Community centre

There are hundreds of community centres on Crown reserves. More than just a building on some land, community centres cater to wide range of visitors and activities, meeting the recreational, educational and social needs of local residents.

Key considerations

  • Managing staff and volunteers. Working in a community centre can be both challenging and rewarding.
  • Managing visitors. While encouraging public use of your community centre, you need to manage the rights and responsibilities of visitors and ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and other visitors.
  • Risk management. With diverse activities and a variety of regular and casual visitors, which may include vulnerable people, your risk management and health and safety policies and procedures need to be up to scratch.
  • Funding. Not only do you need funds to maintain the Crown reserve, but possibly also to run community centre programs.
  • Financial activities. Good bookkeeping helps you keep on top of your financial situation.
  • Managing assets and heritage. Keeping buildings and structures in good condition helps extend the life of the facility, while maintenance plans will help with scheduling repairs and managing cash flow.

Learnings from Byron Community Centre

The Byron Community Centre, on Jonson St in Byron Bay, is a community centre building on Crown land. There’s a 248-seat theatre, several large rooms available for venue hire, a kitchen and a cafe.

It hosts drama, music, dance, films and other performances; functions, conferences and workshops; activities such as yoga, tai chi and music classes; and various community services, such as breakfasts, showers, wet weather shelter for homeless people, and work skills programs.

Board member David Sweet shared his insights into managing a Crown land community centre.

Financial management

"One of the key considerations in operating the Byron Bay Community Centre is getting the balance between providing a high level of community services and maintaining fiscal responsibility and sustainability”, says David.

“Many of the services that we provide, such as meals, support for the homeless and no-interest loans, are for those most disadvantaged in the community. We have to offset that with the significant costs that we incur in running those programs, as well as all the other operational activities of the centre.

“And while we are very fortunate to have world-class acts performing in our state-of-the-art theatre, it is pretty expensive to operate and manage.

“We are consistently challenged by the need to upgrade expensive sound, lighting and projector equipment. These upgrades, and general maintenance of the building, do take a great deal of planning.”

Managing volunteers

“We are very reliant on volunteers”, says David. “We have been very lucky to have a number of excellent long-term committed volunteers that provide a great deal of stability to the centre.

“Managing the volunteers can be tricky. However, we have a dedicated staff member who is amazing at maintaining those relationships and is able to tailor roles to both attract and retain volunteers. An understanding of what is motivating people to volunteer is critical to our ability to attract and retain our volunteers.”

Reporting systems

“We work hard at our finances and reporting systems", says David. "The committee of management meets every month to review the financials of the centre. We have been fortunate to have successive treasurers that continually work to improve our financial reporting systems. The continual work on our reporting systems have almost become a culture at the committee of management level.”

Local partnerships

“Unlike many other community centres, we are not wholly reliant on outside funding”, David explains. “However, we do apply for funding grants, and we have also been successful with partnering with local business.

“For instance, we run the very successful Soul Street and First Sun free community events every New Year's Eve in Byron Bay. The aim of those activities is to make the streets of Byron family-friendly during that busy period of the year. For those events, such as the Falls Festival), we have partnered with the local council and local businesses.”

David's top tips for managing a community centre

  • If you’re highly dependent on volunteers, a dedicated staff member to attract and manage volunteers is a great asset.
  • Having a great treasurer and keeping close tabs on finances means no nasty surprises.
  • Take a moment to find out more about the people you're helping – it reminds you why you're doing it.
  • Foster strong relationships with the local council, businesses and other members of the community.
  • Relax and enjoy the events the centre runs.

The bookings board is full!

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