Em James standing outdoors smiling

Em James (they/them) is our CEO at Neighbourhood Centres Queensland, and Chair of the Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association. Having worked in and alongside Neighbourhood and Community Centres (NCCs) for over 15 years, Em is passionate about bringing the skills, knowledge and insights of local communities and leaders to shape change at the systems-level.

A community development worker, researcher and facilitator, Em takes a collaborative, strengths-based and systems-level approach to working with NCCs and strategic partners. This can be seen in NCQ’s participatory advocacy approach to campaigning, which contributed to the historic doubling of NCC base level funding in the 2022-23 Queensland state budget. Em loves co-creating new possibilities, which is reflected in past roles working with communities to kickstart local projects and new neighbourhood centres across Brisbane. Roles at QCOSS and universities, together with several years living in Mexico and Sweden, have fostered a big-picture view of what we can achieve together. 

Em describes Neighbourhood Centres as, “places of possibilities – whether as a group or an individual there are new supports, new people to meet, new opportunities for your world to open up and expand. NCC’s give people the opportunity to connect with others in meaningful ways and gives whole communities the chance to create something beautiful together… so many powerful stories of individual and collective change come from Neighbourhood Centres.” 

Em grew up in regional towns throughout Queensland, and it was a rural youth program funded by a local community centre that first sparked their interest in social change work and creating a better world together. An avid learner, Em has studied a BA Social Science (International Development), followed by a Master of Development (Community Development). They are in the final stages of a Master of Business Administration (Social Impact) through UNSW and the Centre for Social Impact.  

Em is happiest with a good book, a new idea, and energising conversations in the sunshine. They are learning to grow their own food and their greatest achievement to date is convincing a blueberry plant to fruit in the subtropics.

Published: November 2022