Saturday, 7 May 2011

What is Ultimate Communities and How to Join

Ultimate Communities is a volunteer organization that conducts self-esteem and resilience building programs for marginalized youth and their families and assists people in maintaining their tenancies. Currently we only operate in Rockhampton Queensland but have a vision to model our group in other regional areas.We work from a strengths model to empower those who have been disempowered by systems, social agents and personal circumstances, so that they are able to access housing and education suitable to their needs. Assisting people to maintain their tenancy is a major role of Ultimate Communities, reducing the risk of homelessness. We do this by creating opportunities for personal growth, providing practical manual labour and assistance and advocacy. 
The community group was established by Danielle Vujovich and myself in 2010 due to the gaps in services in our town and already we have assisted four young people who had disengaged from education, to re-enroll in school, provided emotional and material support for two young people who were sentenced to Juvenile Detention, conducted weekly diversionary activities (music, games an fishing) and assisted nine families in either, gaining rental accommodation or maintain their tenancy through material assistance such as; mowing yards, repairing damaged property, linking them with support programs that suit their needs and advocating on their behalf with Queensland Housing. Danielle and I feel that, if we can achieve this in just 12 months, with a team of like minded volunteers we could significantly reduce the incidence of homelessness in our community. 
As the cost of living rises and Government processes become more bureaucratic, more and more people are seeking us out to advocate on their behalf. The agencies that are being funded for this support work are unable to do their job due to various restrictions, including funding and service agreement restrictions,  under resourced staff  or inadequately trained staff. Many employees do not even have the minimum Cert. ii in Community Service and this is evident in the lack of positive outcomes for people who are homeless and/or at risk of becoming homeless.  In our experience once people have lost their accommodation it is almost impossible to get them into suitable housing, mostly due to the barriers, that have lead them to homelessness in the first place. Some agencies place conditions on clients before they are given support, such as they must attend a specific program or they don't get the help. We believe that if you first make someone believe in themselves they will then do the work needed to make changes in their life.  It is our view that having a home to live in is a child's right not a privilege and just because your parent has addictions or mental health problems you should not be evicted from your home. As a community action group we advocate for people who are being evicted and help them maintain their property so that they wont be evicted, by maintaining their tenancies this will reduce the homelessness problem in our region. This requires us to put blame aside and work with people to provide solutions rather than judgements.  All of our work is voluntary so I envisage that a centre would be open only on Saturdays from 10am to 10pm. There would be three tiers of assistance and they would include:
  1. Maintaining Tenancy: People who are at risk of eviction or have been given eviction notices, will  register as Maintaining Tenancy Members, inviting us to work with them to identify their need and provide them with practical assistance. (We have a database of volunteers who contribute manual labour to Ultimate Communities and our members.)
  2. Feed and a Yarn: Homeless people could have morning tea and a place to share their feelings with friends. If they ask for our assistance for accommodation we can link them up with the agencies that will be able to work with them.
  3. Street Music Project: People can come and use the centre on a Saturday and Saturday evening, for: information and advice or join in our Street Music project which offers opportunity for personal development. Our aim is to develop people's internal supports (build confidence and develop self esteem and feel valued), social supports ( meeting new people, forming friendships, positive peer influence) and community supports (engaging with community members and agencies).
If you are in Rockhampton and think you may want to be pat of this volunteer community action group, please come tot he Kershaw Gardens near the Waterfall on Sat 10 14th may, 2011.

