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  • Writer's pictureDianne Dredge

Small Steps towards Big Ideas

Furneaux Islands Festival

Our first visit to the Island for 2023 was for the Furneaux Islands Festival. The Festival is a community event between the Flinders Council and the Flinders Island Aboriginal Association Incorporated (FIAAI). For those who may not be familiar with the history, Flinders Council was among the first councils that decided not to celebrate the 26th January and instead refers to it as a day of reflection. Then-Mayor, Carol Cox, explained that the day of reflection is "to celebrate being Australian and to celebrate living in the Furneaux Group, a place of unique beauty and fertile land and sea”.

The Festival started in 2014, as a celebration of the shared cultural history of the community and aims to promote awareness and pride within the whole community, the unique aspects of the Islands and their important place in Australian history. In summary:

  • It celebrates the strong sense of community and seeks to provide opportunities and support for our young people.

  • It values the high level of volunteer participation from within the community.

  • It seeks to promote the Islands as a place for positive visitation and experience.

  • It invites the community to reflect privately on the place and meaning of ‘Australia Day’.

Project Update

The 2023 Furneaux Festival was a wonderful celebration of Island life embracing its rich, shared culture and community. For the Islander Way team, it was also an opportunity to showcase the project and the emerging subprojects. It was great to meet new people and reconnect with many who are already on the journey. We organised to join the other stallholders along Bowman Street. As is the ‘Island Way’, everyone pitched in and there were lots of chats and laughter and of course plenty of enthusiasm for the morning ahead!

The various subprojects that have come out of, or are supported by the Islander Way, were well represented, including the Maritime History Centre, the waste project (which involves both the local waste hubs and a potential circular economy project for the tip), and the Flinders trails project working with Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service.

[Just deviating for a moment… These projects were identified, nominated or emerged out of community discussions when we asked, “How might the Islanders address some of the challenging issues that have been raised?” The question was geared towards the Islanders identifying their own passions, bottom-draw projects, and the actions which they might take or over which they already have ownership. This approach contrasts with the ‘solutions by experts from away’ process, which has a history of not working or not being a popular approach on the Island. As a result, the Islander Way team has worked with these projects in an adaptive manner, in an effort to develop, assist, support and advocate, depending on what each of those projects actually needed to move forward.]

The aptly named ‘Good Karma Farmer’ stall showcased the recently formed Flinders Island Local Food Network, and its colourful display of food and flowers, herbs and seeds, proved a great attraction in its own right - as well as encouraging people to the Islander Way marquee! Everyone was encouraged to bring a food item to the stall and then take something in return. A swap-meet where good karma flowed. The energy was high and conversation buzzed.

Members of the food network also used the occasion to hand out surveys, which will help in understanding the amount of food that is already produced on the Island, how much more capacity exists and where the gaps are. You can follow their progress and most importantly, share your information and ideas via their Facebook page.

To begin sourcing baseline data, the network surveyed a number of food buyers/outlets including Walker’s supermarket, the Lady Barron store and the Multi-Purpose Centre regarding the amount of fruit and vegetables that were required during a single week. The results so far have been very surprising! There will be more information to come. A secure food system is extremely important to the future sustainability of Flinders Island; for locals, but also for visitors too.

The Flinders trails team were keen to encourage Festival-goers to add their names to a database of potential volunteers to join the Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS), Visitors of Flinders Island Volunteer Program (VoFI). The partnership is designed to support the 10 island walks designated by PWS and seeks to work with both locals and visitors to enhance the trail system, and encourage citizen science and other positive impacts. By the end of the morning, 22 people had signed up to express their interest!

But let's step back a little.

How did we get here?

The Islander Way 'accelerator' program drew to a close in the last week of October 2022. Between April and October, we held over 50 zoom calls and we estimate about 500 hours of Islander time was invested in these zoom calls. We acknowledge that the Islanders also spent time outside these calls meeting and talking with each other, and driving across the Island to have kitchen table meetings. This investment is huge and we acknowledge that the commitment and trust in the project continue to grow. While the 'accelerator' part of the program is over, it is not the end! The accelerator program was simply a way of getting the conversations going and accelerating discussion about community-led projects that will address the Island's issues. Our next step is to summarise where each of the sub-projects is at, and to produce a short "explainer' for each project. The aim is to capture/articulate each sub-project so that they can be considered "priority projects". It is crucial that they reflect your ambitions and are not "top-down" or "solutions from away", which, in the community consultation, it was clear you did not want.

From these conversations, we also heard, loud and clear, that hosting visitors is part of a balance local economy moving forward. One of the key messages was that IF the Island can't address some of the key challenges around resilience, then it cannot host visitors into the future. With that in mind, the projects that emerged from the accelerator address Island issues as the first step in building resilience. All have a tourism angle, but the immediate priority is to stabilise and build resilience.


The original intention of the accelerator program was to identify either business ideas and/or community projects that would address the issues and challenges that the community identified. However, it soon became clear that 'big' community issues, like waste and food security, were the immediate challenge. As a result, the majority of projects that emerged were community-led projects that may, at some point in the future, have income or revenue-producing potential and become self-funding. But, as we are learning, ideas take a long time to formulate as projects. It also takes time to build networks of individuals keen to work collectively. Everyone is busy working multiple jobs, so availability is a key issue in bringing these groups together. It also takes key individuals, with passion and the ability to connect. It's hard work, so our thanks go to those 'leaders' of each group who have continued to hold on to the broader vision and engage different parts of the community. The sub-projects are detailed on the attached flyer which we distributed in the community, and are outlined below:

So what's next?

This whole Islander Way project is about working differently by encouraging local solutions to grow up and be nurtured on the Island. Government funding is not always the magic solution and may be more difficult to secure given the number of economic challenges that have been recently flagged. Right now, it is important to grow momentum, do small experiments, learn, and build the case for future funding opportunities.

"If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, then go together." All the projects are in different stages of incubation. But it is not a race. Every subproject will have its own time and sequence depending on the opportunities, people, ideas, creativity, and support that emerges. These opportunities may not be clear at this very moment, and the sub-projects all have different levels of readiness and capacity, but the optimism is definitely growing!



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