In 2017, Townsville City Council funded a program for TBDC to deliver the Community Group Accelerator program to local not for profit organisations. It has been absolute pleasure and an extremely rewarding experience to work with and for the participants.
We hope that you enjoy our feature stories of each organisation, highlighting the dedication and commitment they have to their endeavours, which contribute to the richness and vibrancy of our great community.
8 – North Queensland Hindu Community
One of the principles of Hinduism is “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – “the whole world is our family”.
“Our belief is, that you cannot exist by yourself, you co-exist with people around you. This includes nature, land, animals, air, everything. That is symbolised by our community centre. Our aim is to do things with a purpose for the benefit of the wider community.”
The North Queensland Hindu Community Inc. (NQHC) was formed more than ten years ago. They have undergone significant change over the last couple of years, with the acquisition of a community hall in Vincent. It serves as a hub for the Hindu community in Townsville, as well as a place to showcase their culture to the community and support Townsville’s underprivileged.
“We wanted to take baby steps and they ended up being big leaps!”
“We were fortunate to get this place because it used to be a church. There are all positive spiritual vibes here.”
“Our core priorities are education, religion and culture, and then there is service, of any kind. Service to humanity, community, animals and plants. We have a group that offers tutoring sessions for underprivileged kids and we do workshops in the school holidays.”
“Townsville has a large migrant population. It’s a great melting pot of culture. A lot of people find it difficult to get a foothold in a new community, to understand how they can contribute and where they belong. They may have experienced hardships before arriving here. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of migrant visitors on a regular basis for our functions all from diverse backgrounds, Chinese, Malaysians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Burmese, not just Indians.”
In addition to their ambitious goals of helping the community, the NQHC host regular events to share the Hindu traditions and culture.
“Our major festivals include Arpan, Holi (the festival of colours) and Diwali, symbolising the eradication of ignorance and bringing in of knowledge. These events showcase our real culture. When you talk about Indian culture everyone thinks Bollywood – this is in no way the extent of our true culture. We have traditional dances that have existed for over 5000 years and people dress in traditional attire and showcases of dance and music. These festivals are about involving the wider community, because we want to share our culture.”
TBDC has worked with members of the organising committee, in particular their secretary Meera, to help grow community awareness of their events and organisation through marketing. In addition to this we’ve helped them to plan for their future as the organisation grows.
“Everything fell into place in our first session. After that, the focus and the way we look at things here is changing. We’ve got a long way to go, especially in terms of organisational procedures and the way we plan things, but now we know what we need to do.”
“We are hoping that in another 5-10 years, we are a landmark that the wider community feels connected to. Somewhere for people who feel vulnerable or isolated will know there is a place of shelter or food or just somewhere they can ask for help. Somewhere that regardless of which nationality, or which colour or creed you are, you will be welcomed.”
7 – Northern Jets Baseball Club
“Baseball here in Townsville has a really good culture which made me want to be involved and give back to the game in the same way that someone has done in the past for me. Baseball has a high sense of camaraderie and strategy. It’s taught me a lot about life and communication. It’s perfect for someone who is looking for a team sport where you can have fun and learn those skills without feeling pressure”
Holding the position of club secretary, Ricky is a hardworking member of the Northern Jets committee. He is passionate about the opportunities for the club and embracing the challenges that come with a community sports organisation. Growing up in America, he’s played since he was a child and is a strong advocate for the game. He also has a strong sense of community which helps drive his enthusiasm for the growing sport.
“This is my first committee that I’ve been involved with, so that’s been a learning experience in itself. Our club has come from a place where the admin side of things was a challenge. Its grown from the grassroots and we’ve had to follow our strong vision as a group, led by our current president Matt.”
“The “Community Group Accelerator” has been really helpful for the Northern Jets. In the first session of the programme we committed to a vision together which has stuck:
“To lead the growth of baseball community in Northern Australia.”
“It’s been good to have a roadmap that helps us recognise that each person in the club plays an important role in making things happen. We’re developing that real team mentality.”
