Innovative youth building region’s confidence
THE times, they are a-changin' in Lismore - and an undercurrent of creative young people is leading the way.
In a city still struggling to bounce back from an economic whipping, Mayor Jenny Dowell said free-thinking youngsters were drumming up excitement at ground level.
In a quirk of fate, those innovative young people are slowly starting to turn back the tide of a traditionally ceaseless youth exodus out of Lismore.
New Regional Australia Institute research into building confidence in regional towns has found innovation and entrepreneurship are the key drivers to a community's health, alongside robust leadership and positive community perceptions.
The RAI compared two similar towns - Goulbourn and Orange - and investigated why only one of them was thriving.
The findings can be translated to regional towns all over the country.
When people see our Back Alley Gallery filled with street art, our song-writing competitions ... they see the community cares about a group that has traditionally felt disenfranchised.
- Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell
"It's about saying why are they so different - why is Orange seen to be the place to go and Goulbourn not," RAI chief Su McCluskey said.
"In actual fact Goulbourn is successful but perception plays a part. That leadership is so important and that level of confidence."
Cr Dowell said Lismore continually punched above its weight.
"We are a much lower socio-economic city than some places. Considering that, we do really well," Cr Dowell said.
"Our community uses our connections to make things happen at a relatively low cost, particularly in the area of the arts and sport.
"One of our strengths is that we don't have all our eggs in one basket.
"We're not like Geelong or a place that has all their jobs in manufacturing.
"Those kinds of cities are at the whims of the economic tides.
"The drivers of our economy are health and education - things that will always be needed."
A growing arts scene is changing the perception of Lismore to that of a more vibrant, happening place.
"When people see our Back Alley Gallery filled with street art, our song-writing competitions ... they see the community cares about a group that has traditionally felt disenfranchised," Cr Dowell said.
There are still challenges, with youth and indigenous unemployment topping the list.
Lismore Chamber of Commerce chairman Art Beavis said small businesses needed to be more creative with their marketing to survive.
"We're getting to the season where they should be making a lot of money and getting ready for Christmas and the holidays, but it is still tough.
"Small businesses seem dependent on the synergies they have with other businesses in Lismore.
"They need to be looking outside the region to get new clients.
What makes a good leader? "If the community feels like they know what's going on - not just the good news, but the not so good news as well - they know they're being listened to and feel more connected."
How do we improve regional perception? "Get people talking about the good things happening where they live. I want people to be proud of their region."
How do you build regional confidence? "Frankly, you have to work with the people who have the potential to be your advocates. If you can get people telling the story about what a great place they live in, that's half the work."
What makes a good leader? "The great leaders all communicate and manage their people very well, treating them as if they are the most important part of their business."
How do we improve regional perception? "By fostering one of the great things about Australians - their firm belief that things are going to get better and they will have a part in making them better."
How do you build regional confidence? "By doing things differently and not relying on sticking to the way you have always done things."
What makes a good leader? "To be those true leaders, they have got to have that stamina, that get up and go that inner-confidence - the ability to take risks. These are the sorts of things that when you train those people they just bloom."
How do we improve regional perception? "Keep talking up your region. It is how you talk up your region that really is a key thing."
How do you build regional confidence? "Leading by example. Really talk about the great things the region does because every region has strengths."