The Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre (HBNC) has always been proud of their ability and aspiration to create innovative programs and initiatives to help their community. Their most recent endeavour is no different. HBNC has launched a new podcast, ‘Connect and Learn’, where they dive deep into the issues affecting their local community and examine them in a way that’s informative and relevant.  

Christian Berechree, the operations manager and communications lead at HBNC, was a journalist for over 10 years and is running the Connect and Learn project. He spoke about his motivation to start the podcast 

“I’m a big believer in communication and storytelling and getting messages out there in a way that’s really accessible to people… podcasts are a very popular way of consuming information at the moment. I see it as a really helpful way to get more complex ideas across through more in-depth discussions.”  

While not traditionally seen as the function of Neighbourhood Centres, Christian highlights why centres like HBNC are the perfect place to host these sorts of conversations.  

“In-house we’ve got so much expertise. We have people who have done so many different things and know a lot about the spaces they’re working in. Often they don’t always get the opportunity to be a part of the conversation because they’re so busy working to deliver the programs.” 

During Covid, the media landscape in their region shifted, with much of the local voice being lost, creating a gap that needed to be filled.  

“We had the local TV bulletins disappear, the local daily printed newspaper disappeared, and even some of the hyper-local radio presenters went away. Obviously neighbourhood centres are not traditionally here to do work in that space, but we thought, we have an opportunity to provide a local voice and get into some local issues in a way that the local media isn’t able to do right now… we’ve got the capabilities and the expertise so why don’t we fill that gap?” 

Currently, the podcast is being released on a fortnightly basis with the hope they will be able to produce weekly episodes in the future. The episodes are loosely structured around the 10 key focus areas that comprise HBNC’s strategic plan. While HBNC has identified these areas as particularly relevant to the region, they aren’t afraid to broaden their scope.

“So far we’ve had an episode with our LIFT and youth services team leader around youth unemployment, which is unfortunately always an issue for Hervey Bay and the Wide Bay more broadly. We also just released an episode on early child development… one of our centre’s key focus areas is an early start for children.”   

“We’re planning to talk about homelessness and housing… I don’t want it to become just about promoting what we’re doing, or the programs we’re running, it needs to be more of a deep discussion around the issues affecting our community.” 

Christian and the team at HBNC acknowledge that not every person will visit a neighbourhood centre in their lifetime, and many people aren’t granted the opportunity to engage on a deep level with the issues in their community. Their hope is that the podcast will be an avenue to inform and inspire people across their region to understand and support the social issues impacting their communities. 

“Sometimes I think we underestimate our communities a little bit, we think we have to make things simple or fun and colourful but there’s a lot of people out there who really enjoy getting into the issues, hearing debates and examining what’s going on. I think there are people who are really hungry for this sort of content.” 

“My goal is to take our influence outside of the specific programs and projects that we run and really encourage people to engage with the social issues that underpin them. I want people to really think critically about what can be done or should be done. Is it just a government issue, is it just a service provider issue or is this something that community can do? is there some exciting way that we can all work together?” 

“There’s so much complexity in community issues…It takes a lot of work and time to understand what contributes to the social issues we see, and I don’t think reading a quick story or Facebook post can quite get to the heart of it.  I wanted this podcast to be an opportunity for people to delve into those issues.” 

Their next episode, airing soon, will look at innovation and what it really means to be an innovative organisation that is creative in its approach to community development. 

 “The next episode is going to be a conversation about innovation and what that actually means. It’s a bit of a buzzword and it tends to lose a bit of its meaning, so we’re going to talk about what it actually means to be innovative. It won’t just be directed at neighbourhood centres, but all sorts of community organisations and businesses. How can we be creative in finding solutions and building stronger communities?”  

“This is a great opportunity to really lead the way on top of all the other amazing programs and work we do, and really demonstrate that’s what we’re about.”


To listen to existing episodes of Connect and Learn, visit HBNC’s website: 

Episode 1: Talking unemployment on the Fraser Coast 

Episode 2: Why an early start to learning sets kids up for success 

Written by: Taylor Bast
Published: 8 August 2022