Canberra Community Champions
Each month, I recognise a Canberra charity or community group as a ‘Canberra Community Champion’. As Assistant Minister for Charities and Federal Member for Fenner, I’m keen to shine a spotlight on the vital community-building work done in the bush capital.
Acknowledging these great organisations is one way of reversing the decline in social capital. Over the past generation, Australia has become more 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:
IAMSA - April Community Champion
Our April community champion is Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association (IAMSA). They run sporting events in Gungahlin and bring people together through their shared love of sport and the sense of community it brings.
IAMSA’s impact goes far beyond the pitch. Founders Sanjay and Jasmine Sharma recognise that sport brings cultures and community together, and since establishing IAMSA in 2013 have expanded from cricket to volleyball, soccer and tennis to keep the activities going all year round so that the fun never stops.
Their hardworking group of dedicated volunteers have organised multiple events for the community in Gungahlin, including competitions to promise awareness of mental health and fundraisers for Pink Stumps day. Their initiative ‘From Kitchen to Crease' is aimed at fostering more women to participate in cricket and create a friendly and encouraging environment. Participants of the program have mentioned how it made them more confident and inspired to be more involved in the sport and with the community.
As well as sport, they’ve also been instrumental in helping their community stay connected and supported during tough times. Throughout lockdowns and the bushfires, IAMSA provided food assistance to the local community and delivered water and masks to those helping out on the front lines in the summer of 2019-2020. ABC Canberra also recognised Sanjay as a Multicultural Community Champion last year for the fantastic work that IAMSA has done.
You can stay up to date with their latest events on their website.
Frogwatch - March Community Champion
This month’s Community Champion is Frogwatch, a group of local volunteers that monitors, restores and protects local frog habitat, as well as raising awareness and educating the community about our amphibious friends.
Frogs absorb water through their skin, which makes them susceptible to changes in the environment, including pollutants. Scientists call frogs ‘indicator species’, since they’re among the first to be affected by environmental degradation.
Since 2002, Frogwatch has engaged the local community to observe and look after frogs all over the Canberra region. They provide fun and informative resources to local schools around Fenner including tadpole kits and puppet videos, as well as giving FrogTalks to the community and tracking the effects of climate change on frog habitats and populations in the region.
Every year Frogwatch conducts a FrogCensus in FrogTober. This bring the community together to monitor their local waterways for frog populations, trains volunteers with vital identification skills and is a hands-on way to learn about local biodiversity.
They are also currently assisting the Landcare led Bushfire Recovery program by monitoring frog populations in fire affected areas in the Namadgi National Park and have teamed up with Waterwatch to investigate another key species in our urban wetlands - long necked turtles.
You can get involved by contacting the FrogWatch coordinator on 6278 3309 or [email protected].
Photo credit: Frogwatch ACT
Friends of Yerrabi Pond - February Community Champion
Our February community champion for 2022 are the Friends of Yerrabi Pond. They are a local group committed to making Yerrabi Pond even better.
Formed in February 2021, they have already made a substantial impact in representing the interests of the local community, running an online petition, and hosting events.
In March 2021, Michael Pettersson MLA and I co-hosted a clean-up event with Friends of Yerrabi Pond. I was also pleased to join them in December 2021 for the official opening of the Rotary Rotunda.
If you’re interested in becoming involved, the best way is to follow their social media accounts.
Migrant Women Art Group - November 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.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the group, you can check out their website here. You can also stay up to date with their fantastic artwork and events on their Instagram page.
Photo: Courtesy of Gungahlin Arts
HelpingACT - October Community Champion
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.
This Is My Brave Australia - September Community Champion
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.
The Buy Nothing Project - August Community Champion
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
Multicultural Hub Canberra - July Community Champion
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
Canberra Qwire - June 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
Roundabout Canberra - May Community Champion
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.