Shire for five years in a supporting role for volunteer committees of management in the municipality. This included assisting committees that were managing the local recreation reserve, community hall or even a kindergarten. The crux of the role was how to provide the most effective support and continue to stoke the local community’s pride in their spaces. For instance, can a building have more meaning to a small town than just a place for four walls and a roof?

Bodye estimates that during her time in this role, she was aware of approximately 1200 volunteers that were all dedicating their time to the management of these small-town hubs and buildings. For her, this was “really interesting work”, even if she had to calm the occasional inter-personal conflict that can flare up in regional communities.

In reflecting on why some towns appear to foster a more enthusiastic community spirit, Bodye believes that, “It’s very relationship-based, which becomes more diluted in larger communities. I’ve noticed it more strongly in small communities.”

“In small communities, we understand who each other are, understand who the organisations are, and they can form a network or web more easily. They can understand… where they might be able to draw others in and encourage them to be a part of and grow on that strength… Collectively, they can have a more positive sense of themselves.

“I'm not trying to romanticise it and say all small towns are perfect, but I think in cities, there's much less a sense of yourself as a part of the whole.”

Touching on young people’s involvement in formal committees or community groups, Bodye suggests that many of the traditional structures don’t suit them anymore. For young people especially, some of these collectives are not clear in addressing, “Why is it interesting? Why am I valued? What value would I add? And, why should I be there?”

“I don’t think they’re disengaged. They’re talking to each other constantly. They’re interacting all around the world with people. Just because it’s not [focusing on] what we see as being a priority area, [it] doesn’t mean they’re not engaged.”

Recently, energy generation in Gippsland has seized Bodye’s attention.

“What is happening in energy is absolutely transformational for our region. [Admittedly,] the technical elements of how generation works don’t particularly interest me. But I’m interested in support-ing the transformation change across the region and the opportunities and possibil-ities that brings.”
Bodye believes that the scale of opportunity is “phenomenal’, which was part of her motivation in developing her 2022 MBA thesis, Community preparedness to engage with renewable energy development in Gippsland, and why she was involved in scoping a new energy website to help tell the story of this transformation for the Gippsland region.

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“One of the things we need to do is collectively tell the community what the bigger picture of energy transition looks like. There are billions of dollars worth of proposed projects for the Gippsland Renewable Energy Zone: solar, battery, transmission lines, onshore and offshore wind, and more. But we need to demonstrate the broader picture of the opportunity and also the challenges. I think it’s really crucial that people can see not just a project-by-project basis, but the change in a collective, and what that great trans-formation means.”

“There are so many different ways that this is going to interact with our community across Gippsland. We need to be talking to people about jobs, new business development, community benefit schemes and local training. Not everybody is going to want to know or even care about this, and that's okay. But what we need to be doing is putting out the information in a range of different ways through websites, face-to-face discussions, broad publicity campaigns, media about just educating and informing. Then people can make that choice about whether they want to engage and how deep they want that engagement to go. We need to do our best to bring the community into this space with us, to expand our knowledge of and readiness to respond to what's coming, while addressing the real concern of consultation fatigue.

“One thing we are looking to do is help support regional coordination of information, in particular for the large-scale generation projects. We're also trying to help identify community priorities, identify those regional priorities, and advocate them back up to the state and federal government policymakers… We are getting a system that allows us to under-stand community voice, capture it, and make sure it continues to be put on the table when decisions are being made.”

In speaking with Bodye, the through-line from her early community projects to now exploring region-wide change, which will have national attention cast on it, is really clear.

As she says, “I've always had a really strong social justice lens. I've always felt really deeply the value of equality and the value of everybody having a voice, having a chance to determine what's important to them, determine what their future looks like.”

Over the years, Gippsland has had many changes imposed on it – the large-scale shift away from fossil fuel power generation and the timber industry being more recent examples. As Bob Dylan sings, “The times they are a-changin’. Bodye’s shown through her time at Rosedale Neighbourhood House, Wellington Shire, the board of Gippsland Women’s Health, and Gippsland Ranges Roller Derby, contributing to the Gippsland Pride initiatives that the first step is listening intently to the community, then empowering them.

“It's not about doing something for a community. It's about pulling everybody into that space with you and saying, ‘Hey, your lived experience, your thoughts, your wants, your needs – how do we put that at the centre of this? And, how do we bring that forward together?”

So, how do you want to change the region, now that you know you’ve got Bodye in your corner?

Gippslandia - Issue No. 26

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