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The Shift Project

"I think a big part of the Shift Project is also about educating the community that actually issues can happen to any of us and it's important that we do actually support each other."

Listen to Anne Goslett and Julie Wells from The Shift Project

The Shift Project, Byron Bay

Anne:  My name’s Anne Goslett. I’m the founder of The Shift Project in Byron Bay. 

Julie: And my name’s Julie Wells. I’m the Operations Manager and co-founder along with Anne. 

Anne: The program that we provide in our residential property is for women who are homeless or at risk of homeslessness.
The Northern Rivers actually has quite a low socio-economic population, and I don’t think people come here for the pay, people come here for the lifestyle, and there is only limited jobs in a community that’s based on tourism.

We have two houses, residential properties, side by side, and they can accommodate up to 5 women at a time. They all have a double bed,
they all have their own rooms and you know, beautiful linen provided because I think, you know, where you wake up in the morning can set your day up as to what that’s gonna look like. Julie and I have been working together for about 8 years, but in the last 3 years, given Covid and the natural disasters that have occurred, we’ve found that we’ve had to change the way we’ve been working, given that there is so many more people at need.

Julie: So how we started with The Linen Shift is we were approached by one of our colleagues who ran a 5 star Airbnb and said, “Would you mind doing some laundry for us?” and we thought, okay, let’s try that. We’ve got 6 commercial washing machines, 3 stack dryers, and we have 2 x 2 meter roller irons and 2 smaller roller irons, so the floor is full, we are at capacity space-wise, we’re fortunate enough to have a lease for 10 years, so we feel very comfortable with that. 

Anne: That’s been established now for three years, and we have been able to engage quite a few women who hadn’t been in the workforce for some time. We offer shifts between 9:30 and 2:30 for Mum’s with children and also, you know, older ladies who have had some difficulty in the employment circuit so that they can actually feel much more stable within themselves and gain access to our financial coach who helps them establish their finances moving forward.

Julie: What we try and do with The Linen Shift is, it’s not to have people there permanently with us. What we really wanna do is get them job ready. So we work with their resumes, we work with, as Anne said, some financial coaching. So if they wanna stay longer, fine, but it’s finite for us because our aim is to help them reintegrate back into society. So we keep that same philosophy happening in linen as well as in The Shift Project. Most people have had some kind of a trauma in their lives, and really it is about rebuilding. Rebuilding their own sense of resources that they have, that they’ve just hidden somewhere because of a whole series of unfortunate events and very little support.

And one of the things I watch Anne doing as she works much more with the women than I do, is she walks beside them constantly. So when someone comes in, she may be doing things, as do the staff, doing things for them. And then she’ll start doing things with them. And then she’ll start doing things behind them. And then she’ll say, you’re on your own, but I’m here if you need me. 

And so we really are supporting people’s knowledge and life experience, if you like to integrate back into them so they find their own ground in their own space. And I watch Anne and the staff do that just magnificently. 

Anne: So we’re really trying to get them to look at what self-care looks like and how that actually impacts the way they think about the world and how their day can move forward. So the mental health part of it is incredibly important. When they come to the program, they’ve been holding themselves up usually for quite a long time. They’ve been unsafe, they’ve often been in traumatic circumstances, they’ve had loss of connection with family and friends. So what we’re providing is a space for them to rest and, and feel cared for, which allows them to actually rejig and look at their mindsets, remember who they are. And that’s when we start to ask them, what did you dream about? And are those dreams still a reality? And once those dreams come to the forefront, we try and give them a taste of that. So one example would be a lady that came who was an artist in another life. So we organized for an art teacher to come and spend some time with her. And then over time, we then paid for her to attend a college for 5 weeks just to see if this was still a spark in her. As it turns out, she has then done a 2 year program and was in university doing fine arts. So that was an opportunity for her to remember who she was. Was it still a skill that she wanted to build on? And was it something she wanted to further her life in and then that we were able to give that opportunity?

