Community Building in Regional Australia: the Creative Volunteering Training Program.
Leader-Elliott, Lynette Frances
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1. Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 2. Regional Arts Australia, Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia Many of the community organisations that sustain cultural life in regional Australia are run entirely or mostly by volunteers. They are a vital part of the nation’s cultural capital and they increasingly need skills in planning, marketing, obtaining resources and building networks to survive. A specially designed program to train community-based volunteers in these and other essential skill areas was developed and run successfully through 500 workshops in 125 Australian regions over 2003–2004. Funded by the Australian government and led by NGO Regional Arts Australia, the Creative Volunteering project has succeeded in developing community capacity and active citizenship in the regions where it has operated. Critical success factors included training content and format designed to suit the needs of volunteers in small, often isolated communities; selecting trainers for their ability to work with community organisations and with people from diverse backgrounds; building on the skills and knowledge of all participants; encouraging active involvement and structuring workshops so that participants were encouraged to collaborate with people from other organisations. Administrative systems and training were both designed to allow different modes of operation to suit each state, while ensuring quality was maintained. Strong partnerships between regional arts organisations, registered vocational training organisations and Flinders University were central to success. "Creative Volunteering" has strengthened existing organisations, and encouraged extensive community networking between organisations and individuals. New cultural and other community activities are planned or underway. The program has proved suitable for a wide range of community organisations as well as small businesses.