Sustaining Land, Sustaining People in Nillumbik

Sustaining Land, Sustaining People in Nillumbik

Nillumbik has an enthusiastic and motivated population of older landholders, many of whom have been living in the Shire for several decades, holding deep knowledge and experiences of the area. Throughout the Nillumbik Shire many rural landholders find it challenging to keep up with the ongoing land management requirements of their properties as they age, due to lack of time, physical ability, skills, knowledge and/or finances. As the population gets older, this challenge is likely to grow and have implications on the management and threat of pests, weeds and fire.

Open Food Network Australia and Fair Share Fare worked in partnership with Nillumbik Shire Council the Sustaining Land, Sustaining People project that ran between December 2021 – December 2022 and was funded through the National Landcare Program: Smart Farms Small Grants.

The project aim was to increase the capacity of agricultural land owned by ageing landholders in Nillumbik to be managed sustainably, while simultaneously supporting farmers to age well in place, and enhancing the Nillumbik food system with social and ecological health at its core.

Throughout the project we engaged ageing landholders through a co-design process over 4 workshops to devise community-owned solutions to this complex problem.

The initial stage of the project involved desktop research investigating the local community organisations, groups and key people in Nillumbik Shire that related to the project themes, plus a community consultation process led to the identification of key barriers, opportunities and the fostering of collaborative ideas and approaches for problem-solving.

A series of co-design workshops then enabled a dedicated group of community members to further explore and test community-led solutions to improve land management and support ageing in place.

The participants formed working groups that focused on the following four areas:

  • Land management
  • Land-sharing
  • Community connections
  • Dynamic life and succession planning

The increased trust, connection and direct relationships built between Nillumbik community member participants and Council staff is one of the most significant outcomes from this project that will help to address the interrelated challenges of land management and ageing well in place.


Project outcomes:
  • Community-designed solutions identified and tested – these included:
    1. Trialling a “Know your neighbour” style event that had land management and social connection goals and outcomes.
    2. Identifying the types of land management education that community think would help people to better manage their land, stay on land for longer and or/ help others in the community.
  • Strengthened connection and trust between Council and community.
  • Trusted network and connections established within the community.
  • Community adoption and trust in the co-design process.
Recommendations for community:
  1. Persist with the solutions that have emerged, and are continuing from this project;
  2. The Sustaining Land, Sustaining People participant community to continue to build collaboration opportunities and cross pollination of ideas;
  3. Maintain and strengthen the relationships and communication channels developed between Council and community.
Recommendations for Council:
  1. Celebrate the demonstration of community leadership and solutions from this project;
  2. Nurture the communication channels developed between Council and community;
  3. Leverage the trust and networks that have been built out of this project to engage with ageing farmers in Nillumbik;
  4. Continue to build internal opportunities for collaboration between Council Departments and the cross pollination of ideas on interconnected challenges.
Watch – Ageing in rural Nillumbik ‘Lets talk about land management’

Hear from Nillumbik community participants and Open Food Network’s own Sophia Christoe on the outcomes achieved through this project.

*Image courtesy of Laura from Nillumbik Shire Council.

Interested in collaborating with Open Food Network on your next project? Get in touch, let’s explore the idea together!

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