One in five people in Bendigo accessed services from the city’s 10 leading non-for-profit community sector organisations in 2017-2018.
In the lead up to next week’s two-day Community Sector Showcase (CSS) at Bendigo TAFE Health and Community Centre of Excellence, the partner organisations reported that 23,516 people sought assistance from their respective agencies for issues such as legal advice, health services, homelessness, affordable housing, family violence, sexual assault and disability support.
More than 6000 of those seeking help were women escaping family violence or victims of sexual assault.
CSS partner organisation Annie North CEO Julie Oberin said these figures were the tip of the iceberg.
“We know that family violence and sexual assault is under-reported,” Ms Oberin said.
“We are seeing numbers this high because more people are seeking support due to the social and economic inequalities widening. Without addressing the structural drivers behind homelessness, family violence, sexual assault and poverty the need for our services will continue to grow.”
Centre for Non-Violence General Manager Yvette Jaczina added that the impact on women’s and children’s lives was considerable including financial disadvantage, the potential for poor physical and mental health and the ongoing experience of trauma.
“Family violence is preventable and as services we work together to meet the needs of women and children,” she said.
Catholic Care Executive Director Rhonda Lawson-Street said family situations had become increasingly complex with multiple issues affecting 5000 parents and children and an intensive process needed to support and equip families for a stronger future.
ARC Justice delivered legal services, tenancy advice, and support to nearly 2500 people last year.
Chief Executive Hayley Mansfield said access to legal support was important to ensure people’s rights were protected and upheld.
“Access to legal support can involve providing information to community members so they understand the law and how it applies to them, as well as support to address legal issues that arise,” she said.
“Unmet legal issues can impact a person’s well-being in many ways, interacting negatively with physical and mental health. So timely legal support is critical to avoid this escalation.”
Many CSS partners have operated in Bendigo for 30 or more years with the sector employing 1220 people.
Haven; Home, Safe CEO Ken Marchingo said a combined annual payroll of $63 million state and federal-funded annual operating budgets of more than $80 million meant the importance of the community sector partners to Bendigo’s economy could not be overstated.
“In addition to wages, our partners reported they spent nearly $14 million with local businesses and contractors,” Mr Marchingo said.
“More importantly the sector is supporting people in greatest need in our community. In our case, it’s helping to house the homeless and those people at risk of becoming homeless and keeping them housed.”
Demand is also growing among the disability service providers with the roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Amicus CEO Ann-Maree Davis said that the NDIS had created significant growth in the sector.
“We have employed over 100 additional staff since February 2018 to try to meet demand,” Ann-Maree said.
In addition to staff, an army of 341 volunteers delivered 35,250 hours of service to partner organisations.
Anglicare regional director Francis Lynch said his organisation was fortunate that so many people in Bendigo volunteered their time and care for those people who need it.
“Our organisations are built on the goodwill and effort of so many people who strive to build a better life for everyone in their community,” he said.
BCHS CEO Kim Sykes said volunteers were essential to not for profit organisations and urged anyone looking to make a contribution to the community to contact one of the CSS partners to see what opportunities were available.
The third annual Community Sector Showcase will highlight how local community sector organisations, government departments and policymakers are working across local, regional, state and national levels to mitigate disadvantage in our community.
Day 1 of the Showcase next Tuesday (13 November) will feature 30 exhibitor information stands on the Ground Floor of Bendigo TAFE Health and Community Centre for Excellence from 3pm to 6pm.
There will be a free BBQ and drinks throughout the afternoon and students who attend the event will also have the chance to win a $500 study prize drawn at the conclusion of the event simply by having their Showcase passport stamped.
Day 2 is the new State of the Sector report to the community, featuring presentations from the 10 partner organisations about the impact each has had throughout the year. This event kicks off with a light breakfast at 8am through to 11.30am.
Both days free to the public thanks to the support of the City of Greater Bendigo, Bendigo TAFE and the CSS partners Anglicare Victoria, Bendigo Community Health Services, Golden City Support Services, ARC Justice, Amicus, Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault, Centre for Non-Violence, Annie North Inc, CatholicCare Sandhurst, and Haven; Home, Safe.
Register at http://communitysectorshowcase.com/