When a group of young people from Bellambi were asked to draw what their community looks like in the summer holidays their pictures of burning cars, violence and drug use resonated strongly with Australian Social Investment Trust (ASIT) founder Natasha Scully.

The Our Place model, a successful social change initiative based on community collaboration, was created to make lasting change in areas impacted by social and economic issues. Bellambi was chosen to pilot the project after Natasha saw, based on a series of drawing from community consultation work, what it was like to be in that community in the summer holidays from a child’s perspective.

“For me that was very powerful,” said Natasha. “We had children who were drawing pictures of cars on fire, of violence happening in communities, of drug issues. And that really inspired us to focus on that community.

“Our aim was to make a difference in a community that has suffered inter-generational disadvantage. It was great to hear from the community what their challenges and aspirations were because that hadn’t really been heard before. Based on that we worked with the community to develop an action plan that that community themselves was engaged with and wanted to see happen.”

The Our Place model is based on the idea that the collective impact approach supports happier, healthier and more sustainable communities and individuals and results in increased community pride, mental and physical well-being and individual empowerment.

CareSouth Brighter Futures client Jean Barham knows first-hand how education and empowerment can change lives and communities. With the support of her Brighter Futures caseworkers, Jean has been a driving force in advocating for a better future for her grandchildren and her community through the Bellambi Collective and Our place model.

“I knew I had to be a role model for my grandchildren, but I didn’t feel like I had a voice,” said Jean. “Sometimes as a nanna you’re not heard, you’re not listened to. So it was important that I did get heard because there were children at risk.”

It is community members like Jean who have helped engender a sense of pride in their community.

“We've been working together with the Bellambi community for a couple of years now and are already seeing significant positive change,” said Natasha.

“No single individual or organisation can effect intra-generational change on their own, it’s by us working together and empowering individuals and the community as a whole that we can make a difference.”

“We’ve seen results within two years that we were not expecting and things are already changing in Bellambi that we were not expecting,” said Natasha. “That’s actually inspired the leadership group in the Illawarra Shoalhaven to start working in other communities.”

The resounding success of Our Place in Bellambi saw the model rolled out in Bundaleer, East Nowra and Warrawong in August where the Our Place Illawarra Shoalhaven team held community consultation and workshops in Bundaleer and Warrawong to co-create initial action plans for each Our Place community.

The Our Place Illawarra Shoalhaven team will enable, facilitate and coordinate collective community work under these action plans in early 2018.