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Wimmera Development Association (WDA) is the peak economic development organisation for the Wimmera Southern-Mallee region supporting existing local businesses, and promoting economic development opportunities to investors.
WDA is a vital link between industry and government; lobbying for improved regional infrastructure, and advocating for regional priority issues. Wimmera Development Association is fortunate to have ACE Radio Broadcasters as a valued patron, and the generous support of GWMWater.

Connectivity opens doors

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 EXPLORING the ongoing opportunities of working remotely is among the recommendations stemming from a region-wide connectivity survey

The Wimmera Development Association-lead survey of mobile and home internet connectivity across the Wimmera and southern Mallee showed while connectivity was at times strained as more people began working and learning from home, it opened doors for connectivity in other ways. 

Executive director Chris Sounness said the association would seek to document the possibility and costs of connecting people and organisations via video conferencing ongoing

“This period has been undoubtedly challenging – but it also shows that working and learning from home can be done, and that has built autonomy and trust between employers and employees. Leaving the door open to remote working provides flexibility; it also opens doors to connect people without the onus of hours of travel for meetings or education opportunities,” Mr Sounness said. 

“This also opens further opportunities to attract skilled professionals to the region – people who are seeking a lifestyle change but wanting to retain their current employment and don’t need a physical office-front in the region. 

“We need to rethink our views on working or meeting via video conference in the wake of this period.” 

The association’s home internet connectivity study asked participants to complete a speed test three times during a 24-hour period.

Results showed that living in an urban area did not guarantee better internet speeds compared to those of rural customers, and many people were seeking alternative or upgraded services that were fit for purpose. The survey showed many people paid for internet speeds they did not receive. Results also showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has likely seen traditional “peak times” for internet use evaporate as demand relating to working and learning from home was spread across a longer period.

The mobile internet survey asked participants to complete a single speed test. 

Results show residents have limited choices when it comes to providers and that has more impact than location when it comes to cost and connectivity. Larger providers did not guarantee superior service. 

Mr Sounness said poor connectivity added stress and frustration at a time that already posed extreme challenges due to restrictions relating to the coronavirus health crisis. 

He said advocating for improved infrastructure, in line with the Wimmera Southern Mallee Regional Digital Plan; advocating for greater education for consumers – including connectivity process and available providers; and tapping into a growing market for alternative providers were among the other recommendations stemming from the survey. 

“We have people paying for a service, but not truly understanding what the services offers them in terms of speeds. Many could also have improved service if they knew more about the connection their provider or the NBN offered, or something as seemingly simple as the position of their router,” he said. 

“There is a growing market for smaller providers in the region – who, with the right interest, are willing to discuss partnership opportunities.

“There are many different ways to solve our connectivity problems across the Wimmera and southern Mallee.” 

Supporting leaders as coronavirus restrictions ease


RESILIENCE, a collaborative mindset and confidence in change management are some of the outcomes community leaders can gain from a series of online forums this month. 

As coronavirus social distancing restrictions ease, community leaders likely need to adapt their practices and planning to recognise changing times. 

Wimmera Development Association and its long-running leadership development program, Leadership Wimmera, will host a community leaders series of lunchtime forums during June. 

The series begins on Tuesday, June 16 addressing the topic: What is community leadership? Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Liana Thompson and Uniting Wimmera executive officer Josh Koenig, also a Horsham Rural City councillor, will share their leadership journeys and what community leadership means to them. Register here.

On Tuesday, June 23 at a forum discussing collaboration, Wimmera Health Care Group’s Amelia Crafter will share how the organisation worked with health officials, governments and the community to fund and build the Wimmera Cancer Centre, based in Horsham. Register here.

The final forum, on June 30, will discuss how people and groups can create a “new normal” in changing environments. Jo Bourke will share the challenges and successes of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline project that changed the way rural properties access water. Register here.

Christine Kotur will lead the discussions. Ms Kotur provides expert professional services in the fields of strategy, governance, leadership development, complex inquiries, reviews and facilitation. She is a highly regarded independent chair, company director and strategic advisor to CEOs, senior executives, board chairs and directors, councillors and committees

Services, business models and policies are reshaping right now, by forces beyond our control,” Ms Kotur said. 

“It’s time to pause, get on the balcony and draw down every lesson, experience, story, idea and good advice you heard probably thinking you’d ‘come back to that later’. Come back to that knowledge now. 

People will need strong community leaders more than ever and that means we can’t stop learning.”

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said Ms Kotur was an outstanding presenter whose experience with and learnings from government inquiries and Royal Commissions had earned her immense respect. Ms Kotur is Leadership Victoria’s Leader in Residence. 

Chris is one of the best in the business in understanding how communities move through crisis. She will share what helps communities bounce back better than ever, how others reinvented themselves, and why some really struggled to pull through,” Mr Sounness said. 

He said the association was offering the forums at no cost as a way to support the community as it responded to the health crisis. 

COVID-19 is no different to any crisis in the community – people need to stand up. Our challenge at this point is to define how we, as a region, emerge post COVID-19 and keep working together for the best possible outcomes for our community and our people, Mr Sounness said. 

Chris Kotur believes that local leaders stepping up can lead to successful communities; if leadership is left to governments or other parties then recovery is far harder. 

“Our forums are all about local stories and local leadership, sharing ‘warts and all’ their experiences so others can learn from them.” 

The forums will run via Zoom and open at 12.15pm for a 12.30pm start. Recordings will be available.

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