Railton may be small, but it has a long history and a group of passionate locals have banded together to ensure it continues to thrive.
Established in the 1800s, Railton saw a decline in recent decades, say locals, who watched as shops closed up leaving the main street with empty shop fronts like gaps in a row of teeth.
But when the Railton Neighbourhood Centre opened 18 months ago, locals who loved their town took its future into their own hands.
“We are here to give back to the local community,” centre volunteer Hope Sylk said.
The centre, which is entirely run by volunteers, is reconnecting families and generating fresh interest in the town.
Railton local Murray Blenkhorn is delighted to see some of the empty shops opening up again, and said there is more of a buzz in the town in the past few months.
It’s already started ... I think it’s all coming back.Murray Blenkhorn
“It’s already started ... I think it’s all coming back,” he said.
A Regional Institute report highlighted small town decline is not a recent issue in Australia, and that it is ongoing.
Local leadership was identified in the report as a key factor in battling small town decline.
“The role of local leadership is accepted as a key driver of regional economic performance,” the report stated.
“Leadership is especially important in smaller communities which often lack infrastructure, skills and resources for economic development.”
The volunteers who keep the centre open are showing the leadership they hope will ensure a thriving future for Railton.
The centre runs a book swap, is place for people to meet and has some big plans for the future.
“We are currently in the process of creating a ‘Kidz Korner’ for younger children and their parents/guardians to enjoy, with games, puzzles, book readings, all in a relaxing atmosphere with a soft rug, bean bags and scatter cushions,” Ms Sylk said.
The centre also recently launched a community gardening club.
“We are hoping to create an edible community garden as well as a lovely area to sit, relax, meditate and enjoy,” Ms Sylk said.
The centre’s doors are always open, from 10am to 3pm weekdays during winter, and they welcome enquiries by phone on 0459 353 127.