Community support was fundamental to the establishment of the Merri Creek Coordinating Committee, and subsequently MCMC. MCMC could not and would not survive without significant ongoing community support. Establishing a core of committed local community members who are prepared to go into bat for the need for a waterway management organisation is a critical step.
Almost certainly there are already concerned community members in your catchment, but facilitating their working together may be necessary. An excellent guide for developing community support is "In the Tiger's Mouth" by Katrina Shields Sydney: Millennium Books, 1991.
Critical to maintaining MCMC's community support are:
- Having Friends of Merri Creek as one of the seven member groups, with a major say in the committee of management.
- Frequent local newspaper articles about the Merri Creek and MCMC's activities and achievements, so that the local community keeps on hearing about Merri Creek.
- Developing relationships and working with community groups, especially with Friends of Merri Creek. For example including FoMC in planning for revegetation days etc.
- A lot of work with local schools
- Being accountable for money spent, through the production of an annual report.
- Being prepared to take positions at odds with individual members of MCMC at times.
- Acknowledgement of community achievements along the Creek outside of MCMC.
- Seeking feedback from the community on our performance and being responsive to community inquiries etc.
Today MCMC's community input is focussed through Friends of Merri Creek, an incorporated association whose members are primarily individuals and families living in the Merri Creek catchment. Friends of Merri Creek nominate six representatives onto MCMC's Committee of Management, and so have significant formal input into MCMC's policies and directions. MCMC's community activity days also predominantly involve Friends of Merri Creek.
Friends of Merri Creek was set up around the same time as MCMC was, as an umbrella for community input which had previously been through a wide range of small "action factions", each requiring community members voluntary time to run. Ernst &Whinney felt it would be more practical to have the one group with one structure, one newsletter, one financial structure etc. Friends of Merri Creek is an entirely voluntary organisation.
A current drawback is that Friends of Merri Creek is predominantly urban. MCMC has begun to work with the Merriang District Landcare Group, whose area of interest is primarily rural areas of the Whittlesea municipality. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a suitable community group to work with in the rural parts of the catchment within Hume or Mitchell Council areas at present.
Challenges for the future will be:
- how MCMC works with Parks Victoria, given the proposed new park,
- how the FOMC and MCMC work with small, local groups which are forming;
- how FOMC& MCMC will work with Friends groups along major Merri Creek tributaries (e.g. Friends of Malcolm Creek).