Canberra Community Champions
I’m doing a monthly shout-out to a champion Canberra charity or community group to put a spotlight on the vital community-building work done by charities. As Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, I’ve had the opportunity to see the valuable impact of the hard work being done by the sector. But charities are struggling at the moment. They’ve seen a huge drop in donations, and many have had to cancel fundraising events. At the same time, they’re being relied on more than ever. Australians are depending on food banks, mental health counselling, family support services and much more.
Over the past generation, Australia has become disconnected. We’re less likely to join organisations, we have fewer friends, and we’re less engaged in sporting and political groups. Charities can help build a reconnected Australia, and Canberra Community Champions is a small recognition of the big work being done in our community.
To nominate a Canberra Community Champion, please drop me an email suggesting a local charity, and explaining (in a few sentences) why their work deserves recognition.
This month's Canberra Community Champion:
Our November Community Champion is the Migrant Women Art Group, a free group for women who have recently migrated to Australia and live in the Gungahlin region, facilitated by the fabulous Gungahlin Arts.
This group provides the opportunity to learn new artistic skills and techniques under the talented tutelage of Kiran Grewal (from Kiran Design Studio) and share their own skills, stories and experiences with the group. It facilitates a cultural exchange between women through the medium of art, creating a real sense of community.
The group stayed active and adaptable during lockdown by replacing physical art events with slideshows and social media, to keep all members engaged and ensure they remained connected whilst being physically distant. They continue to host seminars highlighting various art practices of different cultures and also facilitate practical art sessions.
Photo: Courtesy of Gungahlin Arts
October Community Champions - HelpingACT
Our October Community Champion is HelpingACT, a Gungahlin-based group building a more compassionate and caring community by assisting Canberra refugees, asylum seekers, homeless people and international students with food, household utilities and bills.
HelpingACT work alongside Havelock House, Companion House, Early Morning Centre and University and street pantries to support those in need.
Last year they provided enough food for 6,000 to vulnerable members of the Canberra community. During lockdown, they stepped up to serve the community when we needed it most. Thirty volunteers delivered enough groceries for 2,000 meals, and 150 Eid gift packs were delivered in the last week of Ramadan.
HelpingACT’s founder Mohammed Ali was a finalist in the ‘Community Spirit Awards’ and has been profiled in the Canberra Times where he speaks passionately about seeing Canberra become a more loving, peaceful city. I had the pleasure recently of joining Mohammed and his team of enthusiastic volunteers alongside Tara Cheyne MLA and Suzanne Orr MLA to pack food hampers for 60 families who have been evacuated from Afghanistan to Canberra.
HelpingACT are approaching their busiest time of the year, where they deliver food and gift packs to vulnerable families during the holiday period. If your family needs support, or you can offer support to others, go to their website or Facebook page.
Our September Community Champion is This Is My Brave Australia (TIMBA), a Gungahlin based group dedicated to using the arts to break the stigma surrounding mental health.
TIMBA shares stories and experiences of those in recovery to foster a sense of community, hope and honesty. Through poetry, musical performances, film and spoken word, each story helps reduce the stigma of mental illness.
TIMBA is currently working on an online music event in October to bring the community together, the Creative Minds Festival with Mental Health Month ACT. They are also currently accepting submissions for the 4th International This Is My Brave Mental Health Film Festival, which you can check out here.
Our August Community Champion is the Buy Nothing Project, for the community building work they do in Canberra.
The Buy Nothing Project is a movement that began in 2013 with two friends in Western Australia. It operates as local Facebook groups across Canberra and participants are encouraged to ‘give where you live’. Participants can offer to gift spare items, or request things they need. They are entirely volunteer run.
The Buy Nothing Groups across North CanberraRead more
July’s Canberra Community Champion is Multicultural Hub Canberra. Multicultural Hub Canberra provides support to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to access the resources they need to thrive in Canberra and feel connected to their community.
