Southern Wheatbelt community leaders will have the chance to come together and workshop strategies about how to strengthen their towns’ futures through a new program. Rural Aid and Bank of IDEAS have partnered to hold a Community Builders program to engage a group of three to five local leaders from southern Wheatbelt towns. The program aims to bring together a diverse group of people to attend a series of free workshops and empower them to strengthen their communities. The program will seek to identify the key priorities for each group and provide them with the skills, knowledge and access to resources to bring about change. At the end of the program, each town will create an action plan to implement the ideas. Bank of IDEAS director Peter Kenyon said it was a grassroots project. “We are looking at what we call community builders who are people that live in these communities and care about them,” he said. “It’s the people who are in these towns and hold these towns together to make these things happen. “It’s not really a program for your paid professional or the community development for the council, it’s for those people who really are the life and soul of these towns. “They might run the football club or the youth group, the people who just want to make sure these towns are not just a dot on the map in the future.” Mr Kenyon said the first workshop would be about priorities. “Often it’s things like how do they get more people to put up their hands in the town, how to grow the volunteer base and how to get young people interested,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about how to put a local tourism strategy together or how to support our local businesses and getting people to spend locally. “We allow the group to determine what they feel like are their priorities and then part of my role is to organise the material, ideas and people who can workshop the group around that subject.” Mr Kenyon said communities were already workshopping some of those ideas. “You have towns like Pingelly, Cuballing and Wickepin who are looking at how to support people to age within their towns so people don’t feel like they need to move to Perth,” he said. “People are already thinking a whole pile of ideas. “What this project does is expose people to lots of great stories of what other small towns are actually doing to secure a positive future.” At the end of the nine-month program each town would have worked with other residents and their local shire to develop an action plan. “Each town will get about 100 copies of the action plan all done up in a booklet form which they can attach to funding applications,” he said. “The aim is for each team to work with other residents in the town and their local governments to come up with an action plan of what they can do over the next three or so years. “It will detail some of the bite size and other projects that they as a community can do and how to make them happen.” The first workshop will take place in Wagin on June 22. For details call Mr Kenyon on 0417 183 719.