Initiating community projects for economic and social benefit

Initiating community projects for economic and social benefit

11 Oct 2017, 1:10 PM - 2:30 PM

Room 217, Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre
English (Australia)

Chairperson: Jennifer Lauber Patterson, Managing Director, Frontier Impact Group


Warburton Hydro Project: Experience in setting up a community led energy project

Luke Whiteside, Group Member Warburton Hydro Project

This session will be led by the originator and group member of the Warburton Hydro project, a community led initiative to restore a community owned hydroelectric project to Warburton. It will details a firsthand account of how a local community got together to develop a community project and partnered with an energy retailer.


Opportunities for Local Government-Community Renewable Energy partnerships in Australia

Franziska Mey, Research Director , Community Power Agency

In the last decade community renewable energy (CRE) has become a worldwide phenomenon since new decentralised technologies such as wind and solar power allow citizens to engage with and benefit from. In the last 5 years CRE initiatives have also emerged in Australia. Despite unsupportive political conditions for renewable energy (RE) about 90 Australian community groups have started to embrace the concept of CRE and develop their own projects. However, faced with a complex institutional environment and the absence of national government support, it is still difficult for community groups to set up their own projects. In this situation the role of local government (LG) ‘closest to the people’ deserves more attention. 

The presentation will elucidate community council partnerships from an international and national perspective. In particular it will shed light on the different roles of Australian local governments to support their citizens to be actively involved with the sustainable energy transformation taking place. The majority of councils in Australia has already embraced RE while installing solar PV at one or more of their premises. What many council have yet to recognise are the social benefits associated with a community collaboration. By presenting empirical evidence from an Australia-wide council survey and two case studies, the presentation will identify motivations, barriers and opportunities of council-community partnerships. The presenter will highlight two outstanding national examples of community-council partnerships. The Lismore City Council and its involvement in the Community Solar Farm is one of the examples that demonstrates the great potential of those local initiatives. The presenter will introduce this successful initiative with a focus on the finance and governance structure of the model. The second example is Waverly City Council and its new solar bulk buy initiative for schools. Both councils are pioneers in a growing sector. Since more and more councils are seeking ways to become allies of the community energy movement and stepping up to help groups across Australia build and run their own clean energy projects. It is timely to present and spread the word about current community-council initiatives.


Aboriginal empowerment with renewable energy projects

Tracey Cooper, President, The Valley Centre

Over the last two years we have been working with Aboriginal communities across the country on renewable energy and sustainable community building projects. We’d like to be able to share these visions and projects, to gather support for Aboriginal communities across the country, increasing awareness of the critical issues they are facing. 

We have travelled to Cairns, Kalgoorlie, spent multiple months in North West NSW and have been invited to Katherine in the Northern Territory, Kimberley in Western Australia, APY Lands in South Australia and throughout Cape York in QLD. 

This is unprecedented work that is giving community hope and empowerment despite the constant challenges they are facing. As a result of this work we were invited to Cairns to facilitate the process of 20,000 people moving back on their traditional country in sustainable, resilient, culturally respectful ways. We have brought together a network of professionals in solar, DIY housing, food production, water storage & eco-sewage treatment, town planning, education, rehabilitation, media and conflict resolution. This network will be working across the country with the communities we are invited to work, providing a holistic and integrated model for re-building communities in sustainable, empowering, resilient ways. 

This is following on from work with three Aboriginal communities in north-west NSW which started in mid 2014. We have facilitated a large scale solar project which is about to be installed; created relationships with Sydney University to write business plans for Youth Culture Programs; supported the process of building sustainable micro-businesses and have introduced the legal team who will address the mismanagement of housing.

Our role when working with Aboriginal communities is unique and critical; we provide non-government, non-commercial community-based support and advice, which gives the community the tools to empower themselves, making informed decisions about the future of their people and their contribution to the sustainability movement. We have seen incredible results in the communities to date, which are supporting and communicating with each other as they continue to build towards their visions. 


Crowdfunded equity through Co-operatives to fast track the renewables transition, bringing community into the centre of all projects and demonstrating how it has been done 

April Crawford-Smith and Tom Nockolds, Pingala


  • Jennifer Lauber Patterson


    Managing Director

    Frontier Impact Group

  • Luke Whiteside


    Group Member

    Warburton Hydro Project

    Luke Whiteside has a background in church ministry and education. He is excited by seeing communities work together to achieve great outcomes. In...

  • Franziska Mey


    Research Director

    Community Power Agency

    Franziska has degree in Political Science and Regional Development from German Universities. After working at WWF Germany coordinating international...

  • Tracey Cooper



    The Valley Centre

    Tracey has 30 years experience working in education, small business management, community facilitation, action-research, sustainable community...

  • April Crawford-Smith



  • Tom Nockolds



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