The Hunter Community Alliance (HCA) launched with its first employed organiser nearly two years ago. The Alliance uses a community organising model shared by organisations affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation in the U.S, and used in Australia by Sydney and Queensland alliances.
HCA is an alliance of many organisations, some from churches such as Catholic Diocese and Uniting; unions; University of Newcastle; environmental groups, and NGOs such as CatholicCare, Nova for Women and Children; Soul Café; Food not Bombs; Hunter Tenants Association; Climate Action Newcastle; ACF; Community Disability Alliance; Hunter Homeless Connect; Settlement Services International and Worranua Nations Aboriginal Corporation.
The methodology used by HCA has been carefully developed over several decades and adapted and refined in Australia for the past 15 years. It is based on Relational Listening by which members have one on one meetings with other people to hear about the life experiences and their issues within the community. HCA started by having a listening campaign primarily in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie over a six month period.
The results of the listening campaign determined the three issues on which HCA members decided to concentrate their activities. These were homelessness, climate change and the gap between indigenous health and well-being and the national average.
HCA formed action groups around each of the three issue areas. The action groups researched the issues and determined strategies that were likely to be effective at Local Government level. For homelessness, for example, these were safe areas for people to sleep in cars; lockers to store possessions; training for Rangers in how to help homeless people; data collection to determine the size of the problem; and a levy on developers to be used for social or low-cost housing.
HCA presented these strategies to Newcastle City Council in a well-researched and disciplined meeting that surprised the Council in its professionalism.
HCA has arranged for public Zoom forums with the Lord Mayoral candidates for Newcastle on November 4 and Lake Macquarie on November 11, both 6.30 to 8.30pm. Preparation for the meetings is being conducted with HCA’s usual thoroughness and the meetings will be respectful, disciplined and professional. You can register for those forums using the links:
Becoming active with HCA is helped by an initial training in the methodology over about 16 hours. HAA Chair, Dr John Ward, has completed the training and found it to be extremely worthwhile, encouraging him to become active within HCA.
We plan in early 2022, when Covid has settled, to offer a two hour abbreviated training from HCA to any HAA members who wish to attend, free of charge. We believe that HCA will become a major player in social change in the Hunter, in which HAA can play a part and realise many of our own goals in the areas of housing, environment and social isolation.