- Opinion Piece -

Greater Shepparton – Building on Strength

Greater Shepparton’s greatest strengths is its intersections.

Let’s start with the obvious. Shepparton is one of the busiest intersections on the national freight network that runs like a spine through Australia’s primary production heartland linking Brisbane to the Port of Melbourne.

At Shepparton, local and national freight moves to and from domestic markets and export ports to all points of the compass. As a result, Shepparton is home to dozens of freight and warehouse operators, and a quarter of Victoria’s registered heavy vehicles. This flows through to the trades, businesses and careers that maintain and coordinate these critical supply chains.

Shepparton is also unique because of the intersection between agriculture, manufacturing and processing. Within a handful of postcodes, we have entire production, processing and manufacturing supply chains. This activity is largely but not exclusively driven by the output from Victoria’s Foodbowl – one of the world’s most diverse and productive agricultural regions that’s underpinned by the intersection of quality soils, reliable water and a great climate.

But we are so much more. Our second largest export is fabricated stainless steel and our people’s professional and technical expertise is sought across Australia and around the globe. We are home to some of Australia’s most iconic brands and world-leading businesses including Bega, Campbells, Continental, Furphy, Milk Lab, Opal, Pental, Rubicon, SPC, Tatura Milk, Unilever, Visy, White King.

Our economy is dominated by small businesses with more than 97% of our 6,500 businesses, employing less than 20 people (only 9 employ 200+, 166 employ 20-199). The intersections within our business community provide a virtual incubator for innovation, entrepreneurship and problem solving – with many ideas conceived and problems solved on the sidelines of local sport and through social networks.

Shepparton is also where the world’s oldest living culture intersects with the many waves of more recent arrivals.

Our indigenous population is double the state’s average and one of the largest indigenous communities outside a major city. We are home to internationally significant indigenous sites that reflect the history, experiences as well as the knowledge of Australia’s first people. We respect and greatly value our indigenous community’s ongoing proud and determined leadership.

Our proportion of residents born overseas is 50% higher than the rest of regional Victoria. Through our residents, we are connected to more than 100 nations, we speak more than 40 languages and follow 43 different faiths. We are also home to Victoria’s first and oldest mosque. We continue to welcome new residents from across the nation and around the globe.

Health and care services is our largest employment sector – larger than manufacturing and agriculture combined. We are also home to Victoria’s largest regional-based aged care provider. Again, the intersections within this sector and with our local education providers is the catalyst for genuine innovation in the design and delivery of health services, training and careers.

The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University have deep roots in our region and their unique collaboration is providing a pathway for students to study and graduate in Shepparton including as GPs. The collaboration extends to our local GOTAFE, Wodonga TAFE campus, as well as the many registered training organisations. Together they work with industry to create pathways and tailor their education programs to the current and future needs of our region and to include and support our broader community in our workforce.

As we look to the future, intersections continue to emerge and spark opportunities.  Our local agriculture and health sectors are intersecting with world leading innovation and cutting-edge developments that are enhancing the health and wellbeing of populations around the globe.

In Greater Shepparton the intersection between the world’s ambition to decarbonize and our local industries puts us in the box seat to secure our domestic and international reputation for clean green product supported by clean green supply chains.  Alongside solar, wind and hydro, our local industry already creates the critical resource to generate renewable bioenergy to power our local industry, green gas to fuel our freight industry, and green fertilisers for use on our local farms and orchards.  We are already applying the innovative and collaborative talents of our region to secure these opportunities for business, for careers and for our education and R&D communities.

Across the first two years of the pandemic, Greater Shepparton earned the unenviable honour of being Australia’s most locked down regional centre. This experience showed the depth of Greater Shepparton’s community spirit and our capacity to include and mobilise our diverse community and economy to find solutions that work for our region. This is our key strength that makes us the ideal location to nurture new thinking and develop ‘fit-for-GV’ solutions that work for us – and provide leadership in thinking and delivery for other regions to follow.

For many readers there are few surprises in this column – we know our city and region have many strengths. But when we map them out and look at the intersections, we see a much bigger canvas that is unique, full of potential, and continues to be driven by the collaboration, initiative, and innovation of locals.

The Committee for Greater Shepparton is proud to provide the networks and advocacy platforms that can support our region to unlock its full potential as a regional, national and global leader.  As we leverage our many intersections, we aspire to see our region develop, adapt and proof the solutions others can learn from. Our confidence and optimism in our region’s future is reflected in our updated strategy and we welcome the views and contributions from our members and community as we translate our aspirations into action.

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Leigh Findlay

Leigh Findlay