Today, Melinda McInturff from Yeronga Community Centre spoke to ABC Radio about the significant increase in visitors to Neighbourhood Centres as they support their community through disasters, the soaring cost of living and helping people keep a roof over their head in the face of the housing crisis. You can read the transcript below – audio coming soon.


Loretta: Do you have a Neighbourhood Centre in your suburb? Have you popped in to one for help with something? They were vital for families during the recent flooding events. In fact, local Neighbourhood Centres supported over 2.4 million visitors last year, helping with everything from disaster recovery and social isolation to now the soaring cost of living. 

Craig: Now to keep up with that demand, Neighbourhood Centres Queensland says the state government needs to increase funding to the state’s 155 Centres. They’re making that plea ahead of the state budget.  

Loretta: The Yeronga Community Centre you might remember opened as a Flood Recovery Hub after the 2011 floods and boy they’ve been busier than ever. Melinda McInturff is from the Centre. Melinda, good morning.  

Melinda McInturff: Good morning, Craig and Loretta, how are you today?  

Loretta: Good. I know how busy you’ve been over the years there at the Centre. Who is coming to you for help now? 

Melinda: It’s a real wide range of people that attend our Centre, from people who we’ve never seen before to – as you said around the rising cost of living – we see all demographics of people. From people who are homeless, right through to people who are even self-managed retirees who are struggling to make ends meet.

Loretta: And what sort of help can you give them? 

Melinda: Our Centre is a community development organisation which helps people in all kinds of areas around social isolation, around food, around volunteering, as well as just connection with community. So right now, as I’m speaking, about 10 meters away from where I am, there’s about 50 people having breakfast. We have a community breakfast every Wednesday morning that we put on through funding from a philanthropic family in our local area who provide the money for us to purchase community breakfast supplies. So that’s a range of people who are all around the table. And it’s an even playing field but no one has to pay, and everyone gets the same – you can choose what you want from the table. 

Loretta: As Craig just said, Neighbourhood Centres Queensland says the state government needs to increase funding to Neighbourhood Centres. Do you get any funding at all from the government?  

Melinda: Yes. So we’re at one of the lucky ones of the 128 Neighbourhood Centres in Queensland that get funded – there’s 27 [Centres] that don’t get any funding from the Queensland Government. But when our funding increased, community demand on us increased the expenses at the Centre. Neighbourhood Centres Queensland are asking for $7.3 million from the Queensland Government for expansion.
We’re seeing cost of living is actually is through the roof. People are turning to us every day for food, for support, even just people coming in and using our internet. We’ve seen a large increase that people that are going “I can’t afford to have the internet” or “I can’t afford to have internet on my phone anymore.” So they’ll come in and use [the internet] in our Centre. That increases our costs because we have staff that work here in different programs and we have to increase the bandwidth on our on our Centre because of that. 

Loretta: Melinda McInturff is from the Yeronga Community Centre. Melinda, you helped so many people during the floods both in 2011 and 2022. How are those people now? 

Melinda: We are still working with hundreds of people every week around flood recovery. The state government funded a program that’s called Resilient Homes Fund and we’re helping people navigate that system. It’s an easy system if you know how to navigate portals and upload documents and things like that but many of our flooded community members are older, they’re from non-English speaking backgrounds, or they just can’t follow the system. So our team here helps people. But the thing about Neighbourhood Centres is that we’re always the first ones that are expected to be on the ground when a disaster hits. And we’re expected to be with our community long after, like we are now, but we’re always the last ones funded. 

Craig: That’s an interesting point you make is that local hub of information for so many in the community. Melinda, have you moved locations yet? You were going to go somewhere bigger, weren’t you? Has that happened?  

Melinda: We have. In 2017 we had an election promise for a building to be built purpose built for us. We’ve moved eight times since we started in 2011 because we didn’t have a secure premises in a government-funded building. So thanks to the help of Mark Bailey and the Palaszczuk and the Miles government, we have secured our building at Yeronga. I call it the Taj Mahal because I’ve worked in lots of community centres since I started in 2011 that have been really average. We renovated a building just down the street from here that we picked up over 300 needles from the premises. 

Loretta: Oh dear 

Melinda: But that showed community resilience. We took a building that no one wanted anymore, and turned it into something that now is a beautiful building.  

Loretta: What’s your address now?  

Melinda: We’re at 62 Park Road at Yeronga. Come visit us. We’ve got our grand opening on the 30th of May from 9 till 12. We’d love everybody who has been part of our community centre or is interested in seeing what we do [to come along]. We’re for everyone in our community. Most people think that community centres are for the most vulnerable in our community. But that can mean anyone, any person can walk through our door. We have lots of volunteer opportunities, corporates come and volunteer with Oz Harvest with us. We partner with them, because their premises at Salisbury was damaged during the storms at Christmas. So they’ve been using our premises here to run their corporate volunteering program.  

Loretta: Wow. Okay.  

Melinda: Without our new Centre, we would never have been able to have that partnership with them  

Craig: The Taj Mahal Neighbourhood Centre. You can find it in Yeronga. 

Melinda, it’s always good to catch up because the work you do is so important, you and your staff and volunteers that make it happen. 

Melinda: As well as Neighbourhood Centres across the state. 

Loretta: It is Neighbourhood Centre Week actually – celebrating Neighbourhood Centres. 

Craig: Melinda, great to catch up. Thanks so much.  

Melinda: Thanks so much. Have a great day.  

Craig: Melinda McInturff from the Yeronga Neighbourhood Centre where they’re serving up breakfast right now.