Three primary healthcare nurses were funded by the Commonwealth Government to establish a primary healthcare program for three clusters of small rural communities (four towns in each cluster) of less than 1000 people. The role of the nurses was to include the provision of clinical nursing support to GPs in outreach locations similar to that of a practice nurse; to support community development activities; and to foster the development of collaborative partnerships with other service providers and key stakeholders. Initial success led to continued funding for the program and the inclusion of a cohesive strategic approach to enhance community collaboration and sustainability. This led to the development of a community engagement model involving (1) community assessment; (2) community consultation; and (3) project planning. The model acknowledges that rural nursing is more holistic and people-orientated rather than task orientated, where nurses need to display leadership and be agents of change. It also embraces the notion that the individual's health and wellbeing responds positively to active participation in community activities, and those communities that encourage participation have better health outcomes. A case study is provided, describing the nurse's role in the establishment of a Seniors' group in one community.