“You can feel that there is a sense of camaraderie and friendship that we have here. There’s competition and wanting to win, but when we get on the diamond you feel like everyone’s there for the same purpose; to improves our skills but also to make the club better as a whole.”
“There’s still a lot of people out there who aren’t playing any kind of sport. Baseball is a game where you can start when you’re fifteen or fifty. It’s easy to pick up, so there’s a lot of potential for growth.”
“It’s fulfilling when you see new players sign on and see how much they enjoy the season. Also being able to partner with new sponsors in our community takes things to that extra level of locals helping locals. As a committee we’re helping to make decisions for the club that positively affect the players, so it’s rewarding.”
Based at Condon, Northern Jets Baseball Townsville members are passionate about building their sport in Townsville. They have teams for all ages and have been working with TBDC through the Community Group Accelerator programme to help grow their club and the sport of baseball in the region. It’s not simply a case of “if you build they will come”, as they say in the iconic baseball movie, “Field of Dreams”, but you do have to start somewhere, with a plan of where you want to go.
6 – Townsville Community Legal Service
“I guess when you experience the kind of traumatic cases or uphill battles we see on a regular basis, you develop a fight or flight response. We actually try to improve that person’s lot in life and go in to bat for them. Ultimately, not only can you make a difference with that person, but perhaps even systemically change the underlying issues. It’s a mindset we have that we’re not going to be passive cogs in the system.”
Aaron Finn is the Director at Townsville Community Legal Service. TCLS are a small team of lawyers and counsellors who provide free legal services to Townsville’s most vulnerable.
“We call on the dedication of a large number of lawyers who volunteer for us. The work they do is a core part of our service which dwarfs the actual amount of funding we receive. Many of these are highly experienced, and privately successful, lawyers who put in their time after hours, at no cost, with no referrals to their own firms. Why? Simply because they identify that there will always be gaps in access to justice and they’re dedicated to addressing this. Lawyers might have a bad reputation, but when you look at the volunteering effort that they put into community legal centres like us in Townsville, it’s pretty astonishing.”
The caseload that TCLS employees take on can see them working and defending some of Townsville’s most vulnerable. It is challenging work, and the long-term commitment of their staff is a testament to their passion and the way the organisation is run.
“Public perception of law is that the majority is criminal. Really that’s only about 5% of it. We specialise in areas of law which affect people more in their daily lives. Neighbourhood disputes, damage due to car accidents, insurance issues, debts, family law, social security and government appeals.”
“We don’t have overly prescriptive requirements or make people fill out 10 page applications forms. We don’t means test initial advice. We recognise that we’re probably the last step that someone has taken and we understand it can be frustrating at that point to deal with even more hurdles.”
Engaging the wider legal community in North Queensland has proven vital in TCLS’ ability to achieve big results from limited government funding.
“We can look at what we do and say, there will still be disadvantage tomorrow, but I think we actually do demonstrate our commitment to making a difference. The results that we’ve achieved over 25 years are very positive. I don’t get disenchanted like I might working somewhere else because I get to see those results for the people we help.”
From their unassuming office, their record of services in the Townsville community is astonishing. We have been very pleased to work with TCLS through the Community Group Accelerator to provide support and advice as they try to grow awareness of their brand throughout North Queensland.
5 – Yoga Tools for Schools
“I have lost a step-son to suicide and I had grown up with my own levels of anxiety. I recognise that yoga can support you through that. My involvement comes from supporting a program that is able to indirectly reach the kids and let them know that it’s ok to not be ok and how they can better deal with that.”
Led by president Kylie Grimmer, Yoga Tools For Schools Inc (YTFS) works with Townsville’s teachers to empower them to manage their own wellbeing.
In the era of social media and infinite online connectivity, the pressure on school students has grown immensely. Ensuring that teachers are best prepared to help them through this is at the core of what YTFS does. “When educators understand how to take care of themselves, how to practise self-awareness, self-care and have good self-management tools, then they become better role models.”
“Young people find it really hard to focus and if you can’t focus you can’t learn. Our yoga tools can be used regularly in class, depending on what’s needed, such as refocussing and reset transitioning, to create a steady learning environment.”
