To inform the Investment Management Strategy process for Neighbourhood Centres in Queensland, the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) and Queensland Families and Communities Association (QFCA) facilitated five consultation forums across the state – in Brisbane, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Cairns, and one teleconference session. 82 per cent of the 122 funded neighbourhood centres in Queensland engaged in the consultation and participation was proportionately well distributed in terms of number of funded sites, regions and localities.
The consultation sought to gather data and narratives to describe the current context and practices of neighbourhood centres in Queensland and to gather their vision for the future of the sector. The results paint a comprehensive picture of the diverse work of neighbourhood centres, common themes and important local nuances.
Neighbourhood centres are essential local infrastructure and hubs for social service provision and community capacity building. In every forum, centres were described as “brain banks” of community knowledge. This knowledge is diverse, both structural and organic, and refers to:
- the history of the place in terms of development, activism and events
- services available and how to access them
- community profiling
- relationships from the familial to the political
- resources – who has what and how resources may be shared.
Throughout the consultation, awareness of the importance of community development principles and place-based approaches was voiced, with centres acknowledging the importance of connection to place and people in enabling local responses and fostering stability and meaning in communities.
In regional areas, the value and role of neighbourhood centres takes on even greater significance as community members have less access to specialist services. The universal ‘catch all’ nature of the Neighbourhood Centre becomes a focal point for the community. Across Queensland, centres are acting as effective established place based services providing invaluable social infrastructure and community support.