Ageing in rural Nillumbik- Let's talk land management

Managing rural land is rewarding but hard work. As people age, keeping land productive can be overwhelming. Through community-led approaches, we want to help ageing landowners remain on their land, and explore ways they can manage the threat of pests, weeds, and fire. Our Smart Farms- Sustaining Land, Sustaining People project is now undertaking a co-design process with community members to continue exploring community-led solutions.

Following the initial community event (Workshop 1) and outreach to community members that had previously registered their interest in the Smart Farms initiative, 25 community members expressed interest in attending the 3 co-design workshops.

Read more about the workshops below. The final workshop in November will discuss outcomes and next steps.

To stay informed click here, or call Environment Project Officer on 9433 3111

52 Community members attended the community workshop in St Andrews, to hear from host guest speakers (below) and discuss community building, land-sharing and land management. Members shared inspiring ways people are helping community members stay on their land as they get older.

  • Smiths Gully General Store’s Lydia Heap shared how she’s using a small business to build a network of community care
  • Thanisa Adams of Wattle Gully Produce talked about her experience developing a market garden business on an established mixed livestock farm
  • Dunmoochin Landcare’s Mel Nelson shared how their community works together through neighbourhood working bees and group initiatives to address land management issues such as weed control

The first co-design workshop event had 17 community members attend. Through this session, participants began developing trust within the group and an empathy for others’ perspectives on the complex issue of ageing in place and land management.

A group agreement was established to outline the ways that the group wanted to work together throughout the co-design process. A series of case studies that outlined innovative approaches to ageing in place and land management was presented to the group along with opportunities, ideas and possible solutions that had been collated through initial stakeholder engagement and Workshop 1.
Four personas were also utilised to help participants relate to the different challenges experienced by Nillumbik community members. From this process, participants began identifying which solution area they may want to continue focusing on in the further workshops. The themes that emerged from workshop 2 were consistent with the research and workshop 1, and included :

  • A significant enthusiasm for the need to bring ageing in place and land management issues together;
  • An expressed need for improved community and social connectedness;
  • A desire from some to explore land-sharing options;
  • Learning & support for land management across the broader Nillumbik community is needed
  • An opportunity to share, build and/or improve knowledge and skills in relation to ecology, land management, land-use & production.

The second co-design workshop had 18 attendees.

This session was for community members to focus in on areas that they were interested to work on solutions towards the challenges of ageing in place and land management.

Lean experiment methodology was discussed as one way of creating small, achievable experiments for community-led ideas to ‘test the water’ of a possible solution, learn, refine and continue working towards solutions that work in a way that doesn’t break the bank or waste a lot of time on something that doesn’t work.

Three working groups formed around the topics of: community connectedness, land-sharing and land management.

Goals were set by each working group (see below) with achievable actions created to work towards before the final workshop in November.

Working Group 1 - Land sharing:Our aim is to experiment with land sharing over a number of properties by having a get-together to discuss principles (with Open Food Network support) and explore the possibilities of land sharing. We would like to have a land assessment and have others share their stories of land sharing with us (i.e. Beales Road Farm) and discover the gaps in what is needed in terms of growing for our local community (businesses and households).

Working Group 2 - Land management: Our goal is to find out what workshops would be most useful or high value for Nillumbik landholders. Our solution is to send out an online survey through our networks to identify the areas of interest and priority.

Working Group 3 - Community connectedness: To hold an inclusive community gathering: Know Your Neighbour, Alma Road (3km in length), Panton Hill. Location: Panton Hill Pub or Firefighters Park. To apply for and get funding from a Nillumbik Shire Grant (Social Connections program).

The final workshop was held at the Wadambuk St Andrews Community Centre. The purpose of this workshop was for each working group to gather and define their next steps and present progress to the larger group, with a shared celebration of the outcomes and progress achieved.

We also had two short presentations from locals: Mal Cock on the importance of dynamic life planning and Dan from Seeds of Plenty who told the group his story of land-sharing with an elderly couple and his interests in finding more land in Nillumbik.




Land sharing:

The working group recognised two ‘spheres of influence’ regarding land-sharing opportunities in Nillumbik:

The first sphere is where the group will focus:

  • To continue meeting and growing the network of residents and community members interested in offering up land for others to grow on, or access land for food production. A main contact person for the working group has been identified & coordinating a get-together in the new year.
  • A group member offered to have a care-farm tour at Beales Road Farm.

The Working Group members will join the Young Farmers Connect Melbourne Chapter to network with people seeking to access land, and what resources exist to support landowners to understand their options better.

The second sphere is beyond the power of this group to influence/control on its own: the restrictions and challenges of State laws around zoning. The group recognised it could support the Council in any advocacy work it does in this area.

Land management:

  • An online survey to gather data from community members about priority areas for land management and skills development was created by the Council’s Environment team, with input from the working group members.
  • Given the project timeframe and data sensitivities, the working group decided that the most effective way forward was that the Council ‘own’ the survey and analysis of data. This is now being held by the Land Management Officer in the Environment team.
  • The working group members have offered to act as a reference group to the Council.
  • An invitation to participate in the survey was emailed by Open Food Network to 121 Nillumbik community members in late November. These were people that had either: registered for updates on the Smart Farms - Sustaining Land, Sustaining People project webpage, registered for Workshop 1 or were co-design participants or Council staff.
  • An outcome of the survey will be Council providing a summary to survey participants, including any existing or known workshops in the Shire that cover the priority topics, and/or to consider expanding the current workshop schedules run by Council and/or refer or inform other community organisations or service providers of the priority interest areas.
  • Community connections: “By knowing and meeting our neighbours we can skill share and help others because we are connected and have personal relationships.”

  • Alma Road residents of the group worked closely with the Social Connections team at Council to make this event possible. They were successful in receiving a small community grant to cover the cost of (non-alcoholic) refreshments at the neighbourhood event. Ideal outcomes were built into the planning and preparation for the event that the learnings would be captured and shared.
  • A flyer was developed & the Alma Road residents door knocked (no mailboxes on Alma Road) along Alma Road over several weeks with an overwhelmingly positive response from neighbours wanting to attend - RSVP of 40 neighbours.
  • The Alma Road ‘Know Your Neighbour’ event took place on Sunday 27 November at the Panton Hill Pub with approximately 45 attendees.
  • A WhatsApp group was created and immediately had one resident asking the group for recommendations on people that cut hay in the area.
  • The connections made plus ongoing opportunity to communicate via the WhatsApp group provides some community members with an improved sense of safety.
  • Alma Road are planning to hold another event in October 2023.
  • Potential for replicability across other streets / roads in the Shire (i.e. another participant keen to organise an event for nearby Roger Road).
  • Another key outcome from the project is the Council's exploration for a dynamic life and succession planning interactive workshop with Mal Cock who works professionally in this area. The Council acknowledge the applicability of this topic across the broader community and are having ongoing conversations with Mal to explore what this might look like as a community event.

    This project is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, through funding from Australian Government’s National Landcare Program