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.
Attendees awoke to a lovely crisp morning in Bright and headed over to Dumu Balcony Cafe for breakfast. The Dumu Balcony Café in Bright is a social enterprise that employs and trains youth from the Thamarrurr region in the Northern Territory. Whilst working in the café, participants learn valuable employment and life skills and develop knowledge to use in their community or anywhere else they choose. Dumu, meaning “black duck’ in the local language, helps develop future leaders and promote reconciliation with every coffee served; providing young people with the opportunity to develop skills for their lifetime.
After breakfast, the group returned to the bus and headed to Mt Buffalo, a mountain plateau of the Australian Alps within the Mount Buffalo National Park. Attendees were taken to Mt Buffalo Chalet which had once been a thriving spot for tourism. The Mount Buffalo Chalet is a landmark heritage building built in 1910, positioned at the top of Mount Buffalo. Often referred to as The Grande Old Dame of Victoria’s Alpine region, the incredibly picturesque Mount Buffalo Chalet is perched on the top of Bent’s Lookout, with breathtaking views that stretch out over the famous Gorge. The chalet was closed after extensive bushfires in 2006/2007.
In 2011 locals presented to Government a social enterprise model for rejuvenating the site. That same year, the Government rejected a $50 million plan developed by the Mount Buffalo Community Enterprise to redevelop the chalet as ‘the first major hotel/resort in Australia that can claim to be powered primarily from renewable energy sources. The reason for taking the group to this location and telling them this story was to show that not every endeavor is successful, and organisations need to know how to respond to market failure.
The group then ate a quick lunch and headed back to Old Beechworth Gaol for an afternoon workshop. The purpose of the workshop was to create a social enterprise manifesto based on one of four topics. Aimee’s group focused on the topic of ‘Solving local issues and creating opportunities: how tourism-led community initiatives and buy-backs can create catalytic impacts in rural communities.’
At 6pm, attendees were treated to a wonderful formal dinner which was served inside the Gaol. There were some speeches made by Robert Musgrove from Bendigo Bank, Chris Raftery from the Scottish Government and Gerry Higgins, founder of SEWF. Following the dinner, conversations were continued in the Gaol Courtyard with a selection of local wines and beers and some entertainment from Pete Denahy from Yackandandah.