Geoff Leslie is almost a local, currently resident in Yea, who served as Baptist pastor in the Barham - Koondrook parish for nineteen years from 1993.
Geoff spoke of his experiences supporting his rural community through the challenges of the millennial drought, collapse of the dairy industry, creating sustainable farming systems and providing social support for local communities. Farming systems in the Barham - Koondrook- Wakool areas had to adapt to zero water allocation and lack of fodder. In the red gum forests near Barham, the trees are drought-deciduous, losing leaf in dry times, leafing up again when it rains sufficiently. But the drought cycles are shortening - no longer thirty years apart. Half the red gums in the forest died.
Geoff was instrumental in establishing ‘Your Community Cares’ organisation which facilitated community events to bring people together (and off the farm) to build community cohesion, to gather the isolated, to inform and educate the community about drought support, and improved farming systems, etc .
‘Your Community Cares’ applied for and received a $300,000 Federal Government grant which has been used to support the football club, Scouts, local schools, men’s and women’s mental health nights and a community theatre group. The latter staged seven performances of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at $5 per head to an audience of 1400, in a township with a population of 1200!
Geoff’s presentation included recitation of Banjo’s Clancy of the Overflow, followed by his own re-imagining of the city-country comparison in present day, and musical items.