Thursday, July 2, 2015

There is no one above us - Tenant Participation resources

“I feel good about myself because I’m doing something for the community. When you look how far we’ve got and how others have listened to us, it’s wonderful. I feel we’ve achieved things by talking to people. Once I would have thought I’m a nobody but now I know I can speak out … And you know what? You know we talk a lot about people ‘above us’, well, we have found out there is no one above us!” 
-Macarthur Animation Program participant
You may have noticed from other posts that the TU has a soft spot for tenants in Campbelltown.  It could be because our EO, Julie Foreman worked alongside some of the community for nearly 10 years before she came to us. Well, in May about 100 people joined together to celebrate a local and successful community education program. 

The celebration included the launch of two new resources about working collaborative with social housing tenants. Published by St Vincent de Paul, the resources tell the story of the ‘Macarthur Animation Project’
One of the books is the story of the innovative community program and the other is a training kit based on the lessons collectively learned as the project developed. One thing tenants consistently said was that they really felt they had something to say to workers and organisations who want to work with communities.

“The Story of the Animation Project” outlines what happened  – how community lunches, the use of art as a form of reflection and the gradual drawing together of a spirited group of women in Claymore started something which continues today, 18 years later. The initial success with the change of a bus route inspired a series of other initiatives across four public housing estates – a community laundromat and coffee shop, the campaign for a footbridge over the M5 freeway, Minto Kids Community Park, community celebrations, lobbying for public phones, resident action groups, bringing about tenant focused changes to public housing re-development policy, the recording and publishing of community histories and the development of training programs in community action and human rights. Its not just all the shiny good stuff either. You will also read how some community initiatives have petered out and the real challenges that are yet to be overcome.

The training kit goes further explaining the principles and values of the program.  However, it is not a simple how-to guide. If it was, it would contain just two words: respect and listen. Sounds simple and yet the workers involved in the program have had to constantly learn and re learn what these two words really mean in different situations. So simple to say, so hard to really put into action. So this kit is providing content, reflections and questions on how we all can continue to struggle to put these two words into action. And to imagine what our communities would be like if we did.

Participants in the project said "you know how they, [workers], talk about our communities needing capacity building well we reckon we've got something to say about workers capacity and how their capacity can be built” and that was the start of the kit.  To share some of the thinking, reflecting and struggles of workers and community members as they learnt together. And it invites others to think, reflect and change too.

The first Program Coordinator, the TU’s Julie Foreman said at the launch “I have learnt much from community members, volunteers and friends. I have learnt that the story of a community doesn't start when I or other workers enter a community, its history and development has gone before and will continue, I have learnt about the stereotypes and their real impact.  I have learnt that community work is about power -recognising it, owning it, analysing it and sharing it, I have learnt to ask not what can I teach but what can I learn. I have learnt about hope, generosity and resilience. I have learnt that if you truly want community change ask those most affected for the answers”.

So if you get a chance take a look at the publications, please do!

“Respect and Resilience: The story of the Animation Project 1998-2012”

“Being Real in Community Work: A community development training kit in the Animation tradition” 

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