Building Somerset’s thriving community centre

Newly elected Somerset councillor Michael Bishop is driven by ambitious plans to provide support and aid to the community during times of disaster and need. Picture: JESSE HAMILTON

In his inaugural term as a Somerset councillor, Michael Bishop is poised with ambitious strategies to aid the community during periods of adversity, disaster, and necessity.

A Somerset local of ten years, Cr Bishop brings expertise as a community recovery professional who has assisted recovery during some of Australia’s largest natural disasters.

“When I was a regional director during the 2011 Brisbane floods, my team was responsible for looking for and supporting people who had lost their homes,” Cr Bishop said.

“I’m very interested in community recovery particularly with the high levels of natural disasters southeast Queensland experiences.

“It fits perfectly with my role as a councillor because local government has a big role to play in disaster preparedness and community recovery.”

Having returned to Somerset after working in community development in Tasmania, Cr Bishop said a major goal of his was to implement community-led, community support facilities in the region.

“There’s an organisation called Neighbourhood Centres Queensland, there’s 80 or 90 across the state, but none in Somerset,” he said.

“I think in our region, Somerset, there are a whole lot of people who are supporting the community, but we could do it a lot better in a place that we could all go to, which is community lead.”

“It’s about providing a space where people can meet, get information, shower if they need to, do their washing, hold a writer’s group, and participate in meal preparation and craft groups.”

“The ones I was involved with in Tasmania, we had a system called Harvest Helpers where farmers would donate their spare produce and then volunteers would cook them up into meals.”

Mr Bishop said the neighbourhood centres would accommodate the unique needs of each town and could be supported by adopting a charitable status, which would allow donations while receiving funding through community grants.

“I think we need a facility in Kilcoy, a facility in Lowood, people from Toogoolawah are saying they would like there’s to have a focus on youth, depending on what that community needs,” he said.

“In Tasmania, the local government consistently lobbied the state government with the neighbourhood centre for extra resources.”

Guided by the motto “Sustaining our Legacy, Shaping our Future,” Cr Bishop said he aims to ensure the Somerset region does not lose its natural beauty, history and values whilst being part of shaping its future over the next term.

“We don’t want to lose the values that have shaped this community, friendship, working hard, caring for the community, that legacy, we don’t want to lose all the things that make Somerset a really interesting and great place to live,” he said.

“We need to maintain the regions legacy, the traditional owners of Somerset don’t have a strong presence and we need to protect that before its lost.”