Call to action for community-driven change: OzGREEN Resilient Communities

What are you most concerned about?  Wow.  What a question!  This could send most of us into a tailspin. Many of us are just trying to survive day-to-day, avoiding the big questions for fear of feeling completely overwhelmed.

But this was the first question posed at the OzGREEN Resilient Communities Facilitator Training Day (photo credit Jay and the Trees Photography).  It was followed by moments of silence and looks of anxiety, as the fifteen volunteer facilitators allowed their minds to come to grips with not only the question, but also how they were feeling about the big picture.  Amidst a barrage of insults globally, nationally and locally, how does one articulate their greatest concern?

“The age of disinformation”; “species extinction”; “the impact of climate change on our children”; “the impending economic fallout of Covid-19”; “the fracturing local community”; “the general disconnection from the natural environment”; “food security”; “social exclusion and inequalities”; “a loss of faith in our democratic process”.  This was just some of the responses.  And yes, as the circle responded in turn, the level of anxiety was rising.

The day was geared towards building community resilience.  But is that possible when the challenges we are facing are so immense? “Many of us are currently feeling overwhelmed.  This can lead to an inability to see a way forward.  Our Resilient Communities Program goes to the heart of this. When community members come together, feel truly heard and are facilitated to work out what it will take to be resilient, prepared and sustainable, drawing on their own intelligence and innovation, they will be empowered to make change and create the future they want,” says OzGREEN Co-Founder Sue Lennox.

Resilient Communities is a call to action for community driven change. It is a way to become informed about the big challenges we face and to work together with the community to sustain our lives, protect our ecosystems and prepare for emergencies. The Program itself is based on the premise of strategic questioning and listening deeply to each other. “This process involves asking questions we don’t know the answers to and listening deeply for the emergence of the answers,” says Sue.

OzGREEN’s Sue Lennox (left) with volunteer facilitators

After our initial discomfort with facing our greatest concerns, the day was spent unpacking these concerns and bringing the focus back to the personal, the local.  Each participant had the opportunity to express not only how their concerns impacted on their own life but their vision for the future and how they could plan for change in their own community and actually take action.

The Program aims to bring together those in the Bellingen Shire who want to be involved in creating resilient communities locally.  The fifteen facilitators have completed their first of several training days, but are now looking to recruit community members to join them in becoming change-makers.  The Program will run in Dorrigo, Coffs Harbour, Kalang, Thora, North Bellingen, South Bellingen, Gleniffer, Northbank Road and Byron Bay with facilitators at each location.

“We hope to work with ten to twenty community members at each of the locations, who would work with our facilitators to solve local issues and bring about significant change.  This has the potential for true collaborative co-creativity with the emergence of exciting new ideas for building community cohesiveness, resilience and sustainability,” says Sue.

The program aims to build resilience in seven primary areas over the next seven months – climate, water, food, energy, infrastructure and economy, ecosystem and fire, and community health.  It is a bold program based on OzGREEN’s Living Communities Program, with more than 30 years of success locally, nationally and internationally.

Community leaders step up as facilitators (photo credit Jay and the Trees Photography).

As the day progressed the level of deep connection between the volunteer facilitators grew, through hours of deep reflection, but even more importantly, true listening.  The initial anxiety and feelings of despair had given way to hope, as each facilitator realised they actually had the answers.   The process used is simple but profound and extremely powerful, leaving all present with a sense of excitement for the future.

One realises, managing issues needs to start in ones own home and community.  This is our chance to be heard, work collaboratively and make a difference.

If you would like to be a part of the Resilient Communities Program please register at, or contact OzGREEN at [email protected] or on (02) 5615 8108.

OzGREEN’s program is funded under the Resilience NSW Community Resilience Innovation Program and is a collaborative initiative involving the services of numerous local businesses including I Love Bello Shire, Jay and the Trees Photography and Cedar Bar and Kitchen.  Affirmations Publishing House is also providing OzGREEN with invaluable in-kind printing support.  If any other local businesses would like to become involved in Resilient Communities please call OzGREEN.




