Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - SAM TURNER sam.turner@cnbtimes.com.au

ONE thing small town spe­cial­ist Peter Kenyon has learned from liv­ing his life in ru­ral ar­eas is that the sun does not for­get a vil­lage be­cause it is small.

Mr Kenyon, Ru­ral Aid co­founder Tracey Alder and their team de­scended on Monto on Thurs­day, Jan­uary 30 to help plan the town’s fu­ture.

Things aren’t what they used to be for Monto, but life moves on, and Mr Kenyon dis­cussed path­ways for­ward and op­por­tu­ni­ties for the town.

His open­ing ad­dress for Monto’s com­mu­nity plan­ning event fea­tured both prag­ma­tism and op­ti­mism.

Mr Kenyon and his Ru­ral Aid team wanted to pro­mote the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity spirit while har­ness­ing it to cre­ate a last­ing legacy.

“Monto’s got an in­cred­i­ble his­tory — you have 92 or­gan­i­sa­tions op­er­at­ing in this town, with only 1200 of you guys,” Mr Kenyon said.

“You’ve got some amaz­ing her­itage — your town hall would have to be one of the best Art Deco town halls I’ve seen in the coun­try.

“You have an amaz­ing ag in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly cat­tle, beef, and dairy.

“There’s a whole pile of op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Mr Kenyon said 70 per cent of small in­land towns were dy­ing and he be­lieved it was the sense of com­mu­nity that was keep­ing the other 30 per cent alive.

“The 30 per cent are grow­ing, and what I’m in­ter­ested in is the half full bit of the glass,” he said.

“What is it that we can do to start to re­verse that de­pop­u­la­tion?”

His words of wis­dom were de­liv­ered along with recog­ni­tion of the harsh re­al­i­ties Monto was fac­ing.

“I’m a re­al­ist, and I recog­nise that times are chang­ing,” Mr Kenyon said.

“I was told by some­one to­day that when they first got into the dairies many years ago there were 400, and to­day there are three.

“That shows the tides have changed, and that has changed from the ’60s.”

Mr Kenyon ac­knowl­edged the town­ship had dropped from a pop­u­la­tion of 4000 to only 1200 over sev­eral decades.

“In the com­ing weeks we’ll have three more empty shops, how do we re­verse that?” he ques­tioned.

“We once had a rail­way line, that’s not go­ing to come back any­more.

“We once had a coun­cil, that’s not go­ing to come back.

“One of the 80-year-olds I was speak­ing to to­day told me they couldn’t even buy a cot­ton reel any­more.

“We don’t want to go to Bund­aberg to get what we need. “

The state­ment of facts res­onated with those in the room, as a sense of re­silience be­gan to ap­pear through­out the three-hour event.

Pep­pered through­out the plan­ning event were suc­cess sto­ries of towns which had beaten the odds.

Mr Kenyon cited the town of Ti­rau which has ex­pe­ri­enced a re­vival through its use of cor­ru­gated iron art.

He also men­tioned a town in the mid­dle of the Flin­ders Ranges with a pop­u­la­tion of just eight which has cre­ated an en­ter­prise that em­ploys 27 peo­ple.

Mr Kenyon’s home town of Mar­ble Bar in West­ern Aus­tralia even used their ex­tremely hot weather to lure tourists in.

“This is about cre­at­ing a legacy for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” he said.

“We want this place to be not just for us, but for our chil­dren, and for our grand­chil­dren.

“How do we build a fu­ture and a sense of re­silience?

“How can we cre­ate a legacy so this town can live on?”

Through­out the evening, numer­ous con­ver­sa­tions and ac­tiv­i­ties were held as the au­di­ence brain­stormed ideas for Monto’s makeover.

The ideas were di­vided into four cat­e­gories: re­tain/ keep, change/mod­ify, re­gain, and start/cre­ate.

In groups of five, the par­tic­i­pants changed ta­bles fre­quently to talk with one an­other about how they could make im­por­tant changes to bet­ter the town.

An abun­dant list was com­piled by the end of the evening, and each par­tic­i­pant was given eight votes on what they thought was im­por­tant to the town.

The ideas with the most votes were as fol­lows:

– Peo­ple (re­gain)

– Bet­ter roads (re­gain)

– Use the rail cor­ri­dor (re­gain)

– Med­i­cal ser­vices (re­tain) – Re­spect for her­itage (re­tain) – Tourism in­dus­try – point of dif­fer­ence/mu­rals (start) – Dis­play lo­cal col­lec­tions in ap­pro­pri­ate lo­ca­tion (start) – Agri­cul­tural train­ing fa­cil­ity (start)

– Trail bike in­dus­try, in­clud­ing chil­dren (start) – Com­mu­nity home/hub mi­crobusi­ness (start)

– Den­tist (re­gain)

– Change by­pass road to bring traf­fic into Monto (change)

– Im­proved sig­nage (change) – Shading for parks (change) – The Rex (re­gain)

– Bi­tu­men road to Bund­aberg and Glad­stone (start) – Guided tours (start) – His­toric pho­tos of town hall and tours (start)

– A birthing fa­cil­ity (re­gain).

In­spi­ra­tional quotes were shared through­out the evening, help­ing in­spire the au­di­ence to think about what the fu­ture means for Monto.

Mr Kenyon how­ever fin­ished on one quote that gave those in at­ten­dance some­thing to con­tem­plate: “Dream big, start small, act now”.

Pic­ture: Sam Turner

FORG­ING A FU­TURE: Peter Kenyon leads dis­cus­sions at Ru­ral Aid's com­mu­nity plan­ning event in Monto, held to gen­er­ate ideas for re­vi­tal­is­ing the town. A sim­i­lar event was held in Gayn­dah, which is also in line for a Ru­ral Aid makeover.

Pic­tures: Sam Turner

BRAIN­STORM­ING: Com­mu­nity mem­bers put their heads to­gether at the Ru­ral Aid's Com­mu­nity Plan­ning Event in Monto.

Sarah Forsyth and Ju­lia Han at Monto's Ru­ral Aid Com­mu­nity Plan­ning Event.

Ron Mien­t­jes and Ge­orge Wan­ders take part in the plan­ning event.

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