Newstead - a small community with lots of ideas

The Newstead community is based one and a half hours from Melbourne, Victoria, and is currently going through a significant demographic change. Around twenty years ago, the community was largely comprised of farmers, but the demographics have shifted significantly during the past two decades. Now the small rural town is seeing a surge of people wanting the country lifestyle but in close proximity to a capital city – so there are people who commute to Melbourne for work, artists, home businesses and young families wanting the extra space and community connection for their children.

Newstead Mens Shed

Although the town is experiencing change, Newstead has always had a strong community focus. A great example is the local pool that was built by the community back in the 1960’s by means of local fundraising and is still operated by the community today. In 2008 the town held a community summit to focus on what things people felt were important for nurturing and supporting the community into the future, and 150 people turned up with their ideas.

Ideas at the summit ranged from small – a 50 km zone through the town - to larger ideas, such as a wooden pirate ship playground and a community garden.

Taking on board the interest and motivation from the summit, Newstead took the opportunity to hold another planning session in 2013. A Community Plan was developed over the following nine months and 10 priorities have been structured into key themes, with volunteer working groups established to drive and deliver projects. 

The Newstead community understands that you need to adapt to local changes and to get involved – “you can’t do things on your own, but you can achieve truly wonderful things when small groups of people come together.”
Geoff Park, Newstead community member
Filming the community garden for the FRRR case study video.

One of the Community Plan priorities is about sustaining the culture of volunteering into the future. The local leaders understand they need to utilise different volunteers with different skills – writers, teachers, tradies, home cooks - and engage all parts of the community to play an active role.

FRRR is proud to have played a small part in the thriving Newstead community, supporting a number of projects through the Small Grants for Rural Communities (SGRC) and ANZ’s Seeds of Renewal programs:

  • The Newstead Men’s Shed has received two grants, $10,000 from the ANZ Seeds of Renewal program to set the shed up in 2010 with tools, a computer and reverse cycle air-conditioning and $3,500 from the SGRC program, specifically funded by the William Buckland Foundation, to renovate the kitchen to make it a more hospitable meeting and eating space.
  • The Newstead Primary School received a $5,000 grant from the ANZ Seeds of Renewal program to build an organic vegetable and herb garden, orchard and chook house so that the 70 students (and the wider school community) can experience the joys of gardening, learn new skills and grow seasonal produce to eat.
  • The Newstead Racecourse and Recreation Reserve Committee of Management received a $5,000 SGRC grant to construct a new amenities building consisting of six toilets and showers.
    The new amenities have allowed the district to attract larger events to the racecourse, which provides an economic benefit and fundraising opportunities to the community. 

To find out more about the great work of the Newstead community, go to www.youtube.com/FRRRAustralia and watch the video case study titled Good ideas. Good people. What next?

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