Community Southwest began in 2004, as an informal alliance, under a memorandum of understanding, between seven of the current core members. Initial activities consisted of the chief executive officers group and business managers group meeting on a regular basis to discuss best practices.
In 2005 the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS), through the Community Sector Investment Fund (CSIF), set about funding Community Sector Organisations (CSO’s) that were able to develop a program that would result in demonstrable cost savings to the members of the CSO. Community Southwest was successful with its submission and received funding for the employment of a project manager and the creation of a website. This was a success and lead to members benefiting from a variety of programs while also testing the concept of a collaborative community sector organisation.
The funding from DHS ceased at the end of 2006 and a decision was made by the core members to retain the project manager on an ongoing basis. The cost of the project manager and any ongoing programs were to be funded by members. In 2007 Community Southwest members built upon the existing programs while at the same time exploring potential opportunities for interagency collaboration and regional-wide programs.
One outcome of this strategy was the hosting of a not-for-profit conference in Warrnambool during February 2008. The conference was designed to provide professional development training to those in the not-for-profit sector, to bring the latest and the best information to the region and to provide a spring board for moving the Community Southwest alliance into a leadership role in fostering and facilitating collaboration in service delivery, community action and community advocacy throughout south west Victoria.
In August 2007 a decision was made by Community Southwest to seek registrations under the Corporations Act and to open membership to other organisations within the region. Community Southwest has operated as an incorporated association from January 2014. This structure more accurately represents the membership of the alliance and is consistent with the goals of a collaborative community sector organisation.
Community Southwest members collaborate at strategic, operational and administrative levels to improve delivery of services to the community. Community Southwest and its member organisations will be active participants in the provision of health and wellbeing education and social inclusion initiatives that contribute to a healthy and sustainable community.
The defining features of Community Southwest is that member organisations are not for profit, nongovernment and is based in south west Victoria. This is consistent with the region represented by the Great South Coast local government alignment and includes the shires of Corangamite, Glenelg, Moyne and Southern Grampians as well as the city of Warrnambool.