The year 2020 was a challenge for everyone worldwide. And for the group of 20 participants involved in the nine-month 2020 Northern Mallee Leaders Program, it was no different.

As COVID restrictions eased, and more face-to-face interaction was allowed, the group has taken the opportunity to get out and about across the Northern Mallee, including a three-day tour of the region in February.

The group visited Dareton, Euston, Robinvale, Wemen, Ouyen and Red Cliffs. Northern Mallee Leaders 2020 participant and Ouyen resident, Maddy Morrish, shares the experience of hosting the NML group in her hometown.

“After the team at NML had done an excellent job of delivering the program through difficult circumstances, with a lot of Zoom involved, it was finally time for us to get out and about and see what was happening in our own backyards. We saw examples of rural towns getting things done, and doing things for themselves. And we all saw some of the wonders of innovation we had no idea were taking place in the Northern Mallee,” Maddy said.

“As someone who had only ever thought of the almond hull as catching fire and burning for days, I was amazed to find out that Select Harvest, through the H2E project, is able to turn this into both electricity and produce fertiliser for their own crops.
“And, as someone who has always been very proud of where they come from, I was thrilled to have everyone visit Ouyen and be taken aback by the things we can and have achieved here. While there were some projects in Ouyen that I had a bit of background and awareness of, there were some that were new to me too.”

“It was also inspirational to hear the people behind the projects talk about why it was important to them. Some of the Ouyen Inc. projects we explored included the Ouyen Lake, the Roxy Theatre, the Mallee Root Festival, Ouyen Community Gym, the Ouyen Intermodal Project (now named the Sunraysia Mallee Port Link), and the Kiamal Solar Farm. All which aimed to bring different things to the community, including lifestyle, employment, safety and innovation.
“I took great pride in other people being able to see what a small community like ours can achieve. In the future I hope to see our region continue to grow and innovate while providing a positive lifestyle and opportunities for young people to return to.”

Maddy Morrish has been supported by Ouyen Inc. and Mallee Track and Community Health Service to complete the 2020 Northern Mallee Leaders Program. She is also a Mallee Root Festival committee member.