Julie: What I love is listening to you talk about this when you talk about the women, your whole demeanor changes. When you talk about the project, it’s like (grunts) and that, that says a lot. I think, that says you work beside these women and, and believe in them. I love how she does home, that’s probably one of the reasons I do the program.

Anne: One of the results of the last few years is that we’ve actually been doing a whole lot more Outreach. So we’ve been working out in the community and been working with some of the landlords to subsidise rent to allow some of the families to remain independent with the support of us around them. But living out in the community and, and functioning well. Outreach now has become incredibly enormous and plus the social enterprise side of things as well. So we’ve sort of got three different compartments now. 

Julie: That’s how actually we’ve kept with our philosophy and managed to look after everybody across the community just like that, with the Outreach. 

Anne: In 35 years as a community worker, I start to feel as hopeless as the clients who are coming in because I have no resources to change the situation. And what I was experiencing was that revolving door, seeing the same faces, but each time they came in, they were probably in a worse situation. I guess one of the criticisms that we have been dealing with is that we don’t deal with large numbers. However, our outcomes far outweigh any, any outcomes that I’ve achieved in 35 years. 

Julie: I was talking to one of the girls last week and we were reminiscing on how far she’s come, and I said, so what do you think’s really changed? And she said, “You know, the best thing for me is I’ve got friends, really genuine friends”. 

Anne: What’s so lovely is that, you know, now we have women ringing us and letting us know where they’re at. They’re coming to Byron for a visit. Can they drop by? You see them in the street, you know, it isn’t necessarily that we need to say, we know you because you’ve been in welfare. We know you because we’ve had fun together and we can wave across the road that there’s a familiar face there. 

Julie: So we believe that this is a community issue. As an example, yesterday, the CWA (Country Women’s Association) are people that have been just deliciously supporting us. The Bangalow CWA – baking cakes, and coming along and helping us iron when we first started up the laundry. And yesterday happened to be their Christmas party, and so we do the waitressing of it and it’s just so gorgeous to serve the people that have been serving us. And I think that is a really great example of hopes really, is let’s get this community to do whatever they can that is non-painful for them. Like, we can do this so easily, it doesn’t have to be “a problem that I need to fix”. It can be a part of our normal everyday life really. And for me to be able to step further and further out, like really setting up the systems and the procedures and the policy so Shift is a legacy that we, Anne and I can step out and supervise and mentor and really do what we are good at doing. 

Anne: And I think a big part of The Shift Project is also about educating the community that actually issues can happen to any of us and it’s important that we actually do support each other.


"What motivates me now is I've seen some impact or influence, or change in young people's lives that I've been connected with."

Content warning: this audio describes a case of domestic abuse including physical violence.

Listen to Paul Ireland and Jill Ashley from ShoreTrack

ShoreTrack, Macksville


Paul:  My name’s Paul Ireland. I’m otherwise known as Fatty as I’m a chubby guy. I’m the co-founder of ShoreTrack, and we’re in the Nambucca Valley. My background is policing. From there, I developed a bit of a connection with young people. When I was in the police, I always then sort of believed these kids have been born into this environment, they haven’t chosen this, so we’ve got to try and intervene somehow to make that kid smile or just to know that somebody’s got his back or got their back. I always had that real sort of soft spot, I suppose you’d say.


I realised when I had a connection when I was out west in the police, was a moment that we turned up at this incident where a young mother had been bashed to a pulp basically, and she’s laying in the gutter and we just wrestled with the offender, just got him into the back of the truck and the child of those two people were standing there looking up at me. I’ve got, you know, half ripped shirt and a bit of blood all over me and Mum’s there, the ambulance are treating her and this little fella’s in the nappies and you know, probably 3 or 4 years old and said, “What’s your name?” and I’ve just gone, well, there’s no use telling a child like that Senior Constable Ireland, so I just said “Fatty”. And just seeing the look on that little fella’s face, I’ve just gone, I’ve got you. And so I’ve always used that as a bit of a connection, it sort of disarms people a bit, but they, they always remember my name, like, so it’s easy.


