8 February 2021

Building an inclusive and vibrant community in the Molonglo Valley

| Jenny Kitchin
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Woden Community Service CEO Jenny Kitchin.

Woden Community Service CEO Jenny Kitchin. Photo: Supplied.

With approximately 10,000 residents, and an expectation to reach 56,000 in future decades, Molonglo Valley is one of the most rapidly growing regions in Canberra. While this expansion creates new dwellings for people, we need to ensure there are plenty of opportunities for residents to connect with others, making it a positive experience for everyone.

People moving into new developments can experience loneliness and isolation. This can be greater for those who are vulnerable – for example, those from non-English speaking backgrounds. Molonglo Valley has a high population of people where English is not their first language so guaranteeing inclusion and support for all vulnerable groups is paramount.

New developments often lack essential community services due to infrastructure lagging behind population growth. A lack of local services can leave people without connection, cohesion and access to essential support. The Molonglo Valley community faces this challenge, with no large shopping complex, library or community centre. There are few places where groups can meet, receive support and connect with others.

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For the past seven years, the ACT Government’s Suburban Land Agency (SLA) has led community development work in Wright and Coombs through the Mingle program. The program is winding back its presence in those suburbs and moving the program to Whitlam, a new suburb in Molonglo.

Woden Community Service (WCS) is working with Mingle to support the community development in all Molonglo Valley suburbs. Community agencies are vital in bringing people together, and this community/government partnership has helped build a strong community presence in the area.

Parents and carers participating in Paint and Play day at Molonglo Valley.

Woden Community Service holds ‘Paint and Play’ for children up to five years of age, and their parents or carers, at Stromlo Cottage. Photo: Georgy Mathews.

Through our family support, youth work and community development activities, we are coming to understand the needs of a new community. We are hearing from residents about events they want, their desired locations for community spaces to bring people together, and services they need most. However, reaching all community members can be difficult. We have overcome this in some way through delivering food parcels, having a friendly chat, welcoming new public housing residents with barbecues and coffee mornings, running ‘Paint and Play’ groups for children and families, and running twilight basketball for young people.

Youths playing basketball in the Molonglo Valley.

Woden Community Service runs youth basketball initiatives in the Molonglo Valley. Photo: Georgy Mathews.

These and many other activities have helped us to connect with people in Molonglo Valley. They allow us to listen to local voices about what is needed, and how we and government can best support this new community.

Now is the time to cement ongoing community development work in Molonglo Valley, making it sustainable into the future. We want to build a vibrant, inclusive community where everyone feels they belong.

Molonglo Valley resident Tutu Subeih.

Molonglo Valley resident Tutu Subeih is offering a series of classes called Around My Table at Charles Weston School in the coming weeks. Photo: Georgy Mathews.

I encourage all residents in the Molonglo Valley to get in touch and let us know what services you would like and how we can do this together.

You can contact Woden Community Service by email or on 02 6282 2644.

For more information on the sports activities or Around My Table cooking classes, email here.

For more information on the Paint and Play classes, email here.

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