Written by Amy Ehsman, Senior Community Development Officer of the Southern NSW Region.
Paul Brunton is the chair of the Bega Valley CDAT and has been involved in many changes and community projects in the region. I was fortunate enough to spend time with him at his favourite local Café Evolve, and learn more about how the Bega Valley CDAT enthuses members and makes a difference in the community by ‘dropping a pebble in the pond.’
Paul first became involved in CDATs in 2000 through his role working in the juvenile justice system. Paul voluntarily put his hand up for the position of chair. He laughs as he relays that his role has continued for the past 16 years.
Bega Valley CDAT’s response to drug and alcohol issues in the community has been to form strong relationship with the local schools, council and local businesses. Together, they take small steps to run various events, including creative dance, film and art projects. The committee has decided to make working with young people a priority.
Quoting a fellow long-serving member Seargent Brad Swan from the Bega Police, Paul expressed a shared purpose amongst their members, “if young people can enjoy themselves and each other’s company, we’re a better community for it.”
This month, Bega Valley CDAT was awarded the Inclusiveness award at the CDAT Conference. The award recognised their work establishing and running the Bournda Leadership Camp which fosters leadership, responsibility, encouragement and awareness for local year 10 students on the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse.
As Paul and I sat in Evolve, the smiling faces that continued to come up and say hello indicated how special and engaged Paul is in his community.
“Community generosity is key to how we make a difference. We do it enthusiastically… [we] localise their messages.” Paul said.
While Paul did acknowledge that it is easier on some days to get encouraged, he also said it is the people that you least expect that ultimately remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
His biggest tips include keeping meetings short and purposeful, and forming long-standing relationships with the local council who often play a key role in the Bega Valley CDAT projects.
Next on the agenda is to continue developing ideas about engaging with more young people and finding new ways to involve schools in future projects.