CQUni partnership to boost community innovation for Central Highlands

Published:13 October 2020

The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, through its program Tackling Tough Times Together, is funding the Central Highlands Social Enterprise Project.

Aspiring social entrepreneurs across the Central Highlands can get fresh support and skills, thanks to a CQUniversity partnership with local social enterprise Central Highlands Community Services (CHCS).

The organisations will establish the Central Highlands Social Enterprise Project, with generous funding from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, through its program Tackling Tough Times Together.

Social enterprises are businesses that trade to address social issues, provide access to employment and training for marginalised groups, or grow environmental sustainability, and CQUniversity is a leader in social enterprise education and support.

The project will include events and workshops across Central Highlands communities, with the launch in Emerald on Wednesday 25 November 2020.


Open to anyone passionate about building community resilience for the Central Highlands, CQUni Social Innovation Program Manager Steve Williams said the launch and workshop will give participants a toolkit for innovation.

“The past few years have seen huge growth in the social enterprise sector, creating new revenue streams and new jobs across Australian communities,” Mr Williams said.

“But we know that some regional areas have missed out on those opportunities – so the Central Highlands Social Enterprise Project will be a resource to showcase what’s possible, and connect entrepreneurs in the region to maximise their social impact.”

LISTEN: CHCS chief executive Blake Repine shares the project with ABC Capricornia presenter Paul Culliver.

Participants will receive support through online resources, connections to industry partners, and opportunities to pitch and showcase their social enterprise prototypes.

“It’s great to be delivering the project with Central Highlands Community Services, whose neighbourhood centre, disability accommodation, and community transport initiatives are great examples of local innovation,” Mr Williams said.

CHCS chief executive Blake Repine said the rapid growth of his organisation in the past year showed the demand for creative solutions for a range of social challenges for the region.

“Small communities can wait a long time to get services provided from outside the region, but the social enterprise model means locals can start building their own solutions, and know they’re designed to fit the problem at hand,” he said.

Chair of CHCS Paul Bell said the Central Highlands Social Enterprise Project has enormous potential to contribute significantly to strengthening resilience in rural communities.

CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp agreed the partnership would benefit aspiring social entrepreneurs, and whole regions.

“As Australia’s leading university for social innovation, we change lives through our socially innovative education, and our partnerships with social enterprises across Australia.

“In a short time, Central Highlands Community Services have proven the impact that social enterprise can have in a regional community, and I’m excited to work with them to grow opportunities to innovate across our regions.”

Project supporter and peak body the Queensland Social Enterprise Council (QSEC) estimates that a successful Australian social enterprise generates on average 15 jobs in its community, and new start-ups in regional communities can deliver huge social benefits.

CQUniversity is also partnering with QSEC for the Reset and Recovery with Impact project, establishing social enterprise networks across Far North Queensland, Central Queensland and the Western Darling Downs.

To participate in the Central Highlands Social Enterprise Project, register here:

For more information, contact Steve Williams via