Community engagement was the focus of discussion among three expert panelists at Gardiner Foundation's Dairy Leaders Luncheon in March. Jacqui Suares and her husband Ross farm in Larpent, south-west Victoria. She has spent most of her professional life as the Colac Otway Disability Accommodation CEO. Jacqui spoke of the lessons she learned being part of a modest brass band that went on to compete successfully at an A-grade level. "There are a couple of reasons why that happened, and I think they're important in terms of what we need to do as an industry," she said. "One of those was embracing the serendipitous - people who come into your community. "I see that as an opportunity in country areas that we often miss with those who aren't from within our community in the first place. "The band also invested in youth. "It is important to work with our young people, set the bar high and encourage them. "It takes many people to make the sound in a band. There are at least 20 different parts in an orchestration. Some of them are minor, and some are major, but every one of those is essential, and I think we need to remember that." Read more: Could this be Victoria's biggest steer Jacqui's mantra is, "the standard you walk past is the standard you will get". "As an industry, we need to be cognisant of that and hold people to a high standard of behaviour," she said. Jacqui also spoke about the need for being "authentic". "If there's one thing I know about communities, it is about being real in your conversations with people," she said. Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) CEO Natalie Egleton is passionate about rural communities' issues. FRRR's vision is for a vibrant, resilient, and revitalised remote rural and regional Australia. Each year, the organisation receives approximately 2500 funding requests, and last year it distributed just under $20 million to about 900 projects. "Most of those are tiny rural and remote communities, and most of them are led by grassroots organisations driven by local people who are leading the aspiration for the future of their towns," Natalie said. Through her work, Natalie believes she is afforded a privileged perception of what is happening on the ground in rural communities. "We have noticed that the big issues we are grappling with as a nation and globe are playing out at the hyper-local level in rural Australia," she said. "So we can learn a lot and inform policy strongly from that position. "If we are thinking about resilience, strength, and adaptability, we need critical things, which are knowledge, information-sharing networks, connectedness, and we need to understand diversity in our community, we need to nurture local history and create a shared vision for where we need to go and reimagine futures. "We are invested in the organisations that drive those outcomes." Read more: Making the most of genomic data at Bookaar Conny Lenneberg joined the Gardiner Foundation board in 2021 and brought a wealth of experience as a community development practitioner with such organisations as Anglicare, the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and World Vision. "It's about communities coming together, taking collective action to make their communities stronger, more vibrant, and resilient,' Conny said. "It is action-oriented; it is not something that happens quietly. It is either solving everyday problems or pursuing common aspirations for a community." Conny said one of the truisms in community development practice is that you can't develop a community; it has to develop itself. "Community development is a journey of aspiration and change," she said. "It's about success in small initiatives, building capacity and breeding ambition - I think that's the most important thing - it's about hope and optimism for the future, and it can be hard to find at times, but solidarity with communities within and communities alongside I think is a good starting point." Want to read more stories like this? Sign up below to receive our e-newsletter delivered fresh to your email in-box twice a week.