Kings Cross Community Centre is one of the last community organisations surviving from the pre-gentrified Kings Cross and Potts Point. Photo: John Webber

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BY JOHN MOYLE

The Kings Cross Community Centre is not big on Xmas. Not because they are grinches, but because they hope that for their clients, the goodwill associated with Xmas flows year round.

Having just delivered its 42nd annual report, the centre is also celebrating the fact that due to considered and prudent management, it is one of the few inner-city community organisations running in the black.
“We do have one nod toward Xmas in that we have a bus excursion to the Xmas lights, starting with dinner at Maroubra Seals until it gets dark, and then it tours the suburban and city area Xmas lights,” Robyn Greaves, coordinator, Kings Cross Community Centre said.

Considering that the area houses some big-gun charities, the centre is something of its own Xmas miracle. With a full-time staff of just seven, it operates from cramped offices in the Rex Centre, meeting the needs of its clients’ calls for assistance across Kings Cross, Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Woolloomooloo and part of Paddington.

“The centre is geared towards the elderly and people with disabilities plus people who come in for information, referral and advocacy, which is open to anyone,” Ms Greaves said.
“We also advocate for people lodging forms for whatever department, as many people cannot deal with bureaucracy and problems such as with the housing tribunal come up all the time. So if they find that they can’t deal with it, we will,” Ms Greaves said.

Over its 42 year existence the centre has leant to be nimble in raising funds for its programs, and now works with grants from the City of Sydney and a mix of state and federal funding
“We get our premises from the City of Sydney through a community grant, and state funding comes from Family and Community Services (FACS), while federal funding is through the Department of Health and that funds aged and shopping programs and excursions,” Ms Greaves said.

Supporting the full time staff are a team of 38 volunteers who set up jumble and book stalls, help with the home shopping and excursion programs, conduct home visits and conduct classes.
Thursday is the main day for the volunteers when the centre draws people from across its catchment area to its jumble and book stalls, both sourced from public donations, which raise a considerable portion of its annual incidental operating funds.

Writer Bill Harding has been manning the bookstall for some years now, and sees the jumble sale and book store as a welcoming point of contact for people who would not normally approach a welfare centre.
“Many of the folk passing through come for their own reasons, and most of them are only partially literary,” Mr Harding said. “The stock’s all donated, so no retail savvy is needed in selling it, and what we don’t sell we donate to jail libraries.”

The centre is also the largest user of the City of Sydney owned Rex Centre, as it runs a large number of projects and classes for beading, photography, yoga and singing and exercise in the upstairs space.

Well-known photographer John Webber, who has worked for Countdown, Juice, and Rolling Stone magazines, has mounted a number of successful solo exhibitions. For the past two years he has been conducting photography classes with a difference, that are well-suited to the centre’s mainly low-tech clients.
“The approach is that you don’t need any fancy equipment and I have encouraged everyone to use a basic camera or phone camera, and just use available light,” Mr Webber said.
“The other basic I have encouraged them to adopt is a tripod, which allows you thinking time to actually compose a shot,” he added.

Zac McKay takes yoga into unusual territory as he uses yoga chants known as Kirtan singing as a pathway to self discovery.
“When I was introduced to Kirtan singing the chants were very long, but I now use much shorter chants so most people can get comfortable with the approach very quickly,” Mr McKay said.

Other classes include daytime yoga sessions conducted by Nell Schofield, beading, and, in the New Year, an art class run by Gail Johns, who has also taught art at Long Bay Goal and TAFE.
“We are always open to new ideas and if people come to us with an idea and we think can support it, we will,” Ms Greaves said.

For many of the elderly, the centre’s very affordable shopping and sightseeing excursions are a highlight and often their only opportunity to get out of the district.
“We have around 50 clients registered for shopping, which is $4, and for $7, people can go on a day excursion to places like Bowral, Blue Mountains or Kiama,” Ms Greaves said.
The centre will re-open early in the New Year, with all classes back up and running by February.

The Kings Cross Community Centre is one of the last community organisations surviving from the pre-gentrified Kings Cross and Potts Point, and is the only one in the area with focus on the elderly.
“And no, we won’t be removing Kings Cross from our name,” Ms Greaves said.

The centre can be contacted on 9357 2164.