Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

It’s hard not to smile when entering George Town Neighbourhood House. The community centre is a vibrant place, buzzing with people working to fight structural disadvantages in the area. With a couple of full-time staff and around a dozen loyal volunteers, this Neighbourhood House exists to create a safer and more inclusive and resilient community by supporting disadvantaged people and families.

But maintaining their high level of engagement and attracting new visitors was a challenge for their small team. They needed an extra pair of hands, someone who could help them reach the right people and promote the programs throughout the community. They submitted a brilliant application to the Strengthening Rural Communities program and, thanks to the Sidney Myer Fund, received $10,000 in grants to help cover the wages for their new communications officer.


But then came the next challenge – COVID-19. Suddenly, many of the community-engagement activities they had planned for the new staff member were impossible, or even illegal, to execute. This could have thrown a real spanner in the works for George Town Neighbourhood House… but nay! Instead of crumbling under the new restrictions, they found ways to adapt – and even thrive – in spite of them.


“We had to change how we interacted with the community from the end of March this year … We had to cease all face-to-face contact,” a staff member said. And it worked! They connected with residents online, engaged in collaborations with other organisations and even scored some airtime on the local radio station.


The highlight, the team agreed, was their Online Family Baking project. With Port Dalrymple School donating a big batch of ingredients, the Neighbourhood House could provide a baking-kit for 20 families in the community, complete with video instructions on how to bake delicious chocolate crackles. “We had a very good response and,” they told us. Following the success of this first bake-off, the Neighbourhood House were able to offer a second round of baking for the families who missed out – this time for Anzac biscuits.


In the end, this little community centre managed to positively benefit some 1,500 people with their grant, including the 40 families who participated in the baking project.
“We are very proud with how we were able to adapt, and still engage and extend to our community, in-spite of all the current COVID-19 issues,” a support worker said.