The organisation was founded six years ago by current Programme Director Jasmine, and is now run by a committee of passionate volunteers. As they’ve grown rapidly over the last six years, the increasing demands have become a challenge.
“We’ve been going a long time now and we all put in a lot of our own time. Recognising that we were an organisation needing some support as we go through a growth period has been important. If we’re going to expand, we needed to learn business protocol. Participating in the Community Group Accelerator programme has helped us focus and its highlighted our strengths and perhaps some weaknesses, but we’re learning ways to work with those.”
4 – Unlock the Lachs
“Lachy would always smile, he brought magic to everyone who was around, and we just want to pay that forward to families. It’s not about the equipment they need, it’s about the whole family feeling less isolated and more supported and everyone having a smile and a happy memory that no funding is going to provide for them.”
Lachy was born with a condition called laryngomalcia that significantly affected his breathing and development. He was an engaging, expressive and happy little boy, sadly passing away in November 2013. His extended family and friends now work tirelessly to bring happiness to the families of children with disabilities in Townsville in Lachy’s memory.
“We’ve learnt the hardest way that in the end what you will have, is memories. When all of your money, time and energy is going in to providing services, other members of the family are missing out. Every relationship is being affected. We want to provide them with experiences they can enjoy together that they can always hold on to.”
“It’s helping a sibling get to a school camp that the family wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. It’s providing support to someone who has to travel to Brisbane with a child. It’s enabling the family to go and be together to support each other.”
Unlock the Lachs has gone from strength to strength in 2017. They are working with developers to bring all-abilities playgrounds to new housing estates in Townsville, creating some fairy magic for the children staying at Ronald McDonald House, a new caterpillar slide for the Vincent State School playground and working closely with Townsville City Council to bring wheelchair beach mats to The Strand. All this in addition to their fundraising efforts and regular financial support for local families.
This rollercoaster journey has seen their president, Cayley, and the Unlock the Lachs team embrace new challenges.
“It’s everything; it’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s Lachy’s path. I really feel like people understand that we’re the vehicle for Lachy to pass on to them and they’re feeling good about it and they’re wanting to do more to be involved. I’m just crossing each bridge as I come to it so that we can take those opportunities and make them work. We’re learning as we go and loving it.”
“We’re very blessed in this community, there are so many people who want to help. We want to show them how they can and give them a bit of Lachy love on the way. Lachy’s a feeling to us now, he’s our magic and we want to pass that on to other families.”
Cayley and the dedicated team of volunteers at Unlock the Lachs seized the opportunity to have the professional support available in the CGA program. They wanted to ensure they could lay the foundations for the organisation to provide as many opportunities for Townsville families to be supported to unlock the magic of memories in their times of need.
3 – Riverview Play Centre
“The other day I was shopping and a young woman who I recognised from the Centre came up to me. We talked and I told her Riverview Play Centre was still going strong, and remarked that I remember her having a little girl with a dark bob haircut. She said it couldn’t be her, she only had a son. Then I realised that SHE was the little girl with the dark hair that used to come to the Centre. Now she has a child of her own!”
Riverview Play Centre celebrated 25 years of serving the community in 2017, with Deputy Mayor Les Walker and Councillor Kurt Rehbein attending a special ceremony to mark the occasion.
Kay, the Centre Director has been there for 22 of those. The not for profit centre stands out in the industry as the last occasional childcare facility operating in Townsville. Unlike long day centres, they cater for parents to send their children on a casual basis and for shorter periods of time, as needed. This includes care for children of families who are just visiting Townsville, sometimes for medical reasons.
“We have formed bonds with many families. We have had lots who we’ve helped over the years and looked after all of their children. Our staff are all qualified and understand it’s really important that the children come and have a good time and that their parents can see them interacting with our carers and other children, but also developing and learning.”
Kay began her work with Riverview as a carer, before deciding to move into administration. She has embraced the challenges, and the changes, of management. Through the Community Group Accelerator programme, she has worked with TBDC to specifically focus on implementing new marketing ideas for the centre. While most people will tell you the recognise the building on Ross River Rd, they don’t understand why its so different.