What motivates me now is I’ve seen some impact, I suppose you’d call it, or influence or, or change in, in young people’s lives that I’ve been connected with and when they’re sending you messages and, and they sign the message at the end of it, “love you Fat”, you know, you know that you’re, that you’re doing something right for that person and that they value your relationship, so. And I am an absolute souk, so I’ll always do something for that kid or that young person you know.


What I’m seeing in the kids? Like their physically – I’m seeing eye contact, I’m seeing their chin up, you know, they’ve, they’ve got a bit of pride in themselves. You know, we start to talk about jobs, and they start to go “Me? Why do I have to talk about a job?” And we go, wow, you know, we’re, we’re trying to build this independent being. So to do that you’ve gotta be able to support yourself mate. And they’ve never had those sort of conversations or goals or anything. They go, “Wow, you know, I could, I could do this”. And a little bit of belief in themselves and, you know, you develop those aspirations.


We do have a high incidence of disadvantage in our region, even though it is beautiful, but we know on Instagram, you know, something can look pretty, but underneath there’s a lot of trouble sometimes. For me, for the kids, my hopes and dreams for them would be that people recognise them as great, valued members of the community.


My big dream is to go, “Wow, I love this place, because it’s a community”. For that to happen, it’s everybody’s pitching in, everybody’s doing something, and hopefully ShoreTrack’s right at the guts of that. 


Jill: Jill Ashley, Business Manager and one of the co-founders of ShoreTrack. My past employment history was at TAFE where I worked with young people.


Macksville is located in the Nambucca Valley and the Nambucca Valley was identified in the Vincent Report as one of the eight most disadvantaged communities in New South Wales. We have the second highest rates of youth unemployment, and we have 5 times the state average of youth violence. Nambucca High School, 40% of their parents are unemployed. There’s the other social justice issues around mental health and drug and alcohol and domestic violence and homelessness compounded by lack of internet, lack of transport. So a lot of the issues are generational and really to address those issues, we need to provide our young people with a learning opportunity that’s different to one that they don’t engage in, and potentially their parents didn’t either.


So we were approached by someone from, from Backtrack, and they’d sort of identified the same need as us as a lot of young people who were leaving school, who were disengaged from any sort of training or employment, so we thought we’d have a go at starting up a charity. With that in mind, we ended up volunteering for a year and putting a fair bit of our own money into getting ourselves started, but we soon gathered support from our community, which was really heartwarming at the time, it really helped us keep going, that there were so many people who liked our vision, you know, who liked the idea of, of helping our young people. And it’s interesting because a lot of tradespeople see themselves in that model. They also were young people who didn’t like sitting and learning. They liked hands-on learning.


So we realised that a really good model would be about enabling kids to keep on learning, but around really hands-on skills that were in demand in the community. It’s really interesting because once you start developing your skills, you see that you’re actually good at something, how your self-confidence grows and how good you feel about yourself and how much happier you are and prepared to help others.


So one of our young people got his L’s today and he was ecstatic because he’s probably tried 4 or 5 times. But then I saw him talking to another young fellow who, you know, is not generally in his social circles, but he was telling him how good his work was. He’d made something out of timber, and he was saying how good that was.


So he was feeling good about himself and just sharing that feeling, which was really lovely. So our goal is to find a bigger premises where we have the opportunity to deliver what we are delivering now, which is trade skills. We’re building in the creative skills around movie making and podcasting. The girls really want beauty and wellbeing, and so we’d like to have a place where that could all happen. But in the meantime, we’re providing the projects based learning model, which means we focus on that young person’s passion, and they can still get that ROSA (Record of School Achievement), you know, the world’s their oyster really.

Housing Matters Action Group

"We realised in about November of 2020 that we were no longer just dealing with housing stress, we were dealing with a housing crisis."

Listen to Emma Belcher and Kerry Pearse from the Housing Matters Action Group

Housing Matters Action Group, Bellingen

Emma:  Emma Belcher. 


Kerry: And I’m Kerry Pearse


Emma: Housing Matters Action Group. 


