In August 1999, a Jesuit Social Services study called ‘Unequal in Life’ was published which identified Seymour as the 10th most disadvantaged postcode in Victoria. The indicators of disadvantage for this study were: unemployment, low income, low birth weight, child abuse, school leavers less than 15 years old, emergency assistance, psychiatric hospital admissions, court convictions, child injuries, unskilled workers and court defendants.
This listing at number 10 spurred some local residents into action. In September 1999 the idea for addressing these issues began, and a group called ‘Seymour 2020’ then developed. With the support of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, and ‘in kind’ donations plus a grant from the Federal Government Regional Solutions Program, a planning day was held on 18 August 2001. This was attended by 60 local people representing the main community sectors. Youth, aged, cultural and religious groups, education, sporting organisations and service clubs, health and welfare, and people with disabilities, etc, were represented.
The results of the day was a new name, The Seymour We Want, plus the first Community Action Plan that had a list of 11 economic, social and sustainable outcomes, and a list of short-term and long-term achievable goals. The other main action to come out of the planning day was the formation of a committee to act as a catalyst to coordinate community activities and to secure funding for a community development facilitator. A further meeting of about 20 people was held on 12 September 2001 to prioritise actions from the main planning day.
The Seymour We Want (TSWW) was incorporated in December 2001 and the group then worked as a ‘clearing house’ for ideas about Seymour and for the community development and the economic recovery of the town. The main purpose was: to seek to create, foster and enable in Seymour and its environments as a developing community which is environmentally, socially, economically, and culturally attuned and fulfilling.
As a result of a concerted effort from individuals, organisations and government in and around Seymour, a later Jesuit Services report published in March 2004, entitled ‘Community Adversity and Resilience,’ ranked Seymour as 110th in terms of social disadvantage in Victoria and NSW – a fantastic achievement in less than 5 years!
In 2004, TSWW received a State Government grant from the Department of Victorian Communities Community Support Fund to employ a Community Development Facilitator for three years to assist in the practical work of the five main areas of concern:
- Education and training (formal & informal);
- Arts and culture (including crafts);
- Economic (including tourism);
- Environment (built/structural and natural);
- Health and wellbeing (including sport).
The nature of the TSWW project was facilitative, not project management. The project was delivered in partnership with the:
- State Government’s Community Support Fund (funding body),
- Mitchell Shire Council (banker & employer on behalf of TSWW), and
- Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE (office space and admin support).
The project employed two facilitators. The first, Ms Rene Laan, worked full-time from 2004 to 2006 and the second, Ms Amanda Tingay, worked part-time in 2006-7. They were an enormous help to the TSWW group!
Further public consultation occurred in 2004 with more than 200 people participating. The most important achievement by TSWW at this time was the production of the ‘Seymour 2015’ community plan in May 2005. This plan is available on this site on the 2015 Action Plan page.
Other aspects that were important in the early years of the funded project were:
- ensuring that the community had ample opportunity to comment on anything affecting them (e.g., the Emily Street upgrade, job and employment expo);
- supporting existing and new initiatives from within the community to reach their goals (e.g., Neighbourhood Renewal, Police Consultative committee, Business Retention and Expansion, health and welfare networks, University of the Third Age);
- driving initiatives explicitly stated by the Seymour community for Seymour and not already part of any other initiative (e.g., Seymour Multi Purpose Centre, Seymour Community Directory).
An update brochure was published in March 2007.
Then in 2007, the Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services published their next report entitled ‘Dropping off the Edge: The Distribution of Disadvantage in Australia’. They deliberately did not list towns in a ‘league table’ from most to least disadvantaged, however,
it is worth noting that Seymour was not mentioned.
The TSWW Project Evaluation was completed in late 2008. The participants to the evaluation identified five key achievements:
- action (community action and consultation),
- linking (connecting people and strengthening initiatives),
- facilitator (keeping the group organised),
- partnership connections (linking, supporting and advocating), and
- changes in attitude (community pride, empowerment).
These achievements were largely intangible.
The tangible achievements of TSWW were:
- the ‘What’s Happening’ e-newsletter,
- the ‘Seymour Community Directory’, and
- the ‘Seymour 2015’ community plan.
Some challenges regarding leadership, management and direction were noted after the facilitators ceased employment and those issues were addressed by the group in November 2008. The group went into general meeting hiatus for a time during 2009 as per one of the recommendations of the Evaluation.
Some activities since resuming full activity in 2009 include:
- publication of the Second Edition of the ‘Seymour Community Directory’
- development of the TSWW website
- increased circulation of the ‘What’s Happening’ e-newsletter
- attendance of committee members at new resident ‘Welcome Days’ at Puckapunyal and Seymour
- address to the State Rural and Regional Committee Inquiry into the extent and nature of disadvantage and inequity in rural and regional Victoria by the current President and Secretary
- together with the Seymour Chamber of Commerce and University of the Third Age (U3A), organisation of the Federal Election Candidates’ Forum in August 2010 and the State Election in November 2010
- Letters of Support for local community groups
- practical support to local community groups
- participation in local consultative processes.
WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED
- Residents of Seymour, Tallarook and Puckapunyal
- Seymour & District University of the Third Age (U3A)
- Berry Street Victoria
- Central Ranges Local Learning and Employment Network
- Country Women’s Association
- Environment groups
- Koori Community
- Local businesses
- Local press and media
- Local schools and GO-TAFE
- Local service clubs
- Mitchell Shire Councillors and staff
- Puckapunyal (Defence Community Organisation)
- Seymour and District Historical Society
- Seymour FM radio 103.9
- Seymour Neighbourhood Renewal
- Seymour Police Community Consultative Committee
- Seymour Public Art (SpArt),
- Seymour Urban Fire Brigade
- Theatrical Amateur Players Seymour Inc.
- The Seymour Business and Tourism (Chamber of Commerce)
- UnitingCare– Cutting Edge
- Volunteer groups