Belinda’s on a mission

Belinda’s on a mission

BELINDA Clarke, the engaging new face at the helm of CatholicCare’s Social Impact Project, shines a bright light on life. Her energy is reflected in her dress sense – on the day we met she wore an emerald green cape, navy skirt and red shoes. She was the director of mission at Calvary for six years and recently was appointed director of the Social Impact Project. Belinda works out of CatholicCare’s headquarters in New Town and much of her focus will be on Brighton municipality. “There is significant and entrenched disadvantage in this area,” she said. “There is also significant community spirit and engagement.” Belinda’s new role is to support Catholic and other agencies in their work together.

“In the Catholic community in Brighton some of the Catholic works are Centacare Evolve Housing, which includes the Community Development and Engagement Reference Group, CatholicCare, Vinnies, with its Loui’s Van(which supplies mobile meals to community members), St Paul’s parish and St Paul’s Primary School.” Housing Tasmania has transferred leases on just over 1000 homes in Brighton municipality to Centacare Evolve Housing under the Better Housing Futures program. Centacare Evolve Housing has also made a commitment to build more houses in the next 10 years, with more than 40 already built. Around 400 homes are also encompassed in the Affordable Housing program. One of the aims of the Social Impact Project is to look at how the people living in these homes are supported. “The Social Impact Program is starting in the Catholic space and then we aim to develop our work in the broader community,” Belinda said. “We will talk to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and others – we should all aim to be on the same wavelength. “There are so many community services – how can we best work together? “I know this is a view shared by the other services who, like us, are looking at ways to harness collective energy.”

“I’m a mother and a career lady,” Belinda Clarke said with a smile. Indeed she is: two young daughters and an exciting new role with CatholicCare. The 41-year-old grew up in Sydney and was educated by the Mercy Sisters at Our
Lady of Mercy Parramatta, the University of Sydney and Australian Catholic University. She studied religion, theology, geography and teaching, finishing her tertiary studies with a masters degree in educational leadership.
Her husband Andrew teaches religion and English in Hobart. He gave up a lucrative stockbroking career one month after they married because, like Belinda, he realised he had a social commitment to education.

When Belinda first came to Brighton municipality she went to a Brighton Alive! monthly meeting. This collective of organisations and community members aims to enhance the lives of residents in the municipality. Information is shared, partnerships are developed, services are coordinated and opportunities are pursued. Belinda said: “For me this collaboration and networking was a critical piece in the community puzzle. The other critical piece is listening to what the community says and nourishing ideas from the community. “Sheryl Rainbird, who is the community engagement officer at Centacare Evolve Housing, has already been working really effectively in this space. “We have a real challenge to work with the community to enhance the lives of all people and particularly the most vulnerable. The key is collaboration, not who’s in charge. “We must seek to get leverage of each other. How do we connect housing with pregnancy programs, emergency shelters for women and young people, schools, parishes, childhood programs and other community issues?

Belinda Clarke, new head of the CatholicCare Social Impact Project. “How we nurture the wellbeing of our young people is a key priority and I already have seen the amazing hands-on work done at the local PCYC, St Paul’s Primary School and tagari lia Child and Family Centre. “There is a lot of stigma for areas of the community. We should be celebrating the community and in turn look outwards towards the greater Hobart and Tasmanian communities. “We want our kids to be connected. Communities are organic – how do we grow? You nourish what’s working. We’re scoping the new program and I would be delighted to hear ideas from members of the community.” Belinda can be emailed at belinda.clarke@aohtas.org.au

Words by JOHN HALL for Brighton Community Newspaper.