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Community building to start at Central Pier

31 Aug 2009

Community building to start at Central Pier Image

By Sarah Murray

The rapid growth of Docklands, as exciting as it’s been, has meant that not every aspect of life on the waterfront has kept pace with the vision. In particular, the usual community networks, activities and support services that help shape and define more established communities have tended to lag.

To fill in the gaps Anglican priest  Fr James Grant, educational consultant Pam Burton and health professional Molly Carlile, working under the banner of Quay Initiatives Australia, have taken up the challenge to establish a dynamic community centre that will be as unique and diverse as Docklands and the people who live here.

“VicUrban has recently granted us 180 square metres of space for a community centre on Central Pier,” Fr James said. “It’s in the midst of the night clubs but we think that’s quite good. We’ll have a different audience during the daytime, more to do with the community … Docklands has been missing something, which is something people can identify with and say ‘that’s ours’.”

Over the last five years the idea of what a Docklands community centre could be has developed considerably. According to Fr James: “We started thinking about spiritual things, and we are still doing that, but we now want it to be wider so it incorporates community activities, be it book clubs, providing spaces for community meetings or running seminars, but particularly we want it to have a strong educational component.”

Pam Burton is enthusiastic about what Docklands can offer students. With a strategic alliance with Kings Gate Hotel offering to supply cut-price accommodation already in place and a number of schools having expressed interest in participating, Ms Burton said: “There are three major aspects to the educational offering which would involve bringing students into Docklands from Melbourne and rural Victoria.”

These include developing students’ community interaction; introducing an ambassadorial program where kids at risk are aligned with people who have experience, talent and time to create new opportunities for them; and using the Docklands environment as a backdrop for enquiry learning.

“I’ve spoken to lots of Docklands residents, and there are many retirees who’ve indicated that they would like to be involved in the ambassadorial program,” Ms Burton.

Yet Fr James said there were other directions they wanted to take the community centre. “This is a chance to do something entirely different … with a layered approach that for kids will be something great, but there will also be lots of stuff for adults.”

Other ideas designed to promote connectedness include early morning “wellness” experiences for the community such as meditation and pilates, while Ms Carlile will focus on developing counselling services and other health programs.

Festivals are also something both Ms Burton and Fr James are enthusiastic about. “We’d really like to start a story-tellers’ festival, where storytellers would move through the restaurants. We’d also set up tents for kids storytellers and incorporate indigenous elements and we’d like to establish links with the Melbourne Writers Festival,” Ms Burton said.

When it comes to funding the centre, Fr James noted that MAB’s Andrew Buxton had been a great supporter but they will be actively looking for more support from other businesses in the Docklands area.

With permit approvals now finalised, refit work will start on the Central Pier space. “The centre won’t be ready to kick off until February, and we are under pressure to meet that deadline as we will be looking to get our first school groups through by February or March.”

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the community centre or would like to discuss program ideas or other ways to get involved is welcome to contact Fr James at (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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