20 Things We Loved About 2020

Throughout the choking smoke, ferocious fires and isolating pandemic, the Canberra spirit shone like never before.  

Hospital Care Packs Neville Bonner Communities@Work 2020 Wrap Up

Photo: Hospital Care Packs created by the children at our Neville Bonner OSHC. 

Whether it was digging deep into pockets and cupboards for donations, helping seniors to shop during the food shortages or making care packages for stressed frontline workers, it’s these simple acts of kindness that we’ll remember.

As the largest not-for-profit community organisation in Canberra, we were in the middle of it all, supporting people where and as needed, and fulfilling our prime mission to enrich people’s lives. With sleeves rolled up, our staff consistently worked hard, often in collaboration with others, to meet the rapidly changing needs of our community.

In the words of the Communities@Work CEO Lee Maiden: 2020 was a huge year. It brought so many ups and downs, but ultimately it showed us what we are capable of when we pull together as a community. We were privileged to partner with community organisations, government agencies, local businesses, and community members to help our community.

We accomplished much that I’m very proud of. It’s almost impossible to pick a shortlist, but here are some of my favourites from 2020:

1. In January we were all hands on deck, giving food and clothing to people fleeing the bushfires, coordinating donations of food and drinks for tired firefighters, and helping run Canberra’s bushfire emergency and recovery centres.

2. The children at our school holiday programs supported our bushfire efforts by organising their own fundraisers to help injured koalas and by writing touching thank-you letters to our firefighter heroes.

3. We threw the ‘best-ever’ birthday party for the children at our centres who were so disappointed at missing out on their own birthdays due to COVID-19. The tears of gratitude on parents’ faces were priceless.

4. We helped families who couldn’t work from home during the pandemic by keeping our early education and care services open so they could continue accessing childcare. With many also worried about losing their job or business, we froze our childcare fees to help them with their bills.

5. We spoilt hardworking and stressed essential workers by presenting them with care packages, full of handmade pamper gifts and notes, lovingly made by the children at our centres. This kind gesture moved some adults to tears.

6. We won the Large Employer of the Year at the 2020 ACT Training Awards for the second year in a row. Ongoing professional development and training is important!

7. We connected a group of children from our Illoura childcare and Education Centre with our senior’s clients. These monthly intergenerational visits were a resounding success with members forming heartwarming bonds and sharing the ‘best hugs ever’. With visits suspended during COVID, the group stayed connected by exchanging handmade gifts and letters.

8. We gave out a ton of essential food hampers to people facing hardship, in partnership with the Canberra Relief Network. We also recently made our community food pantries bigger and better as we’re anticipating the demand for food and essential services will increase as a result of the long-term effects of COVID-19.

9. We inspired and connected people in self-isolation through their love of art and craft by encouraging Canberrans to busily quilt, bead, craft and paint for our online Creative Craft Challenge. We were overwhelmed with the volume and creativity of the submissions.

10. We educated children at our early education and care centres on how to establish a bushfoods garden and how to cook meals using the Indigenous produce they harvested.


WATCH: 20 things we loved in 2020 


11. We proudly launched our new Reconciliation Action Plan, demonstrating our continued commitment to supporting Australia’s First Nations peoples and their culture.

12. We worked with the ACT Government on a pilot to provide 15 hours a week of free early education and care for three-year-old children – supporting our desire to make early education and care as accessible as possible, particularly for vulnerable families.

13. We discovered that one of the best ways to get our Galilee School students to enjoy reading was to bring in dogs for them to read to and cuddle. It certainly improved reading skills and English class attendance (thanks Rainbow Paws!).

14. We proudly watched our disability clients put their new Barista training into practice as they developed and launched their Small Talk Café business for visitors to our centre. A wonderful way to build life skills in independence, budgeting and social skills.

15. We were so proud of our staff for selflessly giving everything they had to be able to support our community throughout the challenges of 2020 and gave each person a token of our thanks and gratitude.

16. We thanked our amazing team of volunteers in a very challenging year, sending them small gifts of appreciation and video messages from across the organisation.

17. We launched our Youth Advisory Board, made up of passionate young staff members, so we could capture their insights and vision about youth issues affecting our organisation and the broader community. Their first project: creating a Sustainability Action Plan for the organisation.

18. Remember the mad rush for toilet paper, flour and pasta during the food shortages? To ensure our vulnerable seniors and disability clients had access to the essential items they needed, we organised shopping trips and assisted them where needed.

19. We were chuffed when the ACT Brumbies named us their Major Charity Partner, and loved having their players mentoring our Galilee School students, kicking the ball around with our disability clients, and lending a hand sorting donations at our community food pantry.

20. We were so touched and overwhelmed by the community support for our Christmas Appeal, with donations coming from many generous business supporters and the community, so people in need don’t miss out on Christmas.


“While I’ve never been so happy to see the end of a year, I have truly loved witnessing the many wonderful ways in which we’ve all added value to people’s lives. Thank you Canberra for your partnership and support, and roll on 2021!”

– Lee Maiden, CEO Communities@Work


Now, we look forward to a fantastic 2021 and a year of community-led recovery, ready to continue our mission to support the Canberra community in positive ways.

Look back with us on the social impact we’ve had in the year past in the Communities@Work’s 2019/20 annual report.

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