Social Enterprise World Forum – Rural Gathering Day 1 02/10/22

The entrance to Old Beechworth Gaol.

Hosted by ACRE (Australian Centre for Rural Entrepreneurship) in association with SEWF 2022, the Rural Gathering (2-5 October) was held in Northeast Victoria – a rural region that is a hot bed for social enterprise in Australia. Community Enterprise in Scotland (CEIS), in partnership with SEWF via the International Social Enterprise Observatory (ISEO) were able to support delegates from the Scottish third sector to attend SEWF22 in-person. Included in those receiving support is Aimee, our Rural Social Enterprise Coordinator.

The Scottish Delegates who were staying on for the Rural Gathering made their way from Brisbane to Albury Airport. After arriving at Albury Airport, participants were picked up by buses and escorted to Old Beechworth Gaol for a welcome barbeque.

Attendees were welcomed by a delicious BBQ.

Proudly owned by the local community, the Old Beechworth Gaol is a vibrant precinct for the social, cultural and economic benefit of the region. In 2016, ACRE led the local buyback of the Old Beechworth Gaol through the generous support of 20 local families and a number of philanthropic foundations. The support ensured that the future of the Gaol remained in the hands of the community.

The former house of correction now plays host to a diverse range of social enterprises, innovative businesses, arts, co-working spaces and visitor experiences. Today the Gaol is a site that inspires others to consider local buybacks to help rejuvenate rural communities across Australia.

To begin the welcome festivities, there was a welcome to country lead by one of the traditional landowners and some introductions from Matt Pharlet, the founder and CEO of Acre, Mary-Anne Scully, the Event Lead at Acre, David Upton, the CEO of Canadian organisation Common Good and Gerry Higgins, the founder of SEWF.

Following dinner and refreshments, most attendees returned to their motels to get some rest before an early start in the morning. However, a few members of the Scottish Delegation (Aimee included) arranged to stay a little longer at the Old Gaol to continue discussions with Matt Pharlet. Matt gave the Delegates a tour of the Gaol which included a look at Cell 101 which had once housed famous Australian outlaw, Ned Kelly. Matt also took the group to his office which was home to his extensive collection of digeridoos.

The inside of Ned Kelly’s old prison cell.

The group returned back to their motel at around midnight to get some rest before the bus tour of Victoria’s rural social enterprises began.

Matt and the Scottish Delegates ‘playing prisoner’.