“We support a very wide range of families. Whether they’re single families, divided families that are now blended, families in transit, families on holidays, defence force families, fly-in-fly-out families, or those coming in from the bush where the parents need to go to an appointment, or families experiencing a medical emergency, they all come with their own unique needs with one thing in common. They need to know that our flexible service is here and that their children are safe, happy and cared for.”
“At first I missed it (being in child care before moving to administration), because I love storytelling with the children. Now when I visit the rooms the children love to tell me things and share their stories with me and I sit and play with them which is really wonderful.”
2 – Full Throttle Theatre Company
“As human beings we need to tell stories, we need to interact and we need to be creative. It’s part of who we are, from the cave drawings to the storytelling of the ancients, it’s something that we have to have. Our entire culture is based on art, theatre and creativity.”
Full Throttle Theatre Company was started by Jean-Pierre Voos, who came to Townsville from Europe, bringing with him a new style of theatre for the region. After thirty years of adapting and contributing to the changing arts scene in Townsville, it is in the hands of current president, Madonna Davies.
“They wanted to see international theatre in this city – they got it. That educated the Townsville audience, it changed Townsville audiences. Full Throttle is the only regional theatre company in Australia that’s lasted more than thirty years as a professional organisation. We’re the only theatre company that tours regularly throughout rural, remote and regional Queensland. In fact, we’re one of the only regional theatre companies that has actually toured overseas.”
“I think of us as like a working-class theatre company. We work with the emerging artists, with the people that are trying to improve, and without us here at the grassroots level, there is no high-end. People have to get experience and they have to be supported at some point in their life and that’s where we are.”
Madonna, who has been with the organisation in a number of roles for over 20 years, has been working with TBDC through the Community Group Accelerator programme. She sees this period as another turning point for the organisation as they work on developing a new direction. As they embark on new opportunities, she’s very aware of what Full Throttle means for Townsville’s art scene, from her own personal and professional journey with the company.
“This organisation is where I cut my teeth on so many different aspects of theatre and not just as a performer, but also as an arts administrator and manager. I’ve learned a lot about up-skilling, and understanding that I’ve got to be responsible for my future. I’m just the caretaker. There’s a whole history of people that have contributed to this company and I’m just here for my time and then hopefully somebody will come and keep it going for another thirty years.”
1 – Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare
“Small actions contribute to the bigger issues. You might not think you can fix climate change as just one person, but if you’re part of a group working to enhance the resilience of your local habitat, that’s going to have an impact. You can make your area much better to withstand any stresses such as a changing climate, increased development and droughts.”
Sharon and Lucy from Coastal Dry Tropics Landcare Inc are passionate about the environment and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty to make a difference. They’ve been working with TBDC through the Community Group Accelerator programme to help grow the organisation in North Queensland.
For Lucy, her passion stems from her childhood love of the ocean.
“As I started to learn more I began to understand the connection between the land and the ocean and that the whole environment is interconnected and needs to be protected – it all plays its part.”
“At Landcare, we focus on keeping the bush as natural as possible within the urban setting. So we’re pulling weeds and planting native trees in our Landcare sites. Some we’ve been looking after for more than 20 years. When you look at a site where there has been work and the area beside it where there hasn’t, you can definitely see a huge difference.”
“The result is no weeds, better habitat and a better environment for locals to enjoy.”
It’s no coincidence that the wider Landcare movement has survived for over 30 years – it has never lost sight of its humble beginnings as a grass-roots organisation with strong local connections, something that is especially important to the group in Townsville.
“It’s about the community spirit, the community doing something for themselves. It’s really interesting to see the way different sites have popped up because of locals wanting to do something and they’ve brought in more and more people to help in that area.”
And for anyone wanting to help make a difference to North Queensland’s ecosystems?
“Landcare is for everybody! We’re becoming so disconnected from the natural environment, especially young kids, spending so much time in front of electronics, they’re not learning to appreciate their local environments. We have junior Landcare activities, and everything we do is family friendly – there’s no age barrier to being involved!
“You don’t need any skills to volunteer – it’s so easy to come along, everybody should do it!”