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Our secret.

Connections, conversations and community embody our Gippsland, and the secret is getting out.

Dec 6, 2020

Words: Michael Duncan
Images: Gippslandia

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We’re told that Gippslandia frequently captures the ‘essence’ of Gippsland and that, by creating this platform, we are having an influence on the image of our region. The thing is, to me, it’s as much as what doesn’t find its way inked into these pages, as what does.

Since the last edition, we’ve been working with Ryan Leslie of Aerium to develop our strategic plan, and I’ve been completing a company directors course; these tasks will culminate in us providing you with a refined direction and an opportunity for you to join us as we head there.

A strategic planning process asks a lot of questions, but most importantly, it’s about assessing who you are, what you offer and identifying who your customers are. Big questions that we hadn’t really answered before.

Prompted by this process, I’ve been spending time pondering the aforementioned claim about ‘capturing the essence of Gippsland’. What is meant by that, and what is the essence they speak of?

Recently in my day job, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with people in the East Gippsland business community who have been impacted by the bushfires, and now Covid-19, and little did I know that these guys are sitting on the secret to what makes our region so special. The best bit is that they can’t always see it.

To me, it’s kindness, connection and community before self.

Gippslandians have an abundance of these.

these guys are sitting on the secret to what makes our region so special...

I’ve been sitting and talking with businesses that are going through their hardest period ever, only for them to try to and foot the bill or offer me a place to stay, which speaks volumes. To talk about their competitors in an empathetic and supportive way, finding ways to drive forward as an industry rather than as individuals (some in our industry could take note) is what makes Gippsland such a fantastic place.

In the melting pot that makes up our essence is ‘connection’, and this is a hard one to present in print, yet it’s probably what we naturally do best.

This past quarter we’ve reconnected with our good friend Bessie Kay, who helped pull together the Book of Life cookbook with us and is involved with the TV show Behind the Sash. Bessie and I have been in discussions about bringing her other program, Open Homes Australia, to Gippsland, and when bouncing ideas off each other, Bessie mentioned she wanted to find a special East Gippsland backyard to renovate.

After a bit of private detective work, I put Bessie in touch with a former colleague’s family who run Melon’s Cottage (please look up the great work they’re doing). Bessie’s team swept in and made a huge difference. The message I received from the grateful family was along the lines of ‘You’ve made our year’. I’ve never enjoyed so much adulation for my work in a backyard before, especially without lifting a finger. I’m sharing this because I love to see good people helping other good people, and it’s happening all around us. These connections are the life of our community.

Throughout the planning process, when we’re asked ‘who are our customers?’ and with ‘pivot’ being the buzzword of 2020, I’m onto a business idea that one of you readers with more time and energy than me should look into. In the past week alone, I’ve received phone calls from three friends in Melbourne wanting to move to Gippsland and seeking advice. One wants to be reasonably close to Melbourne, another the beach, another wants space in a lifestyle property in and around the valley — as a result, more connections are being made.

Other valuable connections we’ve made throughout 2020 are John Mitchell from Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF), Damien Simpson (Jelfor) and Bob Yeates (Rotary). These pivotal connections, as well as generosity and kindness, encouraged us to run the Meaningful Post campaign. Thanks to everyone’s incredible support, Gippslandia has raised funds for over 1200 fence posts to be donated to East Gippsland farmers.

It took a few phone calls, and some great social media work by the talented Lacey Yeomans, for this campaign to come to life. Most encouragingly, this fundraising project demonstrated the strong connection Gippslandia has into Melbourne, and also their support of our region, with 40% of posts being purchased by generous people living in Melbourne postcodes.

So, what does all of this tell me? The secret is getting out.

The conversations we’re having and the stories we’re sharing are helping shape perceptions on what a community is all about. It’s not always easy to put into words or assess the impact of a project like Gippslandia, but if the time and effort we put in achieves nothing more than getting a great community facility, like Melon’s Cottage, upgraded then it’s all worth it. If it helps to attract an extra great family to our region, it’s worth it. If we can provide some of our farmers, who’ve dealt with drought, bushfire and COVID, some fencing material, it’s worth it. Most of all, if we can show the humble business owners and people who feature in Gippslandia that what they’ve got is special and the region is grateful for having them — then our work is done.

The secret is getting out.

Keep pushing through, keep supporting each other, keep showing the world just how magnificent our region is, with or without this lockdown. Because people are starting to notice, they’re beginning to relocate, drawn to the Gippsland secret, and as a result, we can only benefit and grow together.

If there is something in particular that you wish to know or discuss, please get in touch and I’ll either address it here in a future column or via email at

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