Reconnecting community in South Purrumbete

Community stories: 31 January 2024

Community meeting places are integral to the social fabric of society. In the small dairy community of South Purrumbete in Victoria, the local school closed in 1993 and in the following decade, the local hall and churches were sold; the footy club folded; and the community lost a vital space to come together. After an extended period of time of neglect and inactivity, the Recreation Reserve building, which was the last remaining community asset in this small dairy community, was set to be sold.

However, the community united and re-established the South Purrumbete Recreation Reserve (SPRR) committee of management in 2015 to retain ownership, with a vision to create a vibrant community hub. Since then, they’ve undertaken works to remove hazardous trees and control weeds, as well as fencing and revegetation of the Reserve.

The next stage of their efforts to strengthen the community was to embark upon the the rejuvenation of the disused but much sought after Reserve as a community hub, and this firstly involved upgrading the electrical infrastructure. This was necessary to ensure safety and reliability and the availability of essential services such as toilets, water and power to potential users, and to enable further restoration works to continue.

The committee received a 2020 Gardiner Dairy Foundation Community Grant for $4,870 for the designated electrical works, just before the global pandemic hit. Despite the challenges caused by a shortage of contractors due to ongoing lockdowns, this small group of fewer than five volunteers engaged with local landholders, businesses and the wider community, and commenced the massive task of reinvigorating this heart of the local community. Trenches were dug, electrical upgrades took place and basic building drainage issues were addressed.

While the physical infrastructure upgrades could be considered the whole point of the project, the ultimate aim of the project is to build resilience by improving infrastructure at a local meeting place that will facilitate community connectedness. Community support for the project is gaining momentum, with the long-lasting and significant benefit from this small infrastructure project clearly evident in the South Purrumbete community. The consequential coming together of community volunteers has stimulated further plans to upgrade septic systems and renovate the grounds further to meet their ambitious goal of restoring the Reserve buildings and grounds to a safe and suitable condition to enable large gatherings at future community events like markets.