Gin Gin residents now have extra help to access the support services they need, with a Community Connect Worker joining the Bundaberg Regional Council team at Gin Gin Neighbourhood Centre.
The new position was announced as a 2023-24 Bundaberg Regional Council budget initiative.
The Community Connect service supports vulnerable individuals and families to navigate access to suitable social programs and services, including transport, accommodation, social isolation, emergency relief and more.
The service can help community members identify and contact appropriate services and programs, and then empowers participants to continue to access those supports independently.
Gin Gin Community Connect Worker Fiona McLean said the program aimed to remove the barriers some of the community faced with trying to access the help they needed.
“A lot of people don't have the literacy and numeracy, or they don't have the capacity to stay connected, because some wait times [are] like two hours and they just want help,” she said.
“They sort of get stuck in a referral loop and they get burnt out and then they go, ‘you know what? It’s too hard’.
“People are generally really good at asking for help, it’s getting the right help that actually helps them.
“That's part of my role as well, to determine that the help that I'm linking them to exists.”
Gin Gin Neighbourhood Centre has computers available for community use, and Fiona can aid community members to contact service providers either online or over the phone, depending on the client’s specific capabilities and needs.
Fiona said post-COVID, a lot of services had retreated back to more populated areas, making it more difficult for people in rural communities to find the right support service.
One of Fiona’s aims with the Community Connect program is to create opportunities for the Gin Gin Neighbourhood Centre to facilitate service providers to offer services and meet with clients at the community hub.
Fiona’s connections within the community, and with businesses and service providers, have also helped to identify individuals who may benefit from her assistance.
“People in their community know their community,” she said.
“It's always a good way to gauge where people are who need that support.
“Gin Gin is a really helpful community, there’s a lot of people in the community who do a lot to help people.”
Council offers the service at no charge, with the role supported by Queensland Government grant funding, and Fiona said the service had the capacity to be really effective for the people of Gin Gin.
“The Council have a really positive impact in the community, and I think they've really given them a gift in fighting for this role to be in this space,” she said.
Fiona said her approach to the role came from a lifetime of living in rural and remote communities and understanding that communities had complex social needs.
“You really have to be mindful that people are their own people and [it] doesn't matter how much you want to help someone, it's up to them,” she said.
“Anyone who can handle their own stuff is doing it.
“For anyone who needs anything that sits outside that realm of being able to easily navigate themselves, there's me.
“I'm here to capture what's going through the cracks.”
Confidential appointments with Fiona, can be face-to-face, over the telephone or via a video call.