Opinion: Virtual vs physical: Nambucca Neighbourhood Centre


DEAR News Of The Area,

I WRITE in reply to your interview with current Mayor Rhonda Hobin (‘Virtual vs physical: community hub thoughts’, p6, Nambucca Valley News Of The Area, November 26 Edition).

I would like to respond with the following points.

Virtual use of computers to source the internet for service information is one of the services that neighbourhood centres currently offer their clientele.

Coffs Harbour, Urunga and Bellingen already provide free access to computers, printing and photocopying, as part of their inclusive community service delivery.

The standpoint of difference between online services, and a physical Neighbourhood Centre, is their differing focus.

Neighbourhood Centres work to build community wellbeing and strength by supporting community connectedness, offering a non-judgemental, inclusive safe space that fosters a sense of community intention, spirit and belonging.

They are autonomous, function independently and act as safety nets for the marginalised and vulnerable,
unlike virtual internet sites.

It is the human connection that neighbourhood centres provide that many people need for wellbeing to deal with issues such as social isolation, homelessness, domestic violence, mental health issues, loneliness etc.

The Nambucca Valley is well recognised as a socially disadvantaged area with high numbers of people struggling to survive on disability pensions, single parent benefits, aged care pensions etc.

Urunga employs a suicide worker.

Statistical data collected from the Census provides the statistics of the Nambucca Valley demographic that details this disadvantage as factual.

Neighbourhood Centres are community based, often employing a trained community worker, and supported by trained volunteers inclusively.

They are non hierarchical, non bureaucratic and user friendly, with a walk in the door approach.

Readers can check out their services offered in Coffs Harbour via www.chnc.com.au.

The Hon. Bill Shorten, Shadow Minister for the NDIS, on his visit to Coffs Harbour on 18 and 19 November, conceded that Neighbourhood Centres are often the ‘soft entry point’ for people initially being directed to programs such as NDIS etc.

Many people are still hurting from the demise of the Nambucca Neighbourhood Centre which was factored out of existence through a merger that effectively sidelined and destroyed its independence, autonomy and functioning.

We do not need to canvas debate for our neighbourhood centre justification, as the statistics speak for themselves.
Instead, we simply need to reinstate what we previously had, as a pre-existing legal precedent with restoration over re-application.

We need to match the glaring need with a swift, politically effective restoration process that includes a social justice focus, that genuinely delivers personal, user friendly services to the disenfranchised and disadvantaged of this community, for the wellbeing of the community as a whole.

Nambucca Heads.

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