Kerry: In Bellingen


Emma: New South Wales. A long time ago, I actually tried to avoid housing because I could see that it was such a complicated area. You know, this is sometimes frustratingly slow work, but we can point to things where we’ve got – the aged care facility that is getting turned into affordable units. And that has been a long process. It’s been about four years, but they’re literally demolishing it as we speak. So next year they’ll be building that and so 40 affordable units in a town this size is a really big difference. 


Kerry: And that’s been a really big project for us. And we are only one of the players, but I’m absolutely certain that without us, it probably wouldn’t have gone ahead. And that was about relationship building and trust and working things through with council, with the Freemasons, with the state government and the federal government. 


Emma: And then we’ve got more exciting longer term things like the Community Land Trust, which is potentially a game changer locally in terms of perpetually affordable housing, but is a game changer potentially nationally as a new housing model that could have houses that are linked to local wages. We’ve also been talking with private developers who are changing what they thought was possible, and including affordable rentals or smaller units, more diversity in the sizes of what they’re building.


Kerry: It was 2017 when we started. We talked about housing stress. We were seeing the signs of a train wreck and we were trying to intervene and help mobilise the community and people to do what we could to sort of stop that train. And then during Covid, things really ramped up and there was this big migration of people from the cities and real estate prices increased really rapidly. We realised in about November of 2020 that we were no longer just dealing with housing stress. We were dealing with a housing crisis. And that month, I remember conversations with the real estate agent that has the biggest rent roll here, where they had had to terminate the lease on 7 families because landlords decided to live here. That real estate agent didn’t have anything else on their rent roll to rehouse those people. And a number of those families left the region entirely cause they couldn’t get housing. 


Emma: The thing that I find interesting about the work that we do is that we combine place-based solutions with system change. So find solutions that are achievable and applicable locally of what’s gonna meet the unmet housing needs, and what can we do as a community to activate things now while also saying this is the things that need to change in the system and how can we try and get levels of government or organisations to pull the levers that they have access to that the community doesn’t.


Kerry: We’re starting to see some change. It’s been a long time coming. This is hard and complex work, and it’s long haul. We’re piloting the ‘Community hosting program’. We’ve had probably more than 10 people in the last 2 months say “I’m interested in learning more about this, would my situation be appropriate for someone”, you know, a lodger to come in?


I came from a meeting earlier today with a local woman who, with our help, has been able to secure what looks like is going to be a pretty safe, livable place to call home as a result of that initiative.


Emma: We’re in Bellingen and it’s a really sort of high amenity regional area, so there’s a lot of people who wanna live here, a lot of people who have been moving to the area, but it’s also quite a low income earning area and a really diverse community that a lot of it has been farmers, we’ve got an aging population, we’ve got a lot of creative folks who might be in and out of work or on low incomes, and so we’ve got people who can afford really high house prices, and then people who are getting pushed more and more into the margins. We often have rental vacancies where there’s one vacant rental in the Shire, which is, you know, 0.1%, and we know that we need at least three, if not 10% vacancy rates.


It used to be that, you know, our young people would live in sheds for a few years, whereas now we hear families and, you know, even people in really well paid jobs, go, “I’ve secured a shed!”, which is, you know, that’s, that’s not how the housing conversation is supposed to be.


Kerry: From the get go, the colonisers did the big land grab. Aboriginal people never ceded the land. And so there’s this historical context around land and housing that from the beginning of this, colonised history has always been really vexed. More and more people are experiencing precarious housing. In fact, for First Nations people, that has been the case since the first fleet and in many countries around this planet, that’s been the case for indigenous peoples.


The dream would be that as a society, we would come up with a much fairer and just form of economy that enabled housing to get back to first principles, which is, it’s a basic, fundamental human right, not a commodity that’s about wealth creation. Within our current economic structures and political structures, we need to find ways to create a much broader form of different housing solutions, finding new models and finding new ways – things like shared ownership and co-ownership and co-housing. It’s a little bit concentrated here because we’re a small regional area and we don’t have the range of options that bigger places have, but it’s representative of a system that’s really, truly broken nationally. 


