In July,  Em James, Chris Mundy and Heather Ellis from NCQ set off on their week-long road trip to visit Neighbourhood and Community Centres in remote Western Queensland. The trip was aimed at gaining and sharing valuable insights from these centres, as well as identifying networks, opportunities and resources for building the sector in drought-affected areas.

On day one, we had the absolute fortune of visiting Boulia Community Support Services and meeting one of their amazing volunteers Karen, and Jan, a solo worker at their Centre who is also the Vice President of the local Camel Racing Committee and their Local Elected Councillor. Both women had such a wealth of knowledge about the issues affecting their local community, and what it takes to bring people together in a remote area.

On day two we travelled from Boulia to Mount Isa. We stopped at the Brilla Brilla Community Centre and had the absolute pleasure of meeting Father Mick, Marian, Liam and Faisal from Northwest Indigenous Catholic Social Services who run both the Brilla Brilla Community Centre and Boulia Community Support Services. Their team had such a rich understanding of their community’s strengths and resilience while highlighting the challenges they face, particularly as they work to encourage more local children to attend school.

We then had the opportunity to visit Leeanne and Sonja from the Mount Isa Neighbourhood Centre. These women have so much insight and deeply understood the need for connection in building healthy and robust communities.

On day three, we travelled to Cloncurry Neighbourhood Centre. We met with Tanya, one of the people in charge of Centacare in the area. Their centre offers family & relationship counselling and gambling assistance alongside so many other crucial forms of support and engagement for the community.

We had the great pleasure of meeting with Sandra, Helen and Brooke from Winton Neighbourhood Centre. They showed us around their centre and gave us insight into how central and vital the cultivation of strong, local relationships is to disaster recovery and resilience.

On our last day, we were lucky enough to travel to Longreach, Blackall-Tambo and Barcaldine and see some incredibly creative and resilient communities and meet the locals.

In Longreach, Sonya Callen, the Engagement Officer for the Department of Premier and Cabinet organised an incredible range of people for us to meet and speak with. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the impacts of natural disasters and local roads to recovery. Before this meeting we had the opportunity to speak with Lachlan Millar MP and Deb Frecklington MP who spoke of the vital role Neighbourhood and Community Centres play in rural communities, and Nikki who established the Western Queensland Drought Appeal.

In Blackall-Tambo, we met with passionate locals, who shared some of the incredible initiatives and movements that bring people together in their community. We met the people behind Red Ridge, a canvas to catwalk initiative run by First Nations designers using fabrics created from artworks by local Indigenous artists. We learned about the Blackall community road sign, designed to enhance community pride and covered in hundreds of photographs taken by local residents.

Finally, we visited Barcaldine and were lucky enough to have Jane Williams show us their Shop of Opportunity which raises money to give back to the community. They help people with incredibly generous emergency relief packages of up to $2000, including food, accommodation, groceries and parenting supplies. We also met the people behind the incredible Artesian Originals Community Hub and saw some of their amazing work.

We have met so many inspiring and resilient communities, each with their own vitality and passion for engagement and supporting one another whole-heartedly. We look forward to developing the Drought Project with all of this new insight and sharing it with you all in the future.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank everyone who welcomed us to their communities, shared a cup of tea and reinforced just how special Neighbourhood and Community Centres are to all communities.

Published: 27 July, 2022