Community and Neighbourhood Centres have a long history in Australia spanning nearly 50 years; emerging from social reforms in the 1970's and often from women in communities coming together for support and action. 

They are generally small, not-for-profit community organisations that work from a community development framework and are embedded in their local community, enabling them to respond to arising issues at a grass roots level (Izmir et al (2009:iii) Most utilise a community management model, which means they are community owned and managed (through volunteer committees). In other words, people ‘are involved in defining and taking action on the issues that affect them’ (Rooney, 2011:5 ).

"Another characteristic of centres is generally that their focus is spatially defined with a ‘strong identification or embedding within a particular geographical area, region and/or community’ (Rooney, 2011:5). Centres themselves are also a ‘place’, sometimes a house although the work of centres generally also happens in a wide range of different spaces and locations across a place" (Strengthening people and places, 2011). 
  
‘The research shows that neighbourhood centres form a key element of the social infrastructure of disadvantaged communities.  The infrastructure provided by the centres can be quickly mobilised, expanded or readjusted to respond to local needs, emerging issues or opportunities” (Izmir et al (2009:iii).

Neighbourhood and Community Centres generally directly offer a range of programs; but also provide a space in community for other services to operate out of (community service hub). They play a key role in providing Information and referral in communities related to community and social servcies and offer a 'soft entry' point or non stigmatising human service delivery point in communities. They are flexible and dynamic in how they can move from crisis and problem based responses to a more holistic and integrated approach to support. 

They have been identified in literature as a key to building social capital in communities (Bullen and Onyx, 2005); and play an important role in strengthening communities, generating social wellbeing and connection. Most centres have a strong volunteer base and are heavily reliant on volunteers to maintain their role in communities. Funding has traditionally come from a variety of sources including state, local and federal government; philanthropic; donations and self generated income. 

The Queensland Families and Communities Association (QFCA) is the statewide network for Community and Neighbourhood Centres in Queensland and whose mission is to:

  1. Be the strategic link between members and government in policy development. 
  2. Strengthen communication between members through active, informed and connected regional representatives. 
  3. Facilitate and resource a valued and connected membership.

The Queensland Government funds more than 100 neighbourhood and community centres which provide friendly, localised access to child, family and community services. There are centres in rural, remote and urban communities throughout Queensland.

There has been some work undertaken over recent years in Queensland to develop a statewide framework for Community and Neighbourhood Centres to provide some structure and unifying features to organisations. This is a key recommendation emerging from the Strengthening People and Places: the role and value of community and neighbourhood centres (2011).

Recommendation 1: That a strategic policy framework supporting community and neighbourhood centres is developed by the Queensland Government in partnership with centres. This framework needs to recognise the importance and complementary nature of local-level infrastructure capable of responding to many issues and opportunities including during a crisis event. This framework should also include specific links to existing government policies such as prevention and early intervention, targets to increase volunteering, and place-based approaches to reducing disadvantage and social exclusion. 

In Victoria, the peak body for Neighbourhood and Community Houses has developed a framework in partnerhship with the sector that outlines key principles and practices for working in community. 

These six steps enable Neighbourhood Houses to meet the needs of their local communities.

  • Involving: Involving the community and encouraging participation and inclusion, and valuing diversity and difference at all levels of neighbourhood house operation
  • Identifying: Identifying community needs and aspirations
  • Determining: Determining appropriate community programs, activities and services in response to those needs, ensuring that diversity and difference are valued
  • Partnering: Partnering with community organisations, businesses, government and philanthropic organisations to secure appropriate funding and support
  • Delivering: Delivering quality programs, activities and services
  • Evaluating: Evaluating the effectiveness of all aspects of neighbourhood house operations, including programs, practice and governance.

Sector principles: 

Neighbourhood Houses are guided by the following sector principles:

  • Community ownership: To set, manage and control the direction, resources, decision making and processes of the neighbourhood house or centre in order that local volunteer members have a sense of ownership and intrinsic belonging.
  • Community participation: To recognise that everyone has a valuable contribution to make and to facilitate community members to join in at any level. Volunteers and community members are integral to the decision making, evaluation, provision, participation and direction setting at all levels of the organisation.
  • Empowerment: To put into practice a process that respects, values and enhances people’s ability to have control of their lives. This process encourages people to meet their needs and aspirations in a self-aware and informed way that takes advantage of their skills, experience and potential.
  • Access and equity: To ensure fair and equitable access for all people. Striving to make meaningful opportunities, programs, activities and services accessible to individuals, groups and the community. To promote a fairer distribution of economic resources and power between people.
  • Lifelong learning: To build and support the personal skills, knowledge, abilities and resilience of people. To develop the health, wellbeing and connection of people and their families through formal and informal pathways in education, employment and self-development.
  • Inclusion: To value the diverse contributions that people make and to be sensitive to their individual needs.
  • Networking: To link, form alliances, collaborate and work with individuals, groups, other agencies, government and business.
  • Advocacy: To act with and on behalf of community members to endeavour that their individual or group needs are met.
  • Selfhelp: To come together in a supportive group environment to share information, knowledge, skills and life experience in order that each participant can reach their own personal goals.
  • Social action: To analyse internal and external factors that have an impact on the local community, and to transform relationships between individuals, groups and organisations and within the community through collective action.

Below are some additonal paper and information related to community and neighbourhood centres

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Queensland Government media release The Palaszczuk Government will highlight the roll-out of a state-wide social cohesion program with bold We Are Queensland television and online advertising, along with a social media campaign. The TV ad features young Queenslanders from different backgrounds and...
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Each year, NAIDOC Week celebrations highlight the rich and diverse culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the First Australians. NAIDOC Week celebrations and community events are a great opportunity for all Queenslanders to come together and acknowledge the history, culture and...
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Michael Hogan, Director-General of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, has issued a letter which highlights the funding contained in the 2017-18 Budget for Ministers' portfolios within the department. Read the attached letter in full.
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The Digital Economy and Productivity team, within the Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, is touring the state with the Digital Skills for all Queenslanders Regional Roadshow, this month. The roadshow allows people in regional towns to interact with exciting digital...
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Queensland Day is a celebration of Queensland’s birthday and its official separation from New South Wales as an independent colony on 6 June 1859. Celebrated annually, Queensland Day is an opportunity to celebrate the state’s culture, heritage, people, places and industry. Since 1981, Queensland’s...
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Queensland Government media release Local community groups are set for a welcome cash boost, thanks to the Palaszczuk Government’s Gold Coast Light Rail Stage 2 Community Fund. Deputy Premier and Minister for Transport Jackie Trad said ahead of Stage 2 taking its first passengers in 2018, the...
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Poverty and severe hardship affect more than a million Australians. Around the world more than a billion people are desperately poor. The main aims of Anti-Poverty Week are to: strengthen public understanding of the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and within...
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Community groups and NGOs across Queensland can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to hold an event to mark Disability Action Week ( Sunday 10th to Saturday 16th September) or International Day of People with Disability (3rd December). A total of $150,000 is available for events to promote the...
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The nib foundation's Community Grant program supports practical, community -based initiatives that focus on improving the health and wellbeing of vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians, with a focus on youth and carers. A Community Grant round is held once each year and applications are invited...
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Community based organisations and interested stakeholders are invited to join consultation workshops across Queensland on community disaster recovery. Community Services Industry Alliance (CSIA) has been funded to deliver a series of resources to promote and encourage the inclusion of community...

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