    If you are not in Rockhampton you may be able to help in other ways, such as writing letters to Housing departments, completing referal forms, or other administration work. We will endeavour to have a webcam at our meeting on Sat 14th May, so perhaps you can join us by SKYPE or MSM. 
    Membership forms will be up loaded as soon as I work out how to do that. Because the people we work with are families, all volunteers who work directly with people will need a Volunteer working with Children Blue card. We can assist with your application if you do not have one.
    Yours in Social Justice 
    President Ultimate Communities  
    Laine Harth-Barclay

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011


    Last year Danielle and I moved forward with our dream for a stronger more inclusive community. Life took us in directions we hadnt planned for and although we created a not for profit company and began vying for funding we began to realize that we didnt fit in to the community services sector. We struggled with the concept of fighting for funding and the popularity quest that was a part of the successful aquition of funds. We discovered that the politics of community service agencies made us uncomfortable and took us away from what we really loved doing, working with people to help them identify their own strengths and create for themselves a better life.
    We were trying to make a living out of what we were passionate about. (Well isnt that the definition of success.) However, what I discovered and I think Danielle feels the same way, is that, changing community attitudes about marginalised people and/or advocating for social justice is something we are obliged to do as part of the moral fabric that makes us Laine and Danielle and not as our paid employment. So we have decided to move forward with Ultimate Communities not as a, not for profit company, but as a Volunteer Community Action Group. We will work our normal jobs and look after our families and one day per week we will dedicate to creating a fairer community for all. We will hold our first AGM at Kershaw Gardens on Sat 14th MAy 10am. Near the waterfall. If you are interested in being part of a unique volunteer community action group, come along to the introduction meeting and hear our plans for Community action against homelessness in our region. See you there.

    Sunday, 17 April 2011

    I have a Dream

    Over the years I have housed, many young people, who's families have become weary and unable to cope and/or society has given up on. In 1986 it was a young fella who had been wounded by life and had just come out of youth detention. In 1998 it was a group of 'street kids' that were sleeping under the bridge. The girls were selling themselves for food and a place to sleep.
    Over the last five years from 2005 I have housed approximately 10 young people. Mostly kids with difficult behaviours and mostly to give their families some respite from the heavy energy these young ones create, but at times it was more than that, at times it was to provide them with something that other people were already getting paid to deliver. Sometimes children as young as 12 years old had nowhere else to go. The systems have grown tired of what they view as individual problematic children and the helping industry has become just that an industry, where issues of money, time and self care, have become unbalanced and take precedence over human dignity.
    For myself and what I do, I don't like the term 'carer' as it implies that caring for someone has become a industrial position or career. I use the word "housed" instead of care because I don't presume to know if the kids that come my way feel cared for by me. What I do know is that I give them what Australia says is a human right; a safe place to lay their head at night and private space to shelter from the elements. My philosophy is that I am not helping them, they are providing me with an opportunity to explore my humanness.
    As a spiritual warrior my battle is always with the self.
    I do not receive money for these kids, no pensions or payment of any kind. What I do receive is the knowledge that perhaps my home has been a stepping stone to a new way of being or a safe harbour from the rough seas of life, perhaps I have learnt something that will bring me closer to being the person I want to become
    I grow weary myself now and must take time to examine my motives further, I am frustrated at the systems that dump these kids in the too hard basket, I am sad that I can see some simple solutions for people who are screaming out for a better life but the funds set aside for marginalised people are being used to create an industry that is not what it claims to be.
    For the moment I must be content to work for justice in my own small way however; I DO HAVE A DREAM:
    That one day with the a group of like minded people, we will create a 'place', a bush boarding school. Where young people coming out of youth detention can rest their head at night, catch, prepare and cook themselves a feed, do some hard manual labour and be educated academically and socially. A place where they will learn what it feels like to create for themselves a life worth living.
    Like in the Murundak story these kids will be able to tell their story in their way and THEY will define what it is to be "successful" "happy" "rich" and because of their past they will have skills that University trained Professionals do not have and maybe just maybe the "helping industry" will become obsolete.

    Thursday, 7 April 2011

    We Need a Youth Centre Now!

