This paper critically evaluates the related concepts of the 'deserving community' and 'self-help' forms of governance that have underpinned the economic development initiatives of the Dorset local government area, North East Tasmania. Following the announced closure of a major food processing factory, this region implemented a regional development strategy based around stated principles of community selfhelp. The perceived success of this strategy led, in 2004, to Dorset winning a national regional development award. Inspired by recent research on regional 'showcasing' and the political construction of 'deserving communities', the paper problematises Dorset's enactment of the self-help model and its claims of success. As applied in Dorset, 'self-help' is buttressed heavily by the support of external actors. Yet despite these contradictions, the ethic of self-help resonates within hegemonic rural discourses and, accordingly, finds favor as an organising set of principles for local community action. As such, it is suggested that discourses of regional self-help provide a negotiating field through which rural communities facing difficult economic situations can simultaneously depend on, yet perceptually distance themselves from, government regional development assistance.