Aim­ing to em­power oth­ers

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By ROSANNA CANDLER

SOME­THING as sim­ple as cof­fee, cake and con­ver­sa­tion can of­ten make all the dif­fer­ence in the world, says Wed­nes­days at Wan­dana co- or­di­na­tor Julie Dickinson.

The 78-year-old semi-re­tired so­cial worker started the weekly com­mu­nity in­clu­sion pro­gram at Subiaco’s largest so­cial hous­ing com­plex Wan­dana Flats about 18 months ago.

“I be­lieve peo­ple who are iso­lated and marginalised are sad and at risk,” Ms Dickinson said.

“There are a huge num­ber of so­cial prob­lems here — drugs and al­co­hol, men­tal health, il­lit­er­acy, dis­abil­i­ties and safety is­sues.

“This group is a very sim­ple way of get­ting peo­ple to come out of their rooms and in­ter­act with each other, which is not al­ways suc­cess­ful or easy.”

Ms Dickinson is one of nine fi­nal­ists in the 2015 Sea­sons Com­mu­nity Cham­pi­ons Award.

The City of Subiaco nom­i­nated her say­ing she helped break down the bar­ri­ers of iso­la­tion many vul­ner­a­ble and dis­ad­van- taged res­i­dents at the Homeswest-owned flats ex­pe­ri­enced.

“Even on days when no one has turned up or at times when she has faced sus­pi­cion and dis­ap­proval, she has not been de­feated but in­stead come back each week slowly build­ing trust,” her award nom­i­na­tion said.

“Through her vol­un­tary work, the hous­ing com­plex is a safer and more wel­com­ing place. The value of this is im­mea­sur­able.”

With the re­cent re­cruit­ment of a sec­ond vol­un­teer and fi­nan- cial sup­port from the city, Ms Dickinson said she hoped her pro­gram would con­tinue to grow.

“In the fu­ture I would like to build a lit­tle bit more so­cial ac­tion so Wan­dana will not be forgotten,” she said.

“We hear the most amaz­ing and ac­tu­ally quite in­spi­ra­tional sto­ries from peo­ple who come to our morn­ing tea.

“I want to em­power th­ese res­i­dents in a good, hope­ful way and not let this place get ab­sorbed and taken over. All it takes is just keep­ing your eyes open and look out for peo­ple.”

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