The fees-for-service from our children’s services help us support Canberrans who are doing it tough, through our support services for food, clothing, accommodation and crisis, and our special assistance school.
Besides supporting disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the Canberra community, Communities at Work’s social impact also extends across all our service areas, our philosophy and our commitment to building a resilient, sustainable and socially inclusive community.
Our Impact: Families & Individuals in the Community
In 2019-20, our support services and seniors & disability services have:
- Provided free food and clothing to people fleeing to the ACT from the bushfires on the south coast.
- Provided food, bedding, showers, hygiene items, money for medical scripts, transport support and access to communication devices through our crisis support program.
- Made over 15,000 trips so seniors and disability clients could get to their medical appointments.
- Provided almost 12,000 nights of accommodation for people facing homelessness across our seven transitional housing sites.
- Waived our subsidised rent for six months to support our clients in our transitional accommodation.
- Released a series of Helping Through Hardship videos and pamphlets to help people better understand how and where to get help through COVID-19 hardship.
Following a marriage breakdown, a single mother with four children was evicted from her home due to her inability to pay the rent. The family had come to Australia as refugees, had very limited English and no family and community support. The mother was referred to our Reach Home Program by OneLink.
We placed them in a large home, assisted them to get regular food hampers and hygiene items, guided them through the Centrelink system, and organised financial counselling, schooling and other services. We showed the mother how to set up direct debits and manage ongoing bills and provided support to keep the family car on the road so the children could continue attending school. We worked collaboratively with their family support worker, visited the family weekly, and assisted them to deal with the threat of bushfires and COVID-19.
By educating them on how to meet their goals, this allowed them to advance to ACT Housing’s priority waitlist – a step away from permanent accommodation.
“My husband just lost his job this morning. I don’t know what we are going to do. The rent is due next week and I’m only on the pension. But I found some really good presents here and some groceries. You’ve really helped us out and made me happy again.”
– Christmas Cave client
Our Impact: Early Childhood Development
Leading in early childhood development
We are recognised as an award-winning leader within Canberra’s early education and care sector, committed to providing quality education through our early education and care centres, out of school hours care services, and family day care and in-home care educators.
Universal Access to Early Education and Care
During the year we worked within a Community of Practice alongside the ACT Education Directorate and partnered schools to provide 15 hours a week of free access to early education and care for three-year-old children at five locations. Our commitment to ensuring continuity of care and ongoing support for these vulnerable families led us to extend the reach of the program by providing additional placements at other services and extending the care hours and weeks of care.
“The program supports my children’s strengths, needs and interests and facilitates the pursuit of my children’s ideas – from creating bucket band drum kits, exploring the sport of ice hockey, baking up a gluten free storm and creating amazing STEM projects – nothing is too hard for this amazing team!”
– Parent, Fadden OSHC
Our Impact: Women
As the second-largest private employer in Canberra (after ACTEW) Communities at Work are proud to be providing employment and leadership opportunities to a significant number of women in the local labour market, with 83% of our workforce being women.
- Six of our nine executive members are women (including the CEO).
- 74% of our managers are women.
We are also proud of the calibre of women we have in our organisation, with several winning industry awards for their leadership, innovation and quality of service. For example:
- 40 of our educators and 4 of our coordination team members were nominated in the 2020 Excellence in Family Day Care Awards.
- Our Senior Secondary College Coordinator at Galilee School was recognised for her work in helping our vulnerable Year 10 students find career paths by the Career Advisors Association NSW & ACT.
We have also created a (now independent) working group to consider and develop ideas for supporting women in the ACT who may be experiencing homelessness. Three students from our Galilee School successfully have successfully participated in a Women in Construction Pathways trade skills program with the Australian Training Company, with the first graduate now employed by a carpentry firm.
Leading in Education Practices
We were very proud to hear that one of our early education and care educators, Melita Pendergast, took the top honours at the 2019 ACT Pedagogical Leadership Network’s Education and Care Awards. Melita was awarded “Director of the Year”, recognising her outstanding achievement in Early Childhood Education and Care.
Melita’s words summed it up: “I thrive when I am learning new things, reflecting on practices and thinking about ways to provide better outcomes for children.” Melita leads two of Communities at Work’s services – Abacus Child Care and Education Centre and Capital Hill Early Childhood Centre – both of which have an “exceeding” rating.
Our Impact: Health and Well-being
Since 2016 over 2,000 hours of sick leave have been donated by staff to a leave pool. 15 employees have accessed that pool who urgently needed extra leave to have ongoing treatment for a range of serious illnesses.
Caring through illness
“When my wife was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer during pregnancy, and myself working full-time, we knew we were going to need assistance with Rory. Nicole came to our home as an educator and she’s been absolutely wonderful and a real blessing to us.
