On 16 August 1976 at the Friends’ Meeting House in Turner, a meeting of local residents, volunteers and church groups established a community service organisation that would serve the North Canberra community. Ten people were elected to the committee and seventeen volunteers registered on the night. Northside Community Service was born.
From small beginnings, Northside has grown to become a regional community service providing early childhood services, care and support for aged people or people living with disabilities and their carers, community housing, support to escape domestic violence, youth and family services and numerous community development initiatives.
The first eight years of operation were brave ones, built around the strength and commitment of a small group of volunteers. The Service operated from a spare room in Win Townsend’s home, with Win and local residents Norma I’Anson, Ines Prior, Ann Moffatt and Daphne Campbell playing a central role in those early days. Various church groups in North Canberra contributed funds and a grant was received from the Community Chest. Win was employed for 20 hours per week.
In January 1984 Northside moved to the Griffin Centre, then to the Dickson Health Centre. Jillian Grant was appointed as the inaugural Executive Director and was the first person to be employed on a full time basis. Jillian and a part time assistant inherited a shoebox full of client cards and another smaller box containing the names of volunteers. They shared a desk, two chairs and a telephone. They had a budget of $7,000.00 and no guarantee of employment after six months. In May 1984 Northside received a Caltex Award worth several thousand dollars to conduct holiday camps for young disadvantaged children. This was the first of many exciting new programs to be piloted by Northside Community Service.
In 1985 the Home and Community Care Program was introduced and, due to the high number of frail aged people in North Canberra, many submissions for grants were written. The Fruit and Vegetable Cooperative was our first success, commencing in September 1985 with nine clients. The Special Care Transport Service was another Northside initiative that has since been repeated throughout Canberra. Northside continues to provide transport to many different client groups across the ACT.
In 1987, after a brief stint at the Hackett Primary School, Northside Community Service took on the management of the Corroboree Park Community Centre. Northside thrived at Corroboree Park, starting a youth program and expanding community programs, vacation care and respite groups. The move signalled a period of growth for the organisation, and in 1988 NCS took responsibility for the Bega Flats Support Room, the Condamine Court Community Room and the Support Rooms at the Aged Person Units in Braddon and Reid. Another major expansion in children’s services was the acquisition of the Civic Occasional Childcare Centre, now known as Civic Early Childhood Centre.
Finally in 1990, Northside found a permanent home at the purpose built Majura Community Centre. Within months of the opening of the Majura Centre and the Majura Occasional Care Centre, we commenced the Transit Flats Program for women escaping domestic violence. This program has continued throughout the life of the organisation, and is now known as Northside Women’s Supported Accommodation Program.
In 1993, Northside won the tender to commence and develop the new Gungahlin Regional Community Service. Developing a service in this new and developing area where there were few, if any, amenities was certainly a challenge. In July 1997 Gungahlin Regional Community Service became separately incorporated. Northside’s success in developing the organisation won us the Gold Certificate for Excellence from the Australian Non Profit Association.
In recent times the introduction of competitive tendering has provided many opportunities and some challenges, however Northside continues to grow and change with the times while still maintaining the reputation of exceptional services, supporting people to improve their lives.
Northside plays an active role in the North Canberra Community with staff and volunteers forming a well-trained professional team and striving for excellence in their work. They actively promote the rights of the people of North Canberra and continue to provide quality services that meet the needs of the community.