It was a bakingly hot Friday morning in Mullumbimby, and the workers at the local neighbourhood centre were doing their best to stay cool as they went about their duties.
Most were too concerned about the truck-load of eggs that had just arrived to pay much attention to the unassuming local couple who had an appointment with centre manager Julie Williams.
Then an amazing thing happened.
The couple said they had read in The Echo that the centre had recently been forced to farewell its only paid administrative staff member because of financial difficulties, and they wanted to give them something to help.
In fact they wanted to give them 40,000 ‘somethings’.
In an incredible act of generosity, the couple donated $40,000 to the centre so it could rehire its administrative assistant for a full year.
‘This donation is almost incomprehensible!’ an elated Ms Williams said.
‘I don’t think I blinked for 48 hours. Too often we hear [about] the negative elements of humans and yet there are so many in this community who contribute so much to building community.
‘I cannot express our gratitude enough and the wish to maintain anonymity speaks volumes about their humility and the intention of their generosity.’
Ms Williams said that while the centre’s volunteers had stepped in to try to fill the gap left by the administrative officer, having her back would make a big difference.
‘Reception in an organisation like ours can often be like a triage,’ she said.
‘The ability to make an assessment of someone’s need, determine the urgency, and ensure that community members feel safe is an important skill.
‘It’s a role that not only supports community members but also staff who are funded to undertake work from community development to specialist domestic and family violence programs.’
Centres such as the one in Mullumbimby face a near-constant fight to stay afloat because they receive no core funding for their day-to-day operations.
With funding from government always tied to specific, time-limited programs, they must constantly seek out independent funding sources such as donations and room hire just to keep the doors open.
The Local Community Services Association has released a policy platform ahead of the upcoming state election calling for wholesale changes to the way such centres are viewed and funded.
The policy states that the best way to ensure that neighbourhood centres are able to retain essential staff is for the government to see them as essential ‘social infrastructure’ like parks and libraries and to fund them accordingly.