She has formed a close bond with Rory and become a part of the family. She is continuously looking for opportunities and activities to further Rory’s learning and development and goes above and beyond her duties, remaining flexible to our ever-changing circumstances. I’m confident she would do anything for Rory and Rory loves and trusts her wholeheartedly. It puts us at ease and gives us a sense of security knowing we have Nicole taking care of our children. She embodies the spirit of Communities at Work.”
– Joel, In-Home Care parent
Spreading kindness to sick children
We heard many wonderful stories of acts of kindness throughout our organisation. Take for instance, the children at our Neville Bonner OSHC service who, after hearing about the challenges faced by children with serious illnesses, decided to create special care packages for sick children at Calvary Hospital.
With the help of their educators, the children researched prices, set goals, developed an action plan for raising money to create the care packages and assembled the packages. They filled the boxes with play dough, Uno cards, puzzles, colouring book and pencils, bubbles, stamps, and more. The packages brought much happiness to the children and their families and the Calvary Hospital Foundation team were deeply touched by this act of kindness. The children also raised over $310 for the Paediatric Ward.
Our Impact: Skill Development
Our award-winning registered training organisation, specialising in delivering nationally recognised qualifications in early childhood education and care, develops and nurtures Canberra’s future quality educators. For the second year in a row, we won the Large Employer of the Year at the ACT Training Awards in 2020.
Our Galilee School is Canberra’s only high school designed specifically for disengaged and vulnerable young people in Years 7-10. We supported almost 50 students to re-engage with their education, transition into the workforce or further study, find a sense of purpose and re-connect with their families and community.
Developing Career Pathways
Kaylee completed a Certificate III and Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care through traineeship arrangements with CPLE. “Communities at Work not only provided me with the opportunity to study through their RTO, but also enabled me to access on the job training and get a permanent full time position when I finished my traineeship.
In addition, Communities at Work strongly advocates for and supports ongoing professional development training which is offered through their RTO. The trainers are all so supportive, friendly and professional. I found that the delivery of content catered to the varying needs of each student, with face to face, online learning and on the job training options available, and I appreciated the flexibility between work and study arrangements. I would definitely recommend CPLE as a training provider to anyone considering a career in Early Childhood Education and Care”.
– Kaylee, former student at the Centre of Professional Learning and Education
Our Impact: Transport
Our Community Transport service is an essential part of transport within the ACT region and gave individuals access to transport where they may otherwise not have had it. We transported people living with a disability, those impacted by a medical condition, seniors, community groups and more. Over the past year:
- Our community transport fleet made over 30,000 trips and almost half a million kilometres to take people to essential medical appointments and to social activities to maintain their mental wellbeing.
- Our transport team made almost 2,500 trips to help vulnerable clients to buy essential food items during COVID restrictions.
Widening Paths to Friends
Noel can now easily reach our cars and uses our service every weekday to enjoy his daily coffee catchups once more with friends. He no longer feels socially isolated and has built a wonderful rapport with all his drivers, with whom he enjoys sharing his stories of the past.
When Noel’s wife passed away in 2015, he relied on his daily coffee catchups with friends to stay socially active. However, when his health declined, he was no longer able to drive and became socially isolated.
Noel turned to Communities at Work to help him get to his local shopping centre three times a week and resume his regular activities. However, his declining mobility meant he had difficulty walking along his narrow driveway to get to the transport cars, so we worked with Noel and his family to access the relevant services needed to have the driveway access widened.
Our Impact: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs
We launched our Reconciliation Action Plan during NAIDOC week in 202 and continued to promote and support reconciliation through a wide range of activities across our organisation and community. For instance, we:
- Created our own children’s Acknowledgement of Country to perform daily.
- Went on Bridge Walks.
- Established bush tucker gardens to give back to the land.
- Ran bushfood workshops for educators.
- Created Indigenous-inspired outdoor play spaces to symbolise our respect for the Ngunnawal land.
- Invited Indigenous music groups to visit the centres to share their culture, music and stories.
- Held weekly yarning circles at our OSHC services.
- Took seniors to the First Nations Gallery at the National Museum.
- Created and distributed community Reconciliation Resource Packs in partnership with the ACT Government.
Developing bushfood gardens
Our bushfoods tour to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands was a very successful workshop for educators across Canberra. Facilitator and Wiradjuri man Adam Shipp discussed Indigenous connection to country, and offered participants an authentic, cultural, hands on experience of tasting, touching and smelling a range of bush tucker found from around the region and the traditional Aboriginal use of them for making food and medicine.
Educators incorporated their newly acquired skills and knowledge into their planning and curriculum, including the setup of bushfood gardens at their own centres. In collaboration with the children and their families, educators designed a garden, grew Indigenous plants, and harvested their produce for their own meals at the centre – a wonderfully sustainable way to learn about caring for and giving back to the Ngunnawal land on which they live.