Tell us about your experience in the sector?

When I emigrated from South Africa, I applied for a job in a neighbourhood house having no idea what they did. My wonderful colleagues and community at Port Phillip Community Group taught me about the sector, the local history and Australian social policy, and I learned about Australia through the lens of community. My second neighbourhood house experience was in remote WA where the history – we were located on a site with a terrible history for local Aboriginal people – played a critical role in how the different sectors across the community engaged with us. I am very proud of the shifts we made over the four years I was there.

What makes being part of the neighbourhood house sector so special?

My experience in St Kilda was fundamentally different from my experience in Broome, and I realised how remarkable neighbourhood houses are in their ability to respond to local community demographics, history, interests and identity. I also love that neighbourhood houses can’t be boxed into a silo. We recognise that people are more than the sum of their housing, income and family circumstance, and we engage with them as whole people. And most of all, I have met some of the most remarkable people in the world through neighbourhood houses. 

What do you hope to achieve in your time on the NHVic Board?

Two things – I want to contribute to seeing NHVic flourish as an organisation that is responsive, accountable and an effective voice for the sector. I also want to contribute to building our future through working collaboratively on a strategic plan that is brave and considered. The change and uncertainty of the pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to reflect on the nature of our sector, and the ways we add value to our community.

What passions or interests take up your spare time?

I am keenly interested in current affairs and the history that shapes them, including our colonial history in Australia and Africa. I read and (in the olden days pre-COVID) traveled extensively to understand this impact of history on culture and life. Increasingly, this interest is underpinned by my concern for the environment and the need for action on climate change.

I also love doing things that nurture – cooking and gardening. I am an enthusiastic cook and love throwing together a meal for friends. More recently, I have been overcome by the joy of gardening as I coax my new garden from the mass of ivy and brambles it was two years ago.

Tell us a quote that inspires the work you do?

The African concept of Ubuntu was described by Nelson Mandela. “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” or “I am, because you are” is how we describe the meaning of Ubuntu.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu elaborated on the concept saying:

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world,” he said. “When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity." – TRC 1996

“Ubuntu … speaks of the very essence of being human….It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.” – Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness.