What is Inner Sydney Regional Council?

4 September 2014 | Posted In: 122 – Spring 2014, Community Sector, Inner Sydney Voice – ISRCSD, | Author: Charmaine Jones

Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development has been working around South Sydney for 40 years. For old hands it is known from its history as ‘Marg Barry’s Mob’. For those not in the know the word Council wrongly elicits ideas of it being a local government body. Executive Officer Charmaine Jones provides an overview of the organisation and looks at what it has done over the last year.

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Established in 1974, Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development (ISRCSD, Inner Sydney Regional Council, Regional Council) staff and members have been involved in social justice,   environmental, civil rights, public service and community service issues since then. We achieve this by maintaining an active network of contacts with the community sector, interagencies, residents groups, environmentalists, councils, politicians, trade unionists, activists and public servants.

Regional Council has worked with and supported residents and community groups on issues and campaigns such as: better public transport, the sale of public housing, protection of the           community sector, opposition to overdevelopment and protection of historical and culturally             significant sites.

ISRCSD is a not-for-profit regional peak community organisation that works in the Inner Sydney and Eastern Suburbs region providing non-government organisations, not-for-profits, community groups and individuals with information, advocacy and support, and community development opportunities.

We advocate for and represent community organisations and residents to government and other relevant organisations. We also assist communities, organisations and individuals to take action to address their issues and needs. Community development philosophies underpin all of our activities. We believe in social justice, social inclusion and the participation and empowerment of local people.

ISRCSD operates three major funded projects

  • Information and Community Development – distributes information through brochures,     Inner Sydney Voice and a fortnightly eNews; provides training and sector support,                coordinates interagencies and facilitates projects that strengthen and build community capacity; funded by Family and Community Services NSW
  • Home and Community Care (HACC) Development  – provides support to existing services through the Eastern Sydney HACC Forum and looks at bigger picture issues such as the planning of services, identifying needs and liaising with other health and disability services; funded by Department of Social Services
  • Central Sydney North Tenant Participation Resource (TPRS) – supports, advocates and resources tenants and tenant groups through the provision of training in tenant participation and encourages opportunities for tenants to become involved in decision-making processes; funded by Family and Community Services NSW

In addition ISRCSD is a member of, participates in and works with, a number of state wide organisations representing and servicing the sector. This helps to provide a conduit between local communities and sector organisations.

You can get a flavour of what the organisation does by looking at its annual report. Here are some of the things ISRCSD has done in 2013-14.

2013 saw the announcement of Urban Activation Precincts (UAPs) which incorporated the proposed redevelopment of five of the larger public housing estates in the Anzac Parade South precinct within the Randwick LGA serviced by our Community Builders project. A UAP was also declared for Macquarie Park serviced by our TPRS project. This was followed quickly by the announcement of the CBD and Eastern Light Rail Project which goes through our area and the Central to Eveleigh project proposal.

At the same time, the NSW government had drafted a new planning bill on top of the Draft Metropolitan Strategy. The Minister at the time, Brad Hazzard promised the people of NSW‘ a visionary planning system that would enable the State’s necessary growth, guard against corruption, provide greater certainty and transparency and return planning powers to local communities.’ The Draft Metro Strategy and the planning bill had big implications for our area and proposed changes to local government flagged by the state government added another layer of complexity.

Each of these meant a quick upskilling in understanding of basic planning talk of ‘floor space ratios’ and ‘SEPPs’ for impacted communities. Assessing and facilitation of how best to ensure legitimate and respectful community engagement processes were followed so that communities had a chance to understand what was being proposed and have a say. We are keen to assist those communities likely to be affected with building their capacity to understand planning models and planning language, so when the time comes they are ready.

Building on what was an evident thirst within the community to better understand planning legislation and jargon, Regional Council, in partnership with Urban Planning and Policy group at the University of Sydney, and supported by the Department of Planning and Environment, ran a pilot Planning for Non-Planners workshop. The success of this event will see further roll out of the program.

The proposed sale of Millers Point Public Housing properties caught us off guard, as the community had been assured that the Social Impact Assessment would be discussed with them before any decision was made by Government. Our focus then had to be on ensuring the best possible outcomes for the shattered community and each individual person or family as they went through the transfer process.

ISRCSD worked with other organisations and tenants in Millers Point to raise some funds to employ a worker for a few months to assist the community in organising a response to the decision to remove public housing from Millers Point.

We dealt with all this while maintaining our usual business of supporting and resourcing community organisations, interagencies and the communities they support.

We undertook consultation with social housing tenants and community and local government workers to draw up a submission to the NSW Parliament’s Select Committee into Public and Social Housing, instigated by the auditor’s general report in to Social Housing, which pointed at a system in a crisis. We also consulted the tenants at Northcott Estate in Surry Hills about their concerns for the possible impacts of the light rail, during construction and in to the future, as the line, running up Devonshire Street, cuts  through the middle of the estate.

In December last year, we held our Partnerships, Mergers and Collaborations forum. This was driven by a prevailing sense that smaller organisations will not survive these times of economic rationalism. However real the threat is or isn’t, it makes good sense for all organisations whose resources are stretched to capacity to look at working collaboratively with like-minded agencies.

In August two ISRCSD board members and the Executive Office went to Melbourne to visit a diverse range of services. One of the more interesting was the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, a multi-jurisdictional court with a wide array of support services and community initiatives under the one roof. It is the only one of its type in Australia, combining a court with a variety of treatment and support services such as mediation, legal advice, employment and housing support, counselling and mental health services. It opened our eyes to the possibility of creating greater social and justice outcomes for those in Inner Sydney.  Our visit also included the colourful City of Melbourne’s Multicultural Hub, an exciting space full of different sized meeting spaces for community groups and agencies. I would love to see a similar space in Inner Sydney.

The year also saw us involved in discussions with Family and Community Services (FaCS) around its newly drafted funding deeds.  In an attempt to reduce red tape, FaCS  have organisations sign only one funding deed for Community Services programs, under which then sit the program level agreements.

We continued to provide support and resources to the various forums and interagencies we support, which cover an array of topics and themes. It is one of Regional Council’s more important roles – that of keeping across all the different slices of the sector, so as to build a picture of the whole pie. We also provided our usual compliment of training workshops – each adapted to the specific needs of a particular group.

In partnership with St Vincent’s hospital, and with funding provided by Mental Health Council of Australia, we convened the 4th Looking Forward, Looking Back mental health conference.  Our keynote speakers, Fincina Hopgood, who discussed portrayals of mental illness in the media, and Mahlie, who shared her story of her personal journey through the mental health system, gave us much food for thought. You can read Mahlie’s story in the Winter 2014 ISV.

Like many agencies, what we do is a product of the skills, dedication and support of our staff, interns, volunteers, members and board members. We also acknowledge our funders, Family and Community Services and the Department of Social Services, along with the City of Sydney who provides us with an accommodation grant.

You can find out more about ISRCSD from our website at www.innersydneyvoice.org.au or by contacting me on (02) 9698 7690 or by keeping up to date with our eNews. Information on membership can be found over the page and details of our Annual General Meeting can be found on page 4. Opportunities also exist for volunteers.

Charmaine Jones is the Executive Officer of Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development.

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