This includes providing local information and life skills sessions as well as support with accommodation, education/schooling, employment, health, welfare, relationships and more.
Multicultural Youth Service participants playing team sports.Read more
In celebration of Pride month, the June Community Champion is Canberra Qwire, a proudly LGBTIQ+ choir.
Canberra Qwire has grown for over a quarter century from just a handful of people meeting in a garage into one of Canberra’s largest and most diverse non-auditioned choirs. With around 100 members spanning from late teens to the wiser generations, their repertoire is similarly diverse.
Canberra Qwire fosters a supportive and social atmosphere to facilitate building friendship and connection. It celebrates the diversity and resilience of queer Canberrans and allies.
As Nick Terrell and I wrote in our book Reconnected: A Community Builder’s Handbook, civic connection has been steadily decreasing. Choirs are a great way of building community to turn around that trend, while providing a safe and supportive network for queer Canberrans and allies.
Canberra QWire performing at Fair Day in 2019.Read more
The May Canberra Community Champion is Roundabout Canberra, a grass-roots charity that takes donations of pre-loved baby and kids items and provides them to social service agencies for families in need. Their mission is to provide a safe start for all babies by providing women and families experiencing hardship in Canberra and the surrounding regions with essential items and equipment to ensure the safety of their babies and children.
There’s a few ways you can help Roundabout Canberra. You can donate goods in excellent and clean condition, make a tax deductible donation, or volunteer with them. Roundabout is volunteer powered, and are always looking for additional helpers.
April’s Community Champion is Raise Our Voice Australia, an initiative that works to increase the presence of young female and non-binary voices leading the conversation in politics, domestic policy and foreign policy, and ultimately to see political systems and government that reflects the diversity of the Australian population. It does this by running training and mentoring programs for young women and non-binary people.
Raise Our Voice Australia was started by Ashleigh Streeter-Jones, reflecting on her own experience in public service, background in international relations and work to get more young women into politics. The first cohort ran from September to October 2020, with 37 young women and non binary people graduating from the online program. Over the eight weeks, the participants learned about the workings of government and policy making, the realities of having a diplomatic career, what it’s like to run for office, and what it’s like being the person in the decision-making seat. Speakers ranged from public service leaders to current diplomats and sitting politicians, and included a crisis diplomacy simulation run by the US Consul General. Half of the speakers were from diverse backgrounds - after all, you can’t be what you can’t see.
Raise Our Voice Australia founder, Ashleigh Streeter-Jones.Read more
The March Community Champions are mothers’ groups across Canberra for the fantastic work they do supporting new mothers and parents across Canberra.
Mothers’ groups provide a supportive and encouraging network to help mums navigate motherhood. They coordinate walks, coffee meet-ups and playgroups.
There are many benefits of mothers’ groups, including the opportunity to meet new people, learn new parenting skills and establish a support network.
One mothers’ group in Canberra is the Up & About Mothers’ Group, run by the Upside of Me. Up & About is an innovative group that combines health services with social activities to help new mums get up and about. The group socialises with a Walk & Talk session in Telopea Park, followed by a Latte & Learn session with a local speaker.
According to founder Lisa Anderson, the group is all about empowering new mothers. It centres on the values of socialising, friendship, confidence and learning.
The Up and About Mothers' Group in action, with founder Lisa Anderson (right).Read more
2021’s first Community Champion is Orange Sky, an organisation that provides a free mobile laundry and shower service for people sleeping rough.
Each van is kitted out with washing machines, dryers, laundry baskets, hoses, a generator and water tanks. But according to Orange Sky co-founder, Nic Marchesi, the most important equipment is the six orange chairs that are set up next to each van. In the hour that it takes to do the laundry, volunteers and clients sit down and have positive, non-judgemental and sincere conversations, fostering genuine connection.
Orange Sky volunteers and clients chatting while they wait for the laundry. Source: @orangeskyau instagram.Read more