Ballarat's future is being written today | OPINION

Picture Ballarat in 2050. Our population forecast in 2018 projected growth by 100,000 and, 32 years later, we are a community of more than 200,000. Our renewable energy programs have increased sustainability within our region and significantly reduced our carbon footprint. Our combined business and community efforts have dramatically improved our rail connectivity and the 59-minute Melbourne to Ballarat journey is no longer a pipe dream – it's reality.

There is no longer a digital divide within local communities. Our agricultural waste-to-energy systems and use of natural resources are a leading example in Australia. The Ballarat West Employment Zone is providing ongoing employment and building further infrastructure. Our year 11 and 12 student retention is at an all-time high, and homelessness and domestic violence rates are decreasing year on end.

Chronic disease reduction is no longer just managed by our medical sector – it is a working prevention program between businesses, schools, sporting clubs and health professionals. Our art gallery has expanded into a major arts precinct, a vibrant cultural hub that is the envy of other cities.

This is the current 2018 working snapshot of a vision and strategy aiming to become reality. The story of Ballarat's future in 2050 is about today. It is being written now. But more voices are needed.

To write it properly, we need constant community engagement. It cannot just be left to the City of Ballarat, Central Highlands Regional Partnership, Committee for Ballarat and other groups providing the strategic framework to sustain and invest in our growth.

This is a story requiring voices from everyone in our community. It's about connection. We don't have all of the answers, perhaps not even all of the questions. But we all need to speak up. It starts with a positive conversation.

Participation in our story is critical. We need not wait for permission. Let us work together with our local council, business sectors, media and health sectors. What is your expectation?

What can we do? Write a letter to The Courier, engage in local community groups, make a phone call to our local member of government, have a chat to our neighbours.

These conversations can become a collective voice in connecting with local government and regional partnerships. As a community, we are the decision makers.

On a personal level, I find the conversation around the challenges and opportunities facing our region and the urgent need to address social issues somewhat confronting. I don't do enough.

As part of LBWR's Leaders Forum, listening to the conversation and works being conducted by George Fong, Melanie Robertson, Justine Linley, Geoff Sharp and other leading voices, it is clear that our need for connection with each other is the only way forward.

Making a better life for our residents and future residents is the conversation. A master plan for our growth requires vision, strategy and influence.

We can all do something. Being involved results in a positive change. When we participate, we dictate the outcome.

Ballarat in 2050 depends on Ballarat in 2018. Our involvement, our voices, and our connection will be read by our community in the years ahead. What we want them to read will be dictated by our actions today.

Anthony Perovic is a participant in Leaders Forum, Leadership Ballarat & Western Region’s annual experiential learning program for emerging leaders.