The Wimmera, yes we exist!
The emails went backwards and forwards, so much so that the original reason for the communication almost became lost in the confusing process.
A media release announcing health issues specific to the Grampians region slipped into our ‘inbox’ and captured our attention.
Okay, the ‘Grampians’ – better check what that means. Is it the Grampians, the area fringing our famous national park and in the heart of our readership area, or a government regional division based on economic development?
It was of course one of Victoria’s five economic regions, a region that stretches from the edge of Melbourne to the Mallee in the north and the South Australian border and Tatiara to the west. In other words, a large chunk of the state. So… where were we talking about with this specific health issue?
A large chunk of western Victoria, that’s where, ranging from major provincial and regional cities to rural towns and communities.
Okay, got it. Get the message out that people living in this area needed to do something to improve their health. Fair enough.
The problem was, the metropolitan-based departmental official in charge of disseminating the information knew little about historical western Victorian regions or was unwilling to acknowledge them as legitimate collective areas.
The ‘Grampians’ region was his sole point of reference and he wasn’t budging.
We’ve written in the past about concerns of regional ambiguity in reference to governance and essential-service provision and this was just another reminder.
If there is a perception at certain levels of bureaucratic power that the Wimmera doesn’t really exist, it can easily become a reality, regardless of history.
Over expansion of regional operational boundaries driven by the rationalisation of essential-service administration has gone too far in western Victoria.
The idea of falling back to Ballarat as a point of reference reflects incredibly shallow thinking but it’s been there for a while, does nothing to stimulate growth and is going to be hard to change.
The great risk in creating or accepting tyrannies of distance is that metropolitan-based powerbrokers can lose, or never have any, touch with everyday people across the regions – something that shouldn’t happen in a state the size of Victoria.
It is ridiculous that someone in Melbourne should consider the Wimmera, an area covering almost 42,000 square kilometres of the state, an obscure sub-region. Fair go!
If there aren’t enough people across this amount of country to justify it qualifying as anything more, then that itself is a glaring red flag for a state that has a capital city slowly choking itself with a seemingly uncontrolled and costly urban sprawl.
The observation is nothing new. Decades ago some people frustrated with a lack of recognition or adequate governance seriously proposed drawing up new state boundaries.
Their idea was to create a province based on the collective interests of far western Victoria and parts of the south-east of South Australia.
Nonsense? Maybe so, but we can certainly understand the sentiment.