Here to help

MANAGER Wayne Williams wants people to know the Burrunju Community Support Service isn't just there to help the Indigenous community but the wider community as well.

Nestled in Crawford Street, right next to Pizza Hut, Mr Williams said many don't realise the service is available to everyone.

Some of the confusion stems from the service originally catering for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community but it's now changed to be inclusive of everyone.

"At first, people are curious, thinking 'is this an Aboriginal Art Gallery? Do they only help Aboriginals?'. For the first 18 months, people from all nationalities were popping in their heads asking 'Hello, do you help only Aboriginals?'. I said 'No, not at all. Come on in, how can I help you?'," Mr Williams said.

"The surprise on their face after giving them a guided tour, we let them use our services and access our facilities. They go to reach in their wallets and I question them, 'What are you doing? This is a government-paid free service.

"Their eyes light right up, their jaws hit the floor. 'Wow that's great," they say 'I'll be coming back'. I tell them 'Please do and tell your friends!'"

Burrunju is a referral and support service to people that may need assistance with various agencies like Centrelink, the Department of Housing, Jobclubs, social services and churches. They can also act as advocates on behalf of clients.

"We point people in the right direction. We give people the information to help themselves so if it happens again, they'll know how to go about it," Mr Williams said.

"Once they have this information in place for themselves and their own social circle, it has the potential to expand exponentially. A lot of people don't know who and what services are out there without talking to somebody."

Free facilities including computer and phone services, access to the internet and printing is also available. There is also a playroom to keep young children entertained while their parents use the services.

Mr Williams said demand for the service has grown since Burrunju moved from its location in City Link Plaza to the CBD from approximately 30 clients on the books to now six times that amount (they had 186 clients at the last count).

Mr Williams is employed as a full-time staff member and his twin brother, Michael Moran, works on a casual basis.

Mr Williams hopes to get extra funding to turn the casual position in another full-time one to keep up with the increasing numbers.

He is also focusing on breaking down barriers with Canberra-based support services which traditionally only help those who live in Canberra. He hopes a better cross-border relationship will ease the burden on local services.

The Burrunju Community Support Service is located at 216 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan. It is open Monday - Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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