‘Everybody comes with a story’: celebrating Neighbourhood Week 2017 in Constitution Hill

Lifelong residents and newcomers alike gathered at Karabi Neighbourhood Centre yesterday to celebrate Neighbourhood Week.

The organisation is celebrating its 30th year in western Sydney, helping families with everything from play groups to senior outings.

Constitution Hill resident Robert Taylor said his son Mitch had learned how to fix bikes at one of the centre’s programs.

The family mainly use Karabi to access budget groceries through Foodbank.

“It makes life easier as a struggling family,” Mr Taylor said.

Karabi Community and Development Services have three neighbourhood centres in Constitution Hill, Wentworthville and Seven Hills.

They are found in the heart of the community, often alongside or in amongst social housing.

“For me it’s about serving people,” community development team leader Inimanogi Asemaga said.

“I think when you serve such a diverse community, it’s not big changes. It’s in little improvements. I think within these housing estate communities, it’s the little changes you see in people.

“I’ve had a case where somebody stayed home for 25 years. Then all of a sudden, through doing TAFE courses through the centre, now they’re working as well as studying for a degree. It’s those kinds of improvements in people’s lives that draws me into the job. And working with diverse communities, there’s never a dull moment. I love that. Everybody comes with a story.”

Wentworthville Fire Brigade and AFL NSW join in the celebrations.

Youth and family worker Alison Becroft said it takes a while to build trust in disadvantaged communities.

“A lot of the time there’s been breakdowns in trust between services and police and the community,” she said.

“To be able to be at the centre of the community is something I love, having worked in organisations that are somewhat removed. It’s like a hub for the community and a safe space for them as well. Whether they identify it being a safe space or not, it’s their go-to space.”

The women said many who come in contact with Karabi often seek to give back.

Much of the food enjoyed at the Neighbourhood Week celebration was provided by local community members from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The workers also caught up with people who had moved away from the area.

Ms Becroft said the day was about celebrating what it means to be a neighbourhood centre.

“It’s also an opportunity to hear from the community,” Ms Asemaga added.

“Often at community events, over conversation you can identify the needs and the issues. So those conversations can develop into ideas, develop into programs.”

Karabi Neighbourhood Centre is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday at 1 Lurgan Street, Constitution Hill. For more information about their services for all ages, call 9631 7055.