I want to celebrate the great work that Bowman Johnson Hostel on Oxford St in South Brisbane has been doing for a long time now, and also put a call out for donations.
Murri Watch was established in 1991 just prior to the handing down of the Recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. Royal Commission.
A lot of the people who come through Bowman Johnson have complex personal histories with severe mental illness, addiction, and all the other challenges that come with colonisation and inter-generational trauma. These are hard issues to deal with, and there’s no magic wand, but one of BJs’ strengths is that it has a lot of trust and respect among the people it supports.
A lot of Murri’s who’ve been screwed over by government in the past tend not to trust the bigger service providers (who usually have mostly non-Indigenous staff), which can make those organisations less effective at delivering frontline services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In contrast, the Murri Watch programs are more specifically tailored and grounded in Aboriginal culture, and delivered by mostly Aboriginal staff. From what I’ve seen, they tend to get better results and manage to do a lot with their limited resources.
Unfortunately, Bowman Johnson doesn’t get anywhere near as much government funding as it needs and deserves. Over the last ten years or so, pretty much every area of community support services has seen massive funding cuts coupled with increasing government bureaucracy. This means that larger organisations who are better placed to write grant applications and lobby for resources tend to attract more government funding, while smaller orgs like Bowman Johnson Hostel miss out.
Right now, they’re really keen for donations of white goods to help support clients who are moving into longer-term housing. Unlike some of the larger organisations, BJs doesn’t receive any government funding to buy fridges, washing machines etc for the clients who are exiting their 3-month supported accommodation program. This means the time-poor staff and their clients have to navigate through additional layers of bureaucracy in order to get one of the other community organisations to provide the basic goods needed to set up a new home.
If you have a spare fridge, microwave, or washing machine that’s still in good working condition, please consider donating it to Bowman Johnson Hostel at 5 Oxford St, South Brisbane. They’d prefer if you can drop off donations on Friday afternoons between 12 and 4, but outside those hours you could contact my office to arrange something. They’re also keen for donations of old laptops, gardening tools and a data projector.
Anyone who has worked in this sector will attest that when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, you tend to get better results if support programs are delivered by Aboriginal-run organisations with Aboriginal staff. It seems strange to me that non-Indigenous community organisations and religious orgs with very few ATSI staff are receiving so much funding for Aboriginal outreach and support programs at a time when Bowman Johnson and other smaller orgs like it are getting so little.
As a side note, Murri Watch is a really valuable organisation that more people should know about. One of the many services they offer is crisis accommodation for rough sleepers. They have a hotline – 3891 2822 – that you can call if you encounter someone who might need a place to stay for the night or might have had a few too many drinks and needs someone to come pick them up.
If you’d like to show your support for Bowman Johnson Hostel and Murri Watch more generally, please take a moment to write to your State MP or the State Government Minister for Aboriginal Partnerships and ask them to increase funding for these crucial frontline services.
Councillor for the Gabba Ward