What happens in South Sydney today …
Forty-six years ago, in 1967, a diverse group of residents and community leaders were inspired to work together to establish a locally based community service. Beginning as a branch of the Good Neighbour Council with 30 members, South Sydney Community Aid began with the support of local residents, city councillors, the federal MHR, Jim Cope, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, Orthodox and Anglican churches with support from the sisters of Catholic schools.
Those involved recognised that there was much to gain by working together and encouraging people to find their voice in a disadvantaged community with a negative reputation. The agency began by providing a simple advisory and assistance service staffed by volunteers and was located in temporary accommodation in the Redfern Town Hall.
I was secretary of SSCA in these first few years and as I talked with both residents and community leaders I realised that there was much to gain by people learning to respect different traditions and cultures, by joining hands and working together. While the agency set out to provide family support and information its community development practices became its main focus. Its core objectives involved enhancing community life, bringing people together and changing attitudes by developing a positive community spirit. This attitude was captured by the saying, what happens in South Sydney today happens in Australia tomorrow.
The first large community meeting to establish SSCA as a standalone community-based service was held in October 1968 in the hall of the Antioch Orthodox Church Redfern and was attended by over 150 people. In 1968 we leased a two-storey shopfront accommodation at 142 Regent Street and by 1974 we had outgrown this space and moved to larger, airy premises, the very visible St Luke’s church at 118 Regent St!
The agency quickly developed support from the three levels of government and with the appointment of fulltime staff began to broaden out the scope and commitment of the agency across cultural, religious and political differences. Many innovative community projects and campaigns were hatched by staff, committee members and supporters. The full story of these first few years is worth telling in more detail and my impression is that these core values are reflected in the outlook and interests of the agency today.
Rev. Dr Dean Eland was a Congregational and Uniting Church Minister in South Sydney (1967-1978).