As COVID-19 quarantining continues in our neighbourhoods, there are also new relationships forming.
There’s a sense that this could be an opportunity to build connections that will see us adapt and survive more successfully in this dynamically changing environment.
Dr Jean Renouf teaches at Southern Cross University (SCU) in the area of social science, and researches how climate change affects community and national security.
His research focuses on living safely in a world of climate change.
This led him to create Resilient Byron last year – an idea that has been embraced by the local community – with Dr Renouf hopeful that more people will take on the idea and seed it into other communities around the globe.
He says, ‘None of us could predict the impact of what is happening now. I think the bushfires had a more profound effect on us – on the Australian psyche.
‘They were a climate change wake up call. As were other natural events around the time – floods, a cyclone… We have this ability as humans to go back to normal after a crisis, but nature has been radically reminding us that this is happening and this is the new normal and we need to adapt,’ says Dr Renouf.
Resilient Byron is an incorporated not-for-profit organisation led by members of the community.
While mayor Simon Richardson is on the steering group, it is independent from Council.
‘Basically, the idea is to transform the shire and beyond. We need to transform the world we live in, and adopt a regenerative approach. We need to leave more than we take. We need to focus on how to transform our shire when there is no crisis – which is transforming it economically and democratically – so that when disaster happens, we focus on making sure community is resilient to that crisis.’
Three main areas
Jean says that Resilient Byron focuses on three main areas, the first being, ‘Providing a community notice board which is updated constantly and which informs the community about what is happening in the area in terms of resilience and regeneration’.
The second is, ‘Supporting local people to create a neighbourhood support group – and providing them with tools so they can do it easily’.
‘This hopefully will lead to a web of resilient neighbourhoods that encourage self-reliance to radically change the way we live’.
The third is, ‘Bringing people together to benefit – through connection and support and bringing groups together through a shared passion or skill – for example, those with first aid training or medical experience could create a group of first responders if the emergency services are overloaded. This is intended to provide community support by the community for people in need’.
‘We are also seeking to create food security in the shire’ says Jean. ‘We need to assess what our needs are, and what we do, then process what is missing and what we need to reorient – so that those who don’t have enough money can still access food.’
Resilient Byron maintain their vision is around connecting or partnering with existing organisations, such as Renew Fest or Zero Emissions Byron, and will not try to replace them.
It’s a time Jean believes to move beyond the political polarisation. ‘I think now is a time to change the way we interact with each other. We have to find a genuine compassion for those we agree with and disagree with.’
One of the key building blocks of Resilient Byron is the neighbourhood support group.
‘At the moment, there are eight groups that have formally registered with Resilient Byron.
Jean refers to a ‘formidable neighbourhood effort’ of close neighbours on Yankee Creek Road (pictured on page 1).
‘They met up and worked together on common projects – but would help each other if someone was planting trees or doing work on their property.’
Jean says when it comes to making a change, you can start where you are and create your own neighbourhood support group.
‘We also need to acknowledge communities aren’t just geographic – you can link up with other communities you associate with – schools, the arts, mental health’.
‘It’s also important to share information about what is happening around you. You are part of an organisation that helps residents build their regeneration.’
So while you are at home, why not start working on building your own neighbourhood support group?
Visit www.resilientbyron.org for more info. Community organisers/leaders are also welcome to join the conversation on the Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/ResilientByron.
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