The Community Connect Worker (CCW) program is part of a Queensland Government funded initiative as an extension of the Neighbourhood Centre Program. Community Connect workers focus on connecting local people with services, supports and social connection between community members.
“Community connection is so important, it’s about making sure people know they’ve got someone, some group or somewhere they can go without judgement,” explains Emma.
Emma has been the Live Better Monto’s CCW for the past 18 months. However, she has been a natural community connector for many years. A friend recommended Emma for the CCW role because of her knowledge of local services and innate ability to work well with people.
Emma has been genuinely and deeply engaged in her local community since she moved to Monto in 2012. In 2021 she was awarded Young Citizen of the Year for her work reviving the local Monto Market.
“I used to sell earrings at the local market that ran each month, I noticed that they stopped for 5 or 6 months. I got in contact with the lady that used to run them. She was getting older and didn’t really want to do it anymore and no one else had stepped up, so I did.”
“It was just so people had that creative outlet, and it was just another thing for the community to go to as well, we don’t have a whole lot, it’s a small town. I think it’s good for people to be able to have somewhere to walk around, grab a coffee, have a look and possibly make some money on a Saturday morning”.
Emma embodies the values of Neighbourhood and Community Centres through her genuine passion for community.
When speaking with Emma, you can hear how much she genuinely cares for the people in her community. She brings thoughtfulness to her role, remembering the important and seemingly small details about people’s lives while working to make sure that the people who visit her, know she’s listening deeply. This was evident as she described her Centre’s Christmas Hampers of Hope initiative.
“The Neighbourhood Centre does Christmas Hampers of Hope every year and it was really nice to be able to put some of my clients’ names down to possibly receive a hamper if the funding was available. I was grateful that all of my clients were chosen. When talking to people you get a bit of knowledge about them, what they like and dislike, so I was able to individualise the hampers a bit.”
“I remember one lady was talking in passing about how she went out into the rain one day and her feet got wet because her gumboots had a hole in them, so I made sure there were a pair of gumboots in her hamper.”
“It was really nice to hear people say, ‘wow I didn’t even realise you took notice of what I was saying’… I think it makes people feel a little bit more like I’m not just someone to see to get things done, that I can be someone they can trust and confide in and talk to about just about anything”.
“It’s nice to know that they [my clients] are thankful that I’m listening in a way that’s attentive and wanting to help”.
Emma emphasised the importance of her role being a ‘judgement-free’ space, allowing clients to share openly about their issues and concerns. When asked what keeps her motivated in her role, Emma expressed the importance of fostering independence and self-determinacy.
“It’s nice seeing people not needing to come back. [For example] if someone’s come to see me about employment and I’ve steered them in the right direction and helped with a resume and they’ve gotten a job… to know that they’re on the track that they wanted to be on, and I was able to help them get there a bit easier.”
Emma and her team have future plans for a Community Connection Calendar which will be released in the coming months. It’s designed to include a range of small events community members can attend each week with the hopes of bringing people together and increasing community awareness of the Centre.
“The hope is getting people to have something they can go and do, whether that’s the older members of our community or people living with disability. Just providing them with a weekly activity they can come along to. We’re trying to make sure there’s at least two things on every week.”
“We’re really working on trying to make sure everyone knows that we’re here and what we can offer.”
When asked about what advice she would offer to other people in similar roles, Emma emphasised the importance of being open to everyone, remaining judgement free and actively listening.
“I find that people are so much more open when you’ve really listened and then offered them something that they didn’t even know they were looking for”.
“It’s also really important not just to refer people to services, but to groups and to people they might have something in common with so they can make new connections in the community. I think social connection is one of the leading issues in lots of communities.”
Emma highlighted the importance of listening deeply to clients and mentioned that this is a skill all of the five workers at her Centre hold.
“All five of us ladies at the Centre have gotten really good at listening to what people are asking for originally but recognising that as much as someone might think they only need one thing, sometimes there’s a lot of other issues stemming from that”.
“[For example] If a person is coming in looking for emergency relief because they can’t get to a doctor because they can’t afford fuel, we can help with that, but we’re also listening for other little things that might come up in the conversation and seeing where we can find other supports or programs that might help them.”
“It’s about making sure they know there’s somewhere in the community they can get support for all of those contributing things, to improve their life, as well as why they came to us originally”.
Written By: Taylor Bast
Published: July 2023