Chris O’Brien Lighthouse Christmas gifts in 2020 (photo: Chris O’Brien Lifehouse)

by Jan Macindoe and Dorothy Davis, on behalf of the Community Development Subcommittee, from Bulletin 7/2021, September 2021

The Community Development Subcommittee maintained a range of activities in collaboration with other community groups during the year, despite restrictions related to COVID-19. The main loss was the Sunset Soiree, normally held annually to support Centipede Before and After School Care.

1. Collaborative projects

Our major collaborative projects were driven by individual members of the Subcommittee.

Christmas donations

Janice Challinor managed the very successful Christmas donations by soliciting donations both from Glebe Society members and the staff of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Janice also sought input from the six facilities providing supported accommodation in Glebe to ensure that the gifts matched the requirements of recipients.

The outcome was that several gifts were delivered to each of the 81 children and parents of the following facilities: Elsie Women and Children’s Refuge, Rainbow Lodge, Detour House and Girls’ Refuge, Katherine York and the children engaged in Glebe PCYC development programs. There were also many donations of personal care items and small luxuries for the 25 adults living at the facilities. Furthermore, a large box of educational games, books and stationery items were delivered to Centipede at Glebe Public School when school term commenced.

In the Mix – Recipes and Tips by Glebe Cooks

Community support during COVID-19

Individual members of the Society were involved in providing support to our Glebe and Forest Lodge residents during the dark and uncertain days of the first COVID wave in 2020 in several ways: a weekly drop-off of boxes of food, especially fresh vegetables and fruit, organised and packed by the Glebe Youth Service, for those unable to shop; regular phone calls to check on our neighbours’ well-being; provision of information on local services offering financial help, health and welfare support; and food and emergency relief. A recipe booklet, ‘In the Mix’, was put together by local residents to share cooking ideas and to indicate the pleasure experienced in unpacking the donated food deliveries.

Several community picnics, supported by grants from the City of Sydney and the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, University of Technology Sydney, and local well-wishers, were held in Glebe pocket parks in December to celebrate our initial freedom from lockdown and in anticipation of Christmas. The picnics focused on community, togetherness and resilience through a difficult time, with the caption ‘We are Glebe’. Photography, by professional photographer and Glebe local Tom Psomotragos, captured the spirit of the picnics and was on display mid-year in various locations around Glebe.

These initiatives expressed caring and hope, with new friendships formed and relationships developed with local support agencies such as the Glebe Youth Service, Common Ground Camperdown, Glebe Assistance Partnership Program and Mission Australia’s Tenant Participation and Community Engagement.

A kitchen starter pack (Photo: Diane Hutchinson)

2. Kitchen Pack Project

Diane Hutchinson was the driver of the Kitchen Pack Project, which ran from 2017 to June 2021.

The aim of the Kitchen Starter Pack Project was to provide a socially beneficial recycling outlet for used kitchenware by refurbishing members’ donated items and assembling packs of essentials for those moving from supported accommodation to their own homes. In the course of the project, a total of 80 packs were delivered to Elsie Women’s Refuge and Rainbow Lodge for their clients who move into social or community housing. Elsie and Rainbow Lodge staff and clients have expressed their gratitude to the Glebe Society.

The project’s success relied on the generous support of many, especially the Glebe Society members and members of the broader community who donated used kitchenware, the Pyrmont, Ultimo and Glebe (PUG) Men’s Shed for custom-made cutting boards, and Sewing for Good for handmade tea towels. The project also needed funds to purchase new jugs and toasters and other items for which we expected occasional shortfalls in recycled donations. These were provided by an initial start-up grant from the City of Sydney and then by personal donations from members, supplemented by the proceeds from a raffle and cake stall. In 2020-21, the Management Committee guaranteed to cover any shortfall in donations up to a total project budget of $1000.

The project was closed in June 2021. There were several reasons, including loss of access to a storage area at St Helen’s Community Centre, as the venue did not meet COVID safe conditions. But fundamentally, the project had to be closed as donations of kitchenware diminished. This should be considered a success of the project, whose aim always included the opportunity to recycle used kitchenware. It was inevitable that our members would eventually clear out all their unwanted items!

The project would never have been possible without the dedication and hard work of Diane Hutchinson, assisted by other supporters. However, Diane undertook most of the effort of cleaning, sorting and packing the Kitchen Packs, and storing items in her home for the most part.

3. Social housing

The Community Development Subcommittee has provided input to various submissions made by the Glebe Society on planning and heritage issues to ensure that the social housing perspective is always included. The group has been vigilant in arguing for preserving or increasing social housing provision whenever a new development has been put forward and is aware of the constant threat to social housing residents as redevelopment in our area takes hold. The importance of low-rise housing and amenities, including outdoor space and gardens, has also been constantly stressed in our submissions.

4. Community Centre for Glebe

The Community Development Subcommittee’s campaign to promote greater opportunities for community activities to be held in City of Sydney venues began in 2019. In early 2020 we made a submission to the Lord Mayor and Council in support of a staffed community centre in the Glebe Town Hall. The initial response of Council was positive, with a unanimous motion to ‘Investigate how services in Glebe might be consolidated and made more accessible to a wider range of constituents, particularly focusing on the needs of older residents’, including ‘Solicit input from Glebe community organisations like the Glebe Society’.

Unfortunately, responses to the pandemic inevitably led to the proposal becoming a low priority. In early 2021, to re-focus attention on the proposal for a staffed community centre in Glebe, the Community Development Subcommittee wrote again to the Lord Mayor and received a reply in April, indicating that the Manager Social Programs & Services would contact us about our request. Of course, progress has again been delayed by COVID-19 restrictions.

Apart from the delays caused by the pandemic, we are concerned by evidence of a decrease in the Council’s commitment to ensuring that community activities are available at Council facilities. St Helen’s Community Centre has been closed and unstaffed since early 2020, and all the City’s venues are listed on the Council’s website as ‘venues for hire’.

We expect this to be an on-going campaign, to ensure that Glebe residents again have access to community-based activities, to support physical and mental well-being, and provide opportunities to connect with others.