Participants in an annual leadership program hope the coming 12 months will see them develop new connections and skills that will help them build up their communities and address the issues they face.
Yesterday marked the beginning of the 2020 Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program, which will foster the skills of 26 volunteer community leaders from across central and northern Victoria.
Among them is Vanessa Parker, the executive officer of Committee for Maryborough.
Ms Parker participated in the Leading Excellence Maryborough program in 2018, but wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the communities that neighboured Central Goldfields Shire, as well as her own leadership style.
She said she hoped to learn more about how to have and facilitate challenging conversations as a leader.
"I'm really excited," Ms Parker said of the program.
Fellow participant Chris Dent is from Stanhope and involved with the CFA.
Mr Dent said he was concerned about the decline of rural communities, and he hoped to learn about how other communities were addressing the issue.
He also said he wanted to learn about how to boost community engagement and involvement.
Lockington's Joe Holloway holds the same concern and wants to explore how to encourage people to stay in communities or return, and how to ensure these communities can still thrive in changed circumstances.
Mr Holloway, who was involved in sporting clubs and other organisations, said he hoped to be able to boost local leadership and amplify voices in the community.
Developing connections with others, he said, was an important part of the leadership program for him.
The program includes retreats, visits to communities in the region to learn about different issues and aspects of leadership, and a Canberra study tour.
Leah Sertori, executive officer of LEAD Loddon Murray, said participants in the program - which was in its 22nd year - gained the skills and knowledge required to effect change in their communities.
"Understanding others' experience of life in rural and regional communities is key to good leadership," Ms Sertori said.
"Our participants experience the highs and lows of community life and gain new knowledge and skills that are key to influencing stronger, more inclusive local communities."
Ms Sertori said the skills, confidence and networks necessary for effective leadership were not innate, but learnt.
"Our work at LEAD Loddon Murray speeds up that learning process and plugs our participants into a network of generous community leaders serving the common good," she said.