Advocating for Defence families

Gallipoli Barracks Community Centre Coordinator

We chatted to Vonnie (Siobhan) who has been the Coordinator at the Gallipoli Barracks Community Centre in Brisbane for the past four years.

How did you start here?

I had posted to Brisbane after being involved on various levels in my previous posting with the community and its activities. The job was advertised in the community centre Facebook group which I had joined pending my arrival to make connections for myself and my children.

I decided to throw my hat in the ring for the position. And the rest as they say is history.

What does your group mean to you?

I love being able to give back through my community centre. I feel like I have experienced a lot of the common Defence partner scenarios. Army partner, newly married into the Defence, new mum, deployment, mum to more than one child etc. I am currently living as MWDU (Member with Dependants Unaccompanied) and about to become the mum with all her children at school.

I can appreciate the need and worth of a community centre as I have sourced them out, through each stage of my military partner life, to varying degrees. From the odd occasions to head out and enjoy an evening with other partners, to weekly sessions to socialise my children and also to engage other adults during what can sometimes be an extremely lonely life.

I have met so many wonderful women along the way, who are still a big part of my life regardless of the fact we now live all over this beautiful country.

Is there an event/activity that you are particularly proud of because of how it connected our Defence family community?

Any event or program that engages our community is a proud moment. Regardless of numbers in attendance, if we can provide a safe place or outlet for just a handful of families through varying events then our job is done.

If I had to give you a recent highlight, it would be our ability to adapt and overcome unprecedented times during COVID to engage and support our community, both as a community centre and as a team working in collaboration with other coordinators and centres to host events on a bigger scale.

The national Defence Virtual Walk and the South East QLD trivia events are 2 amazing examples of centres doing what we love. Engaging the greater community.

Is there something you would like to say to others that are thinking of getting involved at a Community Centre?

Our community centres Australia wide, are driven by some of the most amazing and giving women I have ever met. Go in and see for yourself. Far too often I hear that people didn’t reach out to the community centre based on others opinions or experiences from many moons ago, or they thought it was just for playgroup.

If you don’t see a program that “fits” you then reach out to your coordinator and chat with them about what you would like to see or do.

Just because a program says it’s a Craft Morning does not mean that you cannot go in and make a coffee and chat to other adults. I have quite a few ladies who couldn’t craft to save themselves but will happily come in and have a coffee and chat to those who do love to craft and admire their work.

Love a baby cuddle and have your grandkids living far away? All your children grown up? Reach out to your coordinator about coming into a mums and bubs session. I know any mum with young children would love two hands for a coffee while someone else gushed over their baby! So, don’t be afraid to pop in and have a coffee regardless of your situation.

More often than not we think that the stage of Defence life we are in means we are excluded from particular activities. Everyone is welcome, the door is always open, we have a wealth of knowledge about the area and are here for everyone in our community to come and find a safe space to just be!

As our motto states, we are serving hearts, serving community!

Find your local Community Centre

Find out what’s on at Gallipoli Barracks Community Centre

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