QCOSS is joining with our members to create a force for equality, opportunity and wellbeing.
An example of this is our collaborative relationship with the Queensland Families and Communities Association (QFCA), the peak body for Neighbourhood and Community Centres in Queensland and QCOSS member.
Chris Mundy (pictured), the Sector Development Officer for QFCA, says the collaboration came about when we worked on the Investment Management Standard (IMS) project together.
“The Queensland Government started the Investment Management Standard (IMS) process to explore the work centres do. QCOSS received funding to work on that project, and we worked alongside QCOSS to produce that piece of work in 2017,” Chris says.
The IMS research showed that the base level of funding for neighbourhood and community centres should be doubled.
Chris noted that this recommendation hasn’t been followed through by the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors. In addition, the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) was introduced a few years ago, incurring wage cost increases across the community sector.
“The way the department categorises sector activities, funding for non-profit organisations is through a three-tiered category. Neighbourhood and community centres are in the last category, which doesn’t recognise them as employing frontline workers. So we have received no increase, even though our workers do provide front-line services.”
The sector is also struggling with a lack of resources.
“Although neighbourhood centres get the base level of funding from the Department, some have found funding from other sources for extra projects – but they are primarily service delivery programs,” he says.
He noted that those extra projects can bring additional burdens on organisations, with extra reporting and administration.
Additionally, Chris says it is also hard to get equity across the sector, with half the centre premises in Queensland owned by the Department of Communities, and the rest owned by local councils or organisations. This is why QFCA needs QCOSS’ help to raise these issues with MPs.
“The collaboration is important from a QFCA perspective because we are a very under-resourced organisation. We only receive funding from the Department for one full-time employee,” he says.
“We have an Executive Officer on minimal hours in Cairns. We have a volunteer State Committee comprised of managers from each of the regions in Queensland, but they are at capacity running their own neighbourhood centres”.
“There are nearly 150 neighbourhood centres across Queensland. So, we need to learn from QCOSS, and we benefit greatly from their support.”
Research is another area QFCA and QCOSS are exploring. In June 2019, QFCA held a meeting at the QCOSS office with a QCOSS staff member, academics and neighbourhood centre representatives who are passionate about researching neighbourhood centres’ work.
“We’re putting together a research agenda on neighbourhood centres that’s about value propositioning the sector,” Chris says.
In 2019, QFCA and QCOSS sent joint letters to MPs and a joint media release, calling on the state government to double the funding for neighbourhood and community centres. Unfortunately, there was no increase announced in the latest state budget.
It is in QCOSS’ interests that neighbourhood and community centres are adequately funded.
Chris emphasised that neighbourhood centres are pivotal pieces of place-based infrastructure.