Happy 40th birthday Banksia Gardens Community Services

I’ve always thought of Banksia Gardens as a fixture in Broadmeadows, one of the pulse points of the local community. The team at Banksia Gardens know what’s going on in Broady – who is missing out, who needs a hand, and what the issues are that are of concern to all the different communities that make up this vibrant neighbourhood. Now I know how old you are, I guess this is no surprise.

 Above: At the Banskia Gardens Community Services morning tea.

I have been the Federal Member for Calwell since 2001 – 18 years so far, which in the scheme of modern day politics is not too bad a record. But I’m a mere newcomer by comparison with this organisation. Banksia Gardens Neighbourhood House, as it was originally known, had already been serving the local community for 22 years when I was first elected.

We’ve all changed a lot in the last forty years. Broadmeadows has certainly changed, from a suburb right on the outer fringe of northern Melbourne to an almost-inner city hub with enormous urban growth spreading out some thirty kilometres north. From a community largely dependent on heavy manufacturing industry for jobs, and indeed for community life, we have seen the economic landscape change dramatically. Thousands of traditional jobs have disappeared, and change as we know is not always kind to everyone.

L-R: Cr Carly Moore, Mayor Hume City Council; Frank McGuire MP; Ros Spence MP; Ben Carroll MP; Maria Vamvakinou MP; Gina Douggall, CEO, Banksia Gardens Community Services; Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon, Deputy CEO, Banksia Gardens Community Services; and Richard Wynne MP. 

Broadmeadows is still home to the latest waves of migration, although our newest communities come from a different set of birthplaces, speak many different languages and practice different faiths from those that were predominant in 1979. Many of the social and economic issues that we face as a community have changed, with the advent of the internet, smart phones, new threats to the health and safety of our young people, and different ways of learning and working.

And yet, many of the issues also remain the same. After all, we are still human, and at the heart of what matters most to us is our family, our health, our friendships, whether we have shelter, food, security and love. Banksia Gardens still supports our community in these most basic of human pursuits.

Yet, Banksia Gardens has changed as well. Starting life as a small association for the residents of the Banksia Gardens Housing Estate, it is now one of the driving forces in this suburb and well beyond it, for social change, research-based action, innovation and a buzzing hive of activity.

Working to empower people, and to tackle the root causes of disadvantage and injustice is very much a legacy of this organisation’s origins. Yet what this has now evolved into is truly inspiring – programs such as:

• the Youth Justice Partnership;

• Project REAL and the fledgling Northern Centre for Excellence, which promotes trauma informed practice, and works with local schools to re-engage young people in education;

• the GPAN program which gives young people the tools to challenge gender stereotypes and violence against women; and,

• Aiming High and the Study Group Program, which support young people at different stages and levels of school in a way that tries to maximise their potential.

These, and the many other programs that run out of the little (but growing) complex on Pearcedale Parade, as well as at Kenley Court in Meadow Heights, are a far cry from the things that were going on in 1979. And yet they have grown out of the roots that were planted by those earlier Banksia pioneers, some of whom are here with us today.
I want to acknowledge and thank those pioneers, for helping to build this wonderful and energetic organisation that we have today.

Happy birthday Banksia Gardens!