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:
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
December’s Community Champion is Givit, a charity that connects those who have with those who need, by the simple act of giving. Givit operates like a match-making service, linking up generous donors with genuine need. Charities can request specific items through Givit, who then matches these requests with items donated by members of the public.
You can see exactly what is needed, which maximises the impact of gift giving. It also reduces waste by diverting reusable items from landfill to help people.
In Reconnected: A Community Builder's Handbook, Nick Terrell and I profile Givit and its founder Juliette Wright. We discuss how the organisation has over a decade developed into a nationwide charity that has facilitated the gifting of over 2,500,000 items to people in need.Read more
The Canberra Community Champion for November is Krofne Donuts. Krofne is a Canberra bakery that aims to create employment opportunities for teens and adults with special needs.
The social enterprise started when Danijela and John Vrkic sold donuts at the Old Bus Depot Markets with the help of their son Anthony, who has down syndrome. From there, the business quickly expanded as support flooded in. They now have regular pop-ups all over Canberra and an online website.
Krofne founder Danijela Vrkic with her son Anthony.Read more
The October Canberra Community Champion is parkrun. parkrun is an organisation that hosts free, weekly community events where people can join to walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate.
As Nick Terrell and I wrote in our book Reconnected, inactivity is a health problem and a social challenge. parkrun has found a way to address both challenges: it gets people exercising outdoors, while making friends with members of their local community. The group post parkrun coffee is always an added bonus.
It’s a positive, welcoming and inclusive experience that is entirely organised by grassroots volunteers. All you have to do is register online and show up.
Ginninderra parkrunRead more
This month’s Canberra Community Champion is the Scullin Community Group. They’re a group of passionate locals who build community and have transformed the local shops into a community hub.
Before the pandemic hit, the Scullin Community Group had established fortnightly games nights, coffee chats every Friday morning and twice weekly social soccer games. These events are opening up again as COVID permits, including a local take on Floriade NightFeast in a number of Scullin’s parks this Friday night. Over the past two years the group has also transformed the shops into a meeting place for residents, with a community noticeboard, art murals, garden beds – until COVID they even ran their own shop!
Chatting with Scullin residents at the local shops last year, in front of the beautiful mural organised by the Scullin Community Group.Read more
The August Canberra Community Champion is the Ngunnawal Street Pantries. The Ngunnawal Street Pantries is a local, community driven group with the philosophy of ‘give when you can and take when you need’. They operate like public exchange book libraries; members of the public donate items, and anyone can take what they need.
They are accessible every day during daylight hours and open to anyone who is in need or knows someone in need.
The first pantry started about a year ago with a tub of non-perishable food items on a front lawn. It’s now grown into several different pantries across Ngunnawal, including food, women’s, craft, toy and pet pantries.