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Local leaders learn to have the tough climate change conversations

Local leaders learn to have the tough climate change conversations

A new program has begun in north-east Victoria in a bid to create more local leaders in times of disaster.

When the smoke cleared from bushfires that devastated the region in 2019-2020 communities were then faced
immediately with a pandemic, and with it a leadership gap emerged.

Alpine Valleys Community Leadership (AVCL) launched an expression of interest for its Disaster Recovery and Climate Change Program to train leaders for times of need.

Men and women stand around a large sign advertising the leadership program
Community members eagerly put their hand up to join a program that will develop local leaders in times of need.(Supplied: AVCL)
The course navigates building regional relationships, understanding climate change, learning from other communities, and building resilience and wellbeing.

An overwhelming number of residents came forward and a diverse cross-section of gender, communities, and industry now make up the 22 students that have been selected to start the course.

It fittingly kicked off with a two day retreat at Walwa, which was threatened by the bushfires.

"Even though we're 18 months on from the fires, being up in that community and also hearing stories first hand of the effects and the ongoing effects, it was really important to have that place-based," program manager Karlie Langdon said.

Having the tough conversations

Climate change education will play a major role in the course, and local leaders will learn to respectfully steer conversation — both publicly and privately — around the topic which can often divide tight-knit, rural communities.

"We believe that you don't need to be the expert, but you need to have the context and confidence to have those conversations," Ms Langdon said.

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