Say hi to Tracey Dickinson, one of NCQ’s Rural/Regional Board Members and the Coordinator of Better Together Community Centre in Atherton.
Tracey began her journey with NCQ back in 2006 as a volunteer for the CCFSNAQ (Community Centres and Family Support Network Association Queensland – NCQ’s original name) Conference in Cairns during her final social work placement. She described her experience volunteering as “feeling connected and valued whilst learning about community-based programmes”.
Tracey’s experience at the conference influenced her career greatly, where she has undertaken a huge number of roles including working as a Community Development Worker in the Communities for Children Initiative, supporting Neighbourhood and Community Centres with volunteer programmes, working at a Volunteer Resource Centre, partnering with Centres across Australia to support social work students on placement and finally returning to the NGO sector in 2020 as the Coordinator of the Atherton Community Centre.
Tracey’s passion and motivation is working alongside volunteers. She deeply values volunteering as a practice and the work of volunteers themselves. She describes volunteers “as the frontline workforce who are there to demonstrate that the community cares, [they provide] accountability to the community, particularly vulnerable and marginalised populations; [volunteers] address inherent paid work/client power dynamics; [they provide] community responses to community issues; [volunteering supports people to] upskill, build confidence, create social networks and employment pathways for people that experience structural barriers to employment and [they] raise community awareness of the complexity of social issues and the services available to the community.”
Tracey expressed how Neighbourhood and Community Centres are the perfect environment for social safety and how volunteering in a Centre provides people with an avenue for community decision-making.
“Our Community Centre is a safe environment for vulnerable and/or marginalised people to be involved in community decision making as a volunteer… Every day working with volunteers and our community provides me motivation to get up, be professional and be true to our mission and values. ”
“A Neighbourhood Centre is a safe place to feel valued in your community. We acknowledge the impact of trauma, societal barriers to full participation in community and the resilience and strengths of all community members.”
Tracey’s background in social work is clear in her efforts to ensure her team have space for personal reflection, learning and continued growth. One innovative strategy includes the employment of a Cultural Navigator to support staff to create a culturally safe environment at the Centre.
“In 2022, the Cultural Navigator facilitated Cultural Supervision lunch box sessions and provided individual cultural supervision for my team. The Cultural Navigator created a safe environment for all staff (paid and volunteer) to explore their own beliefs and values, challenge existing knowledge and assumptions for the development of a culturally safe environment and practice within the Centre. The sessions and consequent conversations about Australia’s history, impact of colonisation/invasion and how to move forward through Truth, Treaty and Voice has been inspiring.”
This year Tracey has expanded the work of the Cultural Navigator to co-facilitate workshops to upskills community groups and organisations to practice effectively when working cross-culturally.
“Working in partnership with the Tablelands Regional Council, the Cultural Navigator and the Centre are facilitating workshops to assist community organisations develop their understanding of the National Reconciliation agenda and commit to actions for Reconciliation. Developing and delivering the workshops has been both a humbling and inspiring learning experience.”
NCQ is grateful to have Tracey be elected to join our Board in 2023. Tracey brings Social Work knowledge, expertise and perspectives and has taken the experience as an opportunity to both share what she knows and bring new knowledge back to her Centre and community.
“Being on the NCQ board has been a great learning experience about governance, roles & responsibilities, ethics and business acumen whilst keeping our membership goals at the forefront of our decision making. I look forward to bringing these skills back to my practice and sharing with the broader community.”
Published: March 2023
Written By: Taylor Bast