    A Youth Centre benefits the whole community be providing a space for children and young adults to seek assistance from their community leaders: young people get a sense of being valued by the broader community, resulting in respect for themselves, their families, local  businesses, and adults in authority.  
    Young people, like all people, feel valued by their community when they are socially included.
    Being socially included means that people have the resources, opportunities and capabilities they need to:  
    Learn: Participate in education and training.  
    Work:  Participate in paid employment. 
    Engage: Connect with people, use local services and participate in local, cultural, civic and recreational activities.  
    Have a voice: Influence decisions that affect them. 
    So who's job is it to provide these things:
    We know that State and Federal Governments, through funding, provide: Schools, health centres, sporting venues, PCYC Centres and Programs for youth in crisis. 
    If our community is to be inclusive we need to provide our young people with the resources, opportunity and capacity to engage with each other and the wider community in a space that is reflective of the activities they enjoy. 
    The role of council, is to enhance communication and awareness of community needs across all levels, for better planning of services, facilities and infrastructure.  
    In our Region we have 40% of our population under 24, local Government needs to provide a space for them to Engage, the same way they have provided two local Government venues for our 15% of Seniors to engage. Therefore I believe it is the role of our council to plan and facilitate a youth centre, that is representative of the needs of youth in the region.
    By not providing this space the message we send to our young people is "we do not value you, enough to provide you with what you need. 
    This can not be just any place, if we don't have the right people, with the right attitude, delivering the right model of youth centre, we might as well get used to young people using inappropriate spaces for their games, and  a growing disrespect for businesses and authority.
    Look, I was born in 1962 and I loved my childhood, but we can not just romanticize the past and say our children need to do what we didi and like what we liked. It is a new generation and if we are to show them that we value them we need to ask them what they would like  to see in a youth centre. Also in our Region we have a large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community more than double the national average, so we need to ask Murri kids and young adults, what they need in a space.
    Following is how I see a Youth Centre, if you are under 25 please add your comments and lets start creating "Your Space".  
    A Youth Centre needs to be a welcoming place where young people (0 -25) can go to:
    1. Get information and advice
    2. Connect with positive peer influences
    3. Find adults who are understanding and kind in nature
    4. Find Cultural safety i.e. A feeling of being able to express your own cultural beliefs without complaint or judgement. 
    5. Find recreational activities ( Music, dance, games, sport)
    6. A Community Bus service to and from the venue after dark.
    7. Cafe' hot & cold beverages, food. (Affordable)
    8. A comfortable environment where they feel safe to just chill out
    9.  Have access to and instruction in; computers: internet, facebook, blogging, tweeting, Desk top publishing, assignment and homework tutoring. 
    10.  Organize and conduct their own Social events
    11. Access to a Professional Psychologist and links to other services they may need.
    My Vision, is it yours???
    I see the venue as a big warehouse style building, with a stage and music equipment and a large lounge area and internet cafe' as the focal points.
    The venue needs to be open: from 5pm to midnight each evening and 11am to midnight Sat and Sundays: (Youth 13 and under must leave the centre by 9pm each evening:  Day time hours Monday to Friday young people should be working or studying, just as all members of the community are in these hours, those who are not, need to be in State and Federal Government funded programs)
    A site manager/volunteer co-ordinator and two youth mentors would be paid work and all other positions would be training and volunteer positions. 
    Because of our geographical situation in the Rockhampton Region two sub youth centres would also operate out of Mt Morgan and Yeppoon, using the same model.


    Wednesday, 6 April 2011


    I thank the Aboriginal ancestors for taking care of this place we call the Rockhampton Region: Darumbal, Gungaloo, and our neighbours Baili, Goorang Goorang,and the Gurangu people, I am so sorry that our development was tainted with your blood, I wish it was not, for perhaps then we could work together as friends rather than adversaries. I stand where your blood spilled on the ground and I cry for you.
    I thank my ancestors for their hard work to create prosperity out of poverty and for developing a place where I can prosper. I stand where your blood spilled on the ground and I am in awe of you.
    But this place does not belong to you and very soon it will no-longer belong to me, it belongs to our children and our Grandchildren and their children: Murri children, Migaloo children,  the children who are born to this country and the children who's families  come looking for a better life. Let us not be the generation that hands down to our children less than what we inherited.