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:

parkrun - October Community Champion

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 parkrun

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Scullin Community Group - September Community Champion

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.

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Ngunnawal Street Pantries - August Community Champion

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.



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Belconnen Arts Centre - July Community Champion

July’s Canberra Community Champions is the Belconnen Arts Centre.

Belco Arts is a community driven arts organisation with one core purpose: to fuel a love of and engagement in the arts. It is a multi-purpose space that brings together diverse creatives in Canberra across a variety of arts practices and mediums. It’s a place to celebrate, experience creative journeys and share stories. The team at Belco Arts is currently working hard to engage with, connect and support the creatives throughout social isolation.

Artists and creatives have been hit particularly hard by COVID. Whether it is visual artists who cannot hold exhibitions, musicians who have had their gigs cancelled, lighting technicians and theatre ushers being stood down – there is no part of the arts sector that is unaffected. Last week, I joined Alicia Payne MP, David Smith MP and Labor’s Shadow Arts Minister Tony Burke for an online forum with Canberra creatives and arts organisations. 


Casey Community Outreach, by Eleanor Ng of Casey        

The arts sector is doing it tough. And yet now more than ever, Australians are turning to the arts to find comfort and solidarity with our community. Australian stories are absolutely vital to promoting a sense of solidarity and togetherness. Whether you enjoy seeing Australian stories represented on screen or reading them on the page, resonate with the beauty and power of Australian visual art or appreciate listening to Australian music, the arts are fundamental to our culture and identity.

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Axial Housing - June Champion

June Canberra Community Champion – Axial Housing

Canberra Community Champion’s June shout out is Axial Housing, which is managed by Catholiccare.

Axial Housing is a ‘housing-first’ program that supports rough sleepers into permanent, secure housing. The program is unique as it does not discriminate based on employment status, criminal history or drug use and specifically targets people who have struggled to secure housing in the past. This is a significant, positive step towards more inclusive housing options for people with complex needs.

Another terrific aspect of Axial Housing is that it provides individual and flexible assistance for people based on their personal needs. And this support is wrap-around, which means that it extends beyond assisting a rough sleeper into a house and continues to provide long term support that is specifically targeted at breaking the cycle of homelessness. Importantly, it provides pet friendly housing. For many of us, a pet can be like family, so this consideration is very welcome.

A former rough sleeper who had been on the streets for 20 years shared this photo of his dog in his new home, provided as part of the Axial Housing program.

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Northside Community Services - May Champion

This month, Canberra Charity Champions is featuring Northside Community Services and the incredible work they’re doing to support vulnerable members of our community. Northside Community Services is a community based organisation that provides support for people with a disability, women’s housing and emergency relief and home support, children’s services and transport and social programs for seniors. In response to changing community needs due to COVID-19, they’ve focused on helping isolated Canberrans with personal and clinical care, safe medical transportation, essential shopping support, complex case management and client well-being check ins.


Every second day, a team of volunteers at Northside Community Services is calling over 600 Canberrans to check in on them. If they can’t make contact twice in a row, they undertake a home visit to ensure people are safe and well in their homes. In the week before Mother’s Day, they delivered an incredible 160 activity boxes to community members, including women and families in supported housing, older clients who were unable to see their family, and people feeling the period of isolation. This is just one example of the work charities are doing to ensure the wellbeing of individuals and boost social connection in this difficult time. You can find out more about Northside Community Services at their website.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.