Emma: If your mental health isn’t good, or if you are trying to find work, or trying to engage in education, if you haven’t got a stable home, then all of those things are so much harder. In personal life and in professional life, you know, you just can’t get away from it, people need somewhere to live.

Northern Rivers Community Foundation

"One of the roles we saw that sort of organically arose during the floods was one of that support, response and resilience function for the community."

Listen to Sam Henderson, CEO of the Northern Rivers Community Foundation

Northern Rivers Community Foundation

Sam Henderson, Northern Rivers Community Foundation. I’ve just joined the foundation, so I’m pretty new at 5 months. I’ve seen the way that the foundation has worked closely and connectedly with communities, and that they really believe at their core in place-based solutions. Which in plain English I’d just say is the community know what their problems are and they often know how to fix them. It’s often just the resources or some external factor that maybe stops that happening. So that’s why I’ve been drawn here after working in government, in policy and also the not-for-profit sector. I can see how sometimes that community connection gets lost a little bit.


The community foundation have been really embedded in this community for about 20 years. Traditionally, the foundation’s been involved in working with generosity and donors and then distributing that in grants for social impact. So our tagline is ‘We help you help others’, and that pretty much captures what we do.


It’s a bit of a two world situation in the Northern Rivers, there is this incredible wealth in many ways, natural wealth, environmental wealth, generosity of human spirit, and there’s also high net worth and that kind of wealth. But there’s also incredible pockets of disadvantage that not everybody sees or knows about. Some of our socioeconomic rates are some of the lowest in New South Wales and amongst those in Australia. So there’s definitely work to be done there trying to connect that and balance that a little bit more. 


One of the roles we saw that sort of organically arose during the floods was one of that support, response and resilience function for the community. So that was a new role for us, one we want to explore where with a lot of donor support and community support, we were able to raise and distribute, you know, well over a million dollars immediately to a lot of the groups and we’re talking there, small grants of $10,000 or so, but it had this wellbeing quotient where in receiving the money, they actually felt like they were supported by someone. What we were hearing is the government, if not abandoned, then at least wasn’t listening to what their needs were. 


We need to work not so much for resilience, which is important, but we’re starting to have conversations about how do we regenerate this community, this society in a different way that’s going to be adaptive for these future disasters that will be coming, but also maintain that sort of strong sense of community and grow the equality that we sort of naturally aim towards in the northern rivers.


In this region there obviously has been many issues around housing affordability, many issues around a lack of adequate stock, a lack of different stock, and so that means people are having to take less than desirable options. So that might be couch surfing or living in cars, they end up in really marginal and very short term options that doesn’t allow them to, I guess if you like, put down roots, you know, children thrive in a community that they know with consistency, et cetera.


So there’s all of these long-term impacts that we’re starting to see here from people not being able to build a home for themselves and, and find that sense of safety. So I think that does influence my work and I can’t believe in a country as well resourced as Australia, that we can’t figure out solutions or things that work within this market to provide such a basic need. There’s some real top systems level work that has to happen to make sure that everybody gets that. I think in the interim, you know, we have to do what we can on the ground to provide some kind of security and stability for individuals, families, children. 


I think everybody that lives here is born here or moves here, understands that this is quite a special environment, it’s a special community or communities I should say. And I think the foundation and the direction we’re going can have a role to pull those different people together. I think in terms of climate change and future disasters, having a strong social fabric that naturally responds to help people is critical and I think that’s lost a bit of focus with a focus on technical solutions, you know, should we raise houses, should we move houses, should we build dams? And we need to look more at the social fabric question. Which ultimately is where our capacity to be resilient. Our capacity is to support each other and our capacity to bounce back comes from.


So if the foundation can play a role there with our, with our donors and the organizations we work with, and that’ll be, that’ll be a pretty great outcome for me.


They all matter.

We know that evidence comes in many forms and we value the wisdom of the community as much as academic research and data. We want to find out what works and support the people who are doing it best, as well as the radical innovators who are shaking things up.

We are committed to continuous learning but we also know when to defer to others. We work with exceptional people who are excellent at what they do – and then help them do it.