The demise of the Bendigo Traders Association is a pivotal moment for business and advocacy in Greater Bendigo.
But if Bendigo is fair dinkum about itself, this latest chapter in the BTA’s history should be seen as the opportunity to achieve something special, rather than celebrate something that has been lost.
For some time now, this column and this newspaper has called for our city to adopt the model of community advocacy and leadership that exists in both Ballarat and Geelong, before we get left even further behind by these motivated, organised and empowered communities who are so far ahead of Bendigo in at least this regard.
It’s too easy in Bendigo to find reasons not to do things. We lack that one single group capable of being the voice for Bendigo. There is a sizable void, and one that should worry a lot of people in this city. And while the City of Greater Bendigo has a role to play in all this, it cannot be given sole responsibility for championing Bendigo and its future prospects.
Bendigo desperately needs a group capable and courageous enough to tackle any and all levels of government when it needs to, and one which can work cohesively with government when it has to as well.
There are many representative organisations in our city working towards their own goals, and the real opportunity Bendigo now has is to build a peak body similar to what Ballarat and Geelong already have, but to do it from the ground up, rather than from the top down.
The Bendigo Weekly understands senior state government figures want this city to get its act together, because it sees the sense and benefit in having the three major regional powerhouses – Geelong, Bendigo and Ballarat, equally represented by what are essentially community-led boards united in their passion for their respective communities.
The Committee for Geelong boasts an impressive Board that includes the CEO, managing director, regional manager, vice chancellor or principal of about 20 of the most significant businesses in that city.
In Ballarat, the story is pretty much the same, with senior managers from the health, education, manufacturing, tourism, mining and telecommunications sectors all actively engaged and contributing.
Meanwhile, here in Bendigo… we have nothing – yet.
But imagine if Bendigo could bring its greatest minds and managers together with a common purpose dedicated to Bendigo and its future.
A roundtable with senior representation from the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Coliban Water, La Trobe University, Bendigo Regional Institute of TAFE, Bendigo Health, the City of Greater Bendigo and Rural Finance Corporation to name a few. Add an assortment of the many outstanding business and community leaders in our midst and we would be on the right track.
The opportunity to create something special for Bendigo is here, right now. I can think of no reason why Bendigo shouldn’t do this, and a lot of reasons why we not only should, but must.