Say hi to Melinda McInturff, Community Development worker with Yeronga Community Centre and this week’s Local Community Hero working on the frontline of disaster resilience.
Melinda and her team are currently responding to major flooding in Brisbane. She has been working at the Yeronga Community Centre for the past 11 years. Starting as the Yeronga Recovery Centre in 2011, the centre was later funded by the Department of Communities as a Neighbourhood Centre. The Yeronga Community Centre has been a constant source of support in the community since then and is currently providing people with a space to take refuge from the devastation that has occurred in their homes.
“We provide ready-made meals, tea and coffee, we have computers with internet access, phone charging stations, board games and a place to wash clothes. The centre is so important for people to just be able to come and sit down for a minute, to try and take their mind off what is happening.”
A community journey
Yeronga Community Centre is uniquely placed to respond to flooding, with many of the staff and regular volunteers being people who live in the community and were personally impacted floods in 2011. For flood affected community members, this means they are greeted by people who are not only there to provide support, but truly understand their experience on a personal level.
“There was a gentleman that came into the centre this morning, and this is his third flood. He experienced the first one in 1974, then 2011 and now it’s happening again. The house he lives in was built in the early 1900’s and so he has lived in this area his whole life. He was naturally feeling very emotional at the time, but he knew he could come here, that we would talk to him and really understand what he was going through. It’s so important that he can come somewhere safe, where people know the area and he doesn’t have to explain his situation or feelings. I actually knew exactly which house was his, so he didn’t have to describe how far the water came up or anything, because I knew, and I’d been through it too.”
In the current floods, the centre has been inundated with the kindness of local businesses and residents, offering to volunteer time, resources and donate food vouchers and other goods. With extra hands on board, the Yeronga Community Centre was able to make 300 sandwiches just this morning and distribute them onto the streets to flood-affected homes and clean-up crews.
The importance of funding
At the start of the 2011 floods, the work Melinda and her team did was completely unfunded. While the local-level support has been incredible, Melinda highlights the ongoing need for centres to be better funded on a long-term basis.
“Last time, we had no funding for six months. We had no wages, no money from the government, we were running only on community support. We were often purchasing things people needed with our own personal money. This time round we come with a building, paid staff and we are able to mobilise really quickly. Since Sunday morning we’ve had our doors open, ready to give assistance in any way we can.”
“Community centres need more funding. In a disaster like this, we’re 100% ready to go in an instant, but we still have people coming through the door who need our regular services. These might be people who are sleeping rough or having substance abuse issues among many other things. The work… doesn’t just stop. For example, during COVID we gave out over 40,000 meals, alongside the other work we do.”
Over the past 11 years, Melinda has formed incredible, long-lasting relationships with a community that trusts her to support them. She has helped Yeronga Community Centre to become a safe, welcoming space for the whole community.
Written by: Taylor Bast
4 March 2022