In 2022, the rising cost-of-living and increasing financial hardship meant that over 2.5 million Australians were reaching out for charitable support over the holiday period (Salvation Army, 2022). A study conducted by PureProfile and the Salvation Army found millions of Australians were concerned about not being able to afford Christmas presents for their children, provide a Christmas meal and pay for their utilities and rent.
“We are deeply concerned to hear about the agonising choices every-day Australians are making, such as deciding whether to pay an electricity bill or buy a Christmas present for their child.” Major Bruce Harmer from the Salvation Army said. “And the guilt and emotional toll of not being able to provide the basics for their family is the real but often hidden cost of financial hardship.”
On top of the year-round supports Neighbourhood and Community Centres provide, in December almost all Centres in Queensland delivered specialised holiday food and gift hampers, inclusive events and innovative supports for the people in their communities.
Mt Gravatt Community Centre put together and gave out close to two hundred food and gift hampers this Christmas for a great number of families who might otherwise have missed out this year. Many hampers included the special extras, such as Christmas puddings, bonbons and wrapped gifts. Mt Gravatt Community Centre intentionally appealed for donations of gifts suitable for teens, so that children and young people of all age groups could be included in receiving a gift.
Mossman Support Services organised many innovative holiday volunteering and giving activities, including a ‘Social Sam’ initiative. ‘Social Sams’ are volunteers that provide the human connection between people. They are the friendly faces that join the table with a hot meal and a great story or offer needed company to people on Christmas Day who may otherwise be alone. Social Sams are especially important over the season because Christmas can bring up traumas for people, deepen the experiences of loneliness, isolation from loved ones, or sickness and injury which can lead to depression and anxiety. Social Sams offer meaningful connections and help to build more vibrant and healthy communities.
Graham House Community Centre partnered with Raffin Electrical to deliver a Christmas Lunch for members of the community. Tens of people joined the lunch and celebrated together with carol singing, a friendly game of Trivia, lots of chatter, gifts and a delicious Christmas spread.
Centres across Queensland ran donation drives, collecting gifts and hampers to give to community members to ease the stress of Christmas. Some Centres, like Port Douglas Neighbourhood Centres delivered their donations directly to peoples’ homes.
Due to their unique position within local community, Neighbourhood and Community Centres often know who in their community needs support the most and reach out to people who don’t come forward when in need. We recognise the tireless effort so many Centres have made in the lead-up to Christmas, to ease the financial stress of the holiday season and provide much-needed care and support to Queenslanders. They have made Christmas 2022 more vibrant, inclusive and safe for thousands of people.
Published January 2023
Written By Melanie Maher & Taylor Bast
Photo Courtesy of Graham House Community Centre
(Graham House CC staff collecting donations from Wondai Art Gallery, who partnered with the Community Centre as a donation drop-off point)