-A Current Affair Staff
Residents of a regional town in Victoria have managed to take their community from nearly perishing to truly prospering by banding together.
Lockington, a town in northern Victoria with a population of less than 1000 people, was looking down the barrel of a grim future. Drought coupled with high water prices and the gradual migration of residents into the city saw a slew of businesses and farms close their doors and pack up shop.
“A few years ago, the service station was closing down – no more fuel. We had no banks, the banks were closing,” a local man told A Current Affair reporter Marty King.
The final straw for those left came when the pub announced they too would be calling it quits.
(A Current Affair)
A no pub town is no town at all, according to Lockington locals.
So, the residents joined forces to buy it.
“We all got together, we pulled together, and we saved the town,” local Wendy Sims told A Current Affair.
Lockington’s pub is now a co-op with more than 100 owners, like local dairy farmers Terry and Paul, who put in $5000 for their share.
“When the chips are down, people hook in,” they told A Current Affair.
Along with other locals, they now run the pub and when tradies are needed, they hire only locals.
The pub’s co-ownership model is working “wonderfully well”, according to residents.
Terry and Paul are part owners of the pub and help with running it. (A Current Affair)
Terry and Paul say community spirit in the town “couldn’t be better”.
The pub isn’t the only thing Lockington has managed to turn around. The town has also managed to open a bank, library, laundromat, op-shop, men’s shed, and, yes, even a servo – which is run by local volunteers like Monica.
“It needs to be done, I don’t mind doing it – everyone pitches in,” she told A Current Affair.
While the town’s transformation is the work of each and every resident, the revitalisation effort was led by Wendy Sims.
With her family’s history in Lockington going back 140 years, Ms Sims was a natural leader for the town.
Wendy Sims has led the push to save Lockington’s pub. (A Current Affair)
“I’m secretary of the Landcare, I’m treasurer here at the petrol station or business centre, I’m secretary at the Elmore ladies’ tennis, I’m with the C.F.A at Pine Grove, communications and O.H&S I think is officially my title there. My husband runs the cemetery so I’m sort of the background doing all the computer work at the local cemetery,” Ms Sims said.
With her hand in nearly every local operation, Ms Sims uses her background to bring together every organisation, sporting group, Lockington business for regular meetings.
“We meet every two months and I chair that meeting so that we talk together and keep Lockington going in the one direction,” she said.
The now thriving town is even attracting new businesses.
John moved his family from Melbourne to Lockington, opening an ice-cream and waffle shop.
John’s ice cream shop has proved a smash hit in the town. (A Current Affair)
“After leaving Melbourne we didn’t really want to go somewhere just as populated as Melbourne, so we thought a nice small country town like this gives us the country lifestyle,” he told A Current Affair.
Just across the road, Breanna and Jed bought the supermarket, pouring time and energy into it.
“Jed and I were looking for a challenge, and it’s certainly been that. But also, just to support and become a part of this community in another way,” Breanna told A Current Affair.
Their support, they say, has been reciprocated by the community – who have rallied around to make their business a success.
A local mum said that the new businesses have also brought tourists.
“We have so many people coming through… lots of things that have popped up,” she told A Current Affair.
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