Premier Daniel Andrews and an entourage of state government ministers and senior bureaucrats rolled into Bendigo tonight to meet with community leaders.
“It's a simple thing, [to] listen to you about your local community and all that might be done to take advantage of its opportunities and deal with its challenges,” he said.
More than 100 community leaders from across the region met with the premier, eight state ministers and senior government officials.
They came to listen, but Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan said the meeting was not just about talk, it was about developing long-term strategies.
“People will want to know, ‘well we've given our time, given our energies to this – what's going to come of it?,’” the public transport minister said. “Well this is feeding directly into the heart of government.
“The ideas in this room, the policy suggestions, the problems that are being raised – as much as the solutions – are feeding directly into the heart of the government.”
Chair of the Loddon Campaspe Regional Assembly, Nigel McGuckian, told the assembled audience the government wanted to hear the community’s “transformative” ideas.
In order to achieve that, the crowd was broken up into discussion tables centred around topics of public policy, with the premier and his ministers mingled among them.
“I see the themes of transport and connectivity, digital infrastructure and environment as the foundation – that's what we build a strong community on,” Mr McGuckian said. “Then we've got health and education, which is about people prospering, healthy vital people and, on top of that, we then create jobs.
“That’s my pyramid, that’s how I see these themes that we are all working on tonight.”
Premier Daniel Andrews said the nine regional assemblies planned across the state was a new, “common sense” approach to public policy.
“Local communities know best and the best ideas about how to develop and grow, to fix problems, to create opportunities as well as realise them, comes from critical understanding of local communities,” the premier said. “And the people who know local communities best are the people that live in them, the people that built them.
“Ultimately, all of our work means more to you, you will be the people that benefit from it most.”
How would you fix region?
Miss out on an invite to tonight’s meeting of community leaders and the chance to get the premier’s ear?
Well you didn’t have to attend the first regional assembly to have your say on public policy in the region.
The Engage Victoria website is calling on the public to answer to two questions about the Loddon Campaspe.
One asks: “If you could make one thing better for the future of our region, what would it be?”
Answers range from protecting remaining ecosystems to a new sports hub in the Macedon Ranges.
Pharmacist and Bendigo Business Council member Kevin de Vries used the platform to argue for greater connectivity.
“[That] means NBN (genuinely fast and reliable internet); it means public-transport and social-transport schemes that serve our region; it means well-maintained roads with strategic connections to Melbourne, the airport, and other regions (Ballarat, Mildura, Shepparton, Hume corridor),” Mr de Vries wrote.