Sandra Elton

Say Hi to Sandra Elton, Coordinator at the North Townsville Community Hub and this week’s Local Community Hero!

When you first meet Sandra, and talk to her about her community, it’s easy to be blown away by how much she cares and how many people she cares about. Her depth and breadth of knowledge about her community’s strengths and challenges is remarkable — she can tell you about every disaster event, and she can tell you stories of what’s happening for families in the regional areas surrounding Townsville.

Sandra has lived and worked in Townsville for over twenty years and has been working alongside her community at NOTCH since 2018. Sandra has seen the area transform and played a pivotal part in changing it for the better. Sandra explained that seeing change in people is what draws her to working in the Neighbourhood Centre space.

“What gets me up in the morning, is seeing people grow. You see people start to grow confidence, they realise that there’s a reason why they’re here and that they have a purpose, they have gifts, they have talents and so much to contribute. I really like watching people realise what they can be.”

An incredible speaker, Sandra is a strong voice who stands up for her team and her community and has spoken to media multiple times to share the reality of issues impacting the community. . Her voice was an important contribution to  advocacy efforts to secure a historic win in additional operational funding for centres in the 2022 QLD State Budget.

“I guess I have a history of system-busting, it’s not something I seek out, but it always seems to find me.”

“[for the 2022 state budget] We had the data, we had the story, and we were in a really unique position to actually show people what it’s like on the ground, that it’s not OK for people to expect us to keep operating like this. ”

“I recognise that I’m just one voice in a much bigger, and much longer conversation. People 20 years before me have been having that fight [for extra funding]. I’m actually stoked on the impact my voice and our centre could have in the budget outcome.”

Prior to the State Government commitment to increase operational funding of centres, NOTCH was about to lose three vital staff due to a lack of funding, which was about to lead to critical services to be cut, leaving families hungry and thousands of people without a place to go for support.

The increase in operational funding has given Sandra and her team of incredibly dedicated staff and volunteers the space to work on programmes and projects without constantly hunting for new income sources.

“We have recently had a whole lot of synchronicities in the disability space, we’ve been able to tie a few projects together which have all aligned beautifully with our disaster preparedness work. One of these projects includes running a pilot programme in partnership with QDN and GIVIT focussing on digital inclusion in the disaster resilience and preparedness space.”

“All of these projects coming together mean we can actually create a useful and practical solution to fill a gap we found back in the 2019 floods that hasn’t been solved yet.”

Sandra and her team have put a lot of effort into turning NOTCH into a space where every single person feels welcomed. She highlighted her passion for Neighbourhood and Community Centres, and their ability to welcome and support anyone who steps through their door.

“The beautiful thing about neighbourhood centres is we get the opportunity to create life changing connections and moments. Whether it’s a conversation or a job opportunity, we get the chance to change someone’s life every day. It’s why we get up in the morning.”

Written by: Taylor Bast
Published: 12 August, 2022