As an undergraduate Social Sciences student in Adelaide in 1993, I enjoyed a field trip with class-mates to the offices of Healthy Cities Noarlunga (now Healthy Cities Onkaparinga), one of three pilot sites in Australia of a bold new approach to ‘put health high on the political and social agenda of cities and to build a strong movement for public health at the local level’. That field trip inspired my career in community development, health promotion and social marketing research and nearly thirty years later, I am the proud leader of an impassioned and dedicated group of professionals at one of the other original pilot sites, (and place of my birth) – Healthy Cities Illawarra. This month marks three years since I began my role at Healthy Cities Illawarra and what a journey it has been!
Our team have charged into 2022, so I thought an update from me every now and then might be a good way to keep you in the loop. This year we have launched a number of brand-new initiatives to keep working towards systems, infrastructure and events which facilitate an inclusive and socially connected community where good health and wellbeing thrives.
Illawarra Women’s Day of Dance and Culture
Despite COVID and torrential rain, we managed to pull off this brand-new event in Wollongong to kick off International Women’s Week on Sunday 6th March. We teamed up with well-known Wollongong businesswomen and community advocate Margaret Biggs, Judith Hurley from Edmund Rice College and Illawarra People for Peace, Diana Gates from the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong, Sue Meehan & Dianna Lyon from the Catholic Women’s League and Zahra Javadi from SCARF Refugee Support, not to mention Kerrie Guillaume and her team from Fairy Meadow Rotary.
Aunty Jodi Edwards shared her stories and insights and there was so much love and good will in the room – around 250 women and children from so many different cultures and ages came together to share a simple meal, conversation and dance! We had children’s activities, transport support and the ticketing was ‘pay as you feel’. We hope to make this an annual event to bring women together in a culturally safe and inclusive environment – I have it on good authority that there may be a Bollywood feel to the 2023 event!
Neighbourhood Slow Down Day
On Friday March 25th, to coincide with National Ride to School Day we held an Australian first “Slow Down Day”. As part of our UCI Legacy work with Wollongong2022, we worked with Figtree Heights PS, Lindsay Park PS and Mt St Thomas PS to create an awareness day of the importance of lower speed limits – even 30km/hour to make it safer for children to walk, ride or scoot to school.
Our project partners, Safe Streets to School and 30 Please helped create Active Travel Maps and we had lots of volunteers do some letterbox drops, hang roadside banners and install colourful corflute signs to promote the day. Active travel to school is critical to help children meet their physical activity requirements and develop independence, but so many parents drive their kids to school because of safety concerns – speeding cars and not enough footpaths and crossings.
Wollongong Online Farmers Market
If we learnt anything from the COVID pandemic, it’s how fragile our food system can be. Food Fairness Illawarra is a community coalition we have worked with for over a decade to advocate for fair and secure food systems, promote local produce, support people to grow their own food, educate about sustainable and ethical production and support our community who are food insecure – did you realise that over 20,000 Illawarra residents each year do not have sufficient access to fresh, nutritious and sustainable food?
After nearly twelve months of community and producer consultation, business development and logistical planning, Berbel Franse, our Program Manager Food Sustainability and Community Nutrition, together with the creative juices of Tracy Thomas and marketing prowess of Tahnee Sykes and amazing team of volunteers have launched a new Farmer’s Market in Wollongong!
Each Wednesday, WOFM is open for the community to click & collect a great variety of local and sustainable foods from over 20 local producers. Orders are open until Monday evening for collection the following Thursday from their Fairy Meadow hub. WOFM will give our community convenient access to the best sustainable produce from our region. As well as, provide an additional outlet for us to combat climate change through supporting local seasonal produce, reducing food miles, food waste and reducing plastic packaging.
When you take over someone’s job, it’s not common that you start a working relationship with them at the same time. However, my predecessor, Justin Placek had grown an idea with Prof Belinda Gibbons from UOW’s Faculty of Business and Law to map the UN Sustainable Development Goals at a local level, and that’s exactly what happened.
Last month, after three years of collaboration we launched the SDG Localiser on our website with the technical support of Dr Mehrdad Amirghasemi and Prof Pascal Perez from UOW’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals that 193 UN member states have committed to in order to alleviate poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people have the opportunity to enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are a call to action for governments, businesses and civil society to come together to create a better world and leave no one behind.
We invite you to ‘play’ with the Localiser using your organisation’s high level strategic documents and map or monitor progress against the SDG targets.
In between all of this, we welcomed Tahnee Sykes, Marketing and Fundraising Officer and Andy Mark, Senior Health Promotion Officer joined to our team!
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch – partnerships are our bread and butter and it’s exciting to be able to contribute to a more just, healthy and connected community where we live, work and play – speaking of which: Check out Play Illawarra, a comprehensive directory of local playgrounds from Wollongong to Shoalhaven.
Thank you for taking the time to read my first quarterly update.