The community care work at All Saints’, Nowra is receiving a major boost through a new partnership with Anglicare, which will see a range of services offered onsite to support those in the area who are struggling.

The surprising contrast Nowra is built on

The town is surrounded by beauty – bush, beaches, riverland, farms and national parks – but Nowra rector the Rev Geoff Thompson says that under the surface there are many who are doing it tough.

“Nowra is an enigma,” he says. “There’s a great coffee culture and the area has amazing natural beauty, but there are also a whole range of social problems – such as high youth unemployment, domestic violence and ice addiction.

"Nowra is an enigma"

“Thirty years ago this was a country town, a regional town, but now there’s no industry for modern kids to go into… Like most country towns it suddenly grew, and then it outgrew its own social clothes.”

The emergency relief ministry has existed for 25 years

For more than 25 years the parish has had an emergency relief ministry in response to the homelessness and poverty growing up around it. Mr Thompson says those involved in this ministry have served “so faithfully – and they’re still serving” but adds that – from a governmental perspective – “the landscape of how to serve the homeless community has changed”.

"the landscape has changed" 

Enter Anglicare. The organisation already has a busy local ministry, including a shop and a range of support services. However, it will soon be linked with All Saints’ in a more concrete way, running many of these services out of a former rectory on the church property.

Teresa Clark, Anglicare’s head of food and financial assistance, says, “We’re helping the church with donated food, so that they’re able to provide food parcels directly out to the community. And we’ll also be supporting with material aid, so that people who are in crisis situations, we can support them with things like rent arrears, removalists, limited white goods – that sort of thing… We can refer out to other agencies but also provide some of that material assistance as well.”

Long term health and financial counselling

Anglicare will have a case worker in its new location, helping locals on a longer-term basis, and will continue to offer no-interest loans to the community as well as financial counselling.

“We’ve never been able to do financial counselling in the community before so it’s very exciting to be able to provide that now,” she says. “The counsellors will be working with people who have debt issues to try and find holistic solutions. They advocate and try and work out payment plans with suppliers and providers, but also they advocate to get debt written off when they can.”

"They will help find holistic solutions" 

Dianne Hilliar, Anglicare’s partnerships development officer for the Wollongong Region, says these closer links with parishes helps them to do more for their local community.

“We help people of all faiths and creeds and backgrounds, she says. “By coming alongside churches and helping augment what they can do, we’re just enabling them to serve the community better – and we are honouring Jesus.”

The All Saints’ community is banding together to help raise the $100,000 or so that will be needed to renovate the former rectory for its new role.

Says Mr Thompson: “We asked the congregation if they were behind this, people have made pledges and we’re about to lodge a development application. We’ll need to borrow as well but it’s a very exciting time for our church. 

“In this kind of environment among the socially challenged this is an important expression of compassion. Not just our compassion but God’s compassion through us.”

"God's compassion through us"