The Southern Peninsula Community Support and Information Centre (SPCSIC) in Rosebud acts as the first point of contact for community members, providing information, advocacy and support to 15,000 contacts per year. While the organisation has been around in various guises for over 40 years, its star began to rise in 2006 when Jackie Currie took to its helm as CEO.

Believing that working together is the most effective way to respond to challenging social issues, Jackie has driven a staggering 5-fold growth in SPCSIC’s community reach by developing deep partnerships with philanthropy, government and other services. Notably, over the last decade she has used these partnerships to turn the Shire’s annual $150,000 ‘emergency relief’ grant into more than $1M per annum.

With additional funds, the Centre is now able to provide much more than emergency relief to those who come to call. Knowing the need for food is a symptom of something much deeper and more complex, Jackie and her talented team have built a Centre that is responding more and more to these underlying causes by building relationships with clients, walking along at their pace and listening to their needs.

When Jackie took on the role of CEO a little more than a decade ago, she could see at a glance that if people were coming to SPCSIC, the organisation needed to do more in response, otherwise people would just kept cycling through the system, never able to get on top of the issues at the heart of their crises.

Part of the problem lay in the historical dearth of community services in Rosebud and the Southern Peninsula in general. Until recently there was no bulk billing doctor, for example, so people on very low incomes did not go. Having such behaviour embedded over years or even generations means not accessing health services is part of the local culture. And often services based in Dandenong or Frankston with outreach to the Southern Peninsula, struggle to gain traction in the local community.

SPCSIC, however, has remained a trusted local service for those in need. It is SPCSIC that people visit – more than 3,000 each year, with a third of these identifying as homeless. They come to access food and emergency relief including swags to sleep in, or vouchers for travel or utility payments, or simply a space to sit for a while and not feel the judgement of others.

MPF has been involved with SPCSIC since 2017, taking over from the involvement of George Hicks Foundation since 2014. We have seen the organisation grow in sophistication, capacity and impact, while still being predominantly volunteer run (Jackie has a team of nine paid staff plus about 60 volunteers).

Working alongside Jackie and her team has been a powerful opportunity for MPF to learn about the issues within this small community which has crazily high statistics including estimated homelessness ten times that national average and being the number one no-go zone for ambulance workers in the state of Victoria. We also see high rates of drug abuse and family violence and a concentration of social crises…all while 17 km up the road in Sorrento people enjoy sailing at the most wealthy sailing club in the whole of Australia.

 

Working together has helped inform us about the best ways to use our resources to respond to disadvantage in this area. Through a number of small to medium grants we’ve seen SPCSIC take more of a focus on homelessness, not by having the solutions, but by getting more deeply in touch with people who are homeless and working with them on what the solutions might be.

Through SPLASH (Southern Peninsula Laundry and Shower Program), with generous funding from our donors and a new dedicated worker operating two days a week, SPCSIC is connecting directly with people who do not connect to any services or quite likely, any one. They are meeting each week, offering food, a shower and clean clothes, creating a space to be heard.

Collaborating as much as possible with other services, SPCSIC is not sure where this will lead, but therein lies the value of philanthropic support – while they might suffer discomfort and all that goes with precarious funding (no ongoing government support other than the emergency relief fund) on the one hand, they have the unique ability to be nimble, try new things and boldly lead the way into uncharted territory.

Jackie and the SPCSIC team have measurably shifted the outlook for the Southern Peninsula community. We are excited to partner with them and look forward to building on the results of our early work towards more profound and sustainable change.