    I declare a commitment to respect First Nations culture and lore, and to protect nature’s inherent right to exist, thrive, evolve and continue.
    I acknowledge the laws and lore that governed the First Nations Peoples on this land for millennia. Their laws and lore tell us our world today is the result and remnant of our combined human and natural history, and that our future will depend on, and will be consequential to, our personal behaviours and the state of our world today.
    I commit to working with all peoples within the life supporting systems of nature for a shared continuing future on Earth.
    I commit to:
    Work in a spirit of reciprocity and respect for all peoples, other living species and the non-living elements within which we all have evolved; to maintain a dignified, appropriately balanced stance toward all living and non-living things.
    Understanding The Earth, water, gravity, thermal dynamics and the biosphere support all of known life, natural systems and elements that support life.
    Create agreements, protocols, practices and projects that enable us all to live within our bioregion’s ecological and life supporting limits, and therefore, to never engage in activities or industries that would threaten the short or long-term viability of life supporting systems and ecosystems in our bioregion.
    To recognise that all life on Earth is interconnected and dependent on water to exist, and therefore I will protect all naturally occurring water dependant ecosystems and the living things that depend on and live within or because of those systems.
    To not allow industrial or extractive forces to undertake activities and works that would harm or endanger natural ecosystems or endangered or at-risk species within them, or that may inhibit their rights to flourish and continue into the future.
    Support activities and community actions to make laws and legislatures that will protect the rights of natural systems and the rights under human law, those animals and biota carried within those systems as a matter of fundamental rightness and truth. And therefor do those appropriate things to stop the opposite of this, or the maltreatment of or abuse of natural systems and the living things within them.
    Understand that deleterious impacts of industrial processes over the past centuries have compromised the Earth’s biosphere and the life supporting systems within it, and therefore commit to do those reasonable things to regenerate and assist natural life supporting systems to re-balance and foster self-repair. I do these things as an individual, and as part of a community working together to stand up for and protect the balanced and good health of the land, sea and air and to protect the natural and legal rights of natural systems to exist, thrive, and evolve; thus enhancing all people’s options and chances at a joyful and sustainable future on Planet Earth.

    August 25, 2020
    Mark Merritt – [email protected]

  • Elizabeth Scott says:

    Hi, It Lizzy Scott here. I teach lots of music in town but my shared passion is the environment. I have been considering how we could upgrade our community whilst we are staying low. I would like to move towards ridding our paddocks of Fire Weed. It is a rotten weed and competes with native grasses and causes a loss of productive feed areas for stock.
    This problem is compounding and our land in Bellingen and wider community is beginning to look like Kempsey paddocks, 8 yrs ago.
    If we can’t have Fine Music Festivals, we could have a a Fire Weed Eradication Festival occuring over a Month of weekends when the weed has emerged next year but not in flower- May of June??
    It could be advertised early in the year and feed bags collected in the ready. Organisation of working groups would be necessary.
    This could involve farmers, Job seekers, school children, Grey Nomads, Greenies and even those with sunburned necks!!!
    I can see a great community lift in spirit and this ‘festival’ would need to occur yearly until we beat it!

  • Hi Lizzy. I have just come across this comment.
    Dense infestations of fireweed are a consequence of degraded lands. There are no dense infestations of fireweed in healthy organic rich soils. Fireweed thrives in compacted, acidified and low organic matter content soils. This is mostly a consequence of grazing regimes that compact soil and remove organic matter content from the landscape, which then synergises with our high rainfall to leach soils and cause them to become acid.

    Management of fireweed is about reduction or control of grazing pressure, improvements in soil organic matter content and structure and reductions in acid soil…

    At the shire scale fireweed is not a problem for our life support systems. Many other weeds (eg. Madeira vine) are much more harmful to our life support systems – they are “environmental cancer”, whereas fireweed is just a report card about grazing management practices and essentially limited to paddocks…

    Happy to discuss and to provide advice, evidence and local examples of such matters.
    Best wishes Mark 0424498033

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