Inspiration from Smith Street, Collingwood

On a drizzly, humid afternoon a few weeks back, thirteen Urban Seeders crammed into the 86 tram to visit the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre. This is a place that seeks to bring about holistic justice for the people of Collingwood – particularly people who normally feel marginalised by the law. 

Hieng (a lawyer) and Maree (a police consultant) hosted us and we sat around a table sharing stories of what each of our organisations do.

Hieng and Maree told us a story about how they worked with the local community to bring about peace in what had once been a place of conflict. The Smith Street area is a traditional meeting place for members of the Stolen Generation, who come from all across Australia to re-connect there. So there are lots of Indigenous people who spend time on this street. Other users include residents, traders and, of course, police. Relationships between the different parties were extremely fraud and conflicted. People generally only cared about their own needs.

Hieng and Maree realised early on that if anything was to change, it would be through relationships. They worked to get to know the different parties, and to help them to get to know each other. Each of the groups began to understand how their behaviour was affecting the other. Gradually people came to respect one another.

Now the police know and refer to people by name, while the local Indigenous community keep their visitors in line to help maintain the peace. Residents and traders and more understanding of the needs of others. The end result was a wonderful community Indigenous festival.

“It didn’t matter what we tried, it worked – because there was a relationship,” observed Hieng.

Some Urban Seeders connected personally with the area and issues. Others discussed ways for services to better work together to improve outcomes for communities.  We all felt welcomed and inspired.  Thanks Andreana for organising this event for Urban Seed and may it bear fruit in us all.