Crafting a community

Many small dots make a beautiful painting, many small moments shape a deep and rich community.

Crafting a community happens layer on layer. In everyday and extraordinary ways.

Take Kempsey, on the lands of the Dunghutti nation, five hours drive north of Sydney.

Through cuppas and chats, camps and culture this community is creating connections, building resilience and linking up its present and future leaders.

What’s behind the painting?

Like every community, Kempsey in the Macleay Valley faces many challenges. High unemployment, lack of services and distractions for young people.

But now the town’s coming up with unique solutions.

They start by bringing people together.

What we do is simple: we offer tools, resources and support to help make it happen.

A cuppa and a yarn

Artists working on a large Aboriginal painting Artists working on a large Aboriginal painting

Every week, the Kempsey Elders come together. 

A cuppa, a chat, art, activities and a laugh... it’s a great way to support elderly people to stay connected.

Across Australia, one in four of us is lonely almost all of the time.

In Kempsey, bringing people together is helping make meaningful connections.

"It's good for their minds, their spirits, their souls, and it just gives back their independence of doing their own things with people their age," tells Richard, who turns up regularly with his elderly mum.

Often teenagers from the local high school visit the Elders.

When the generations get together they share stories and Dunghutti history and culture over morning tea.

The experience is helping build the students’ confidence.

At the same time it’s reducing the risk they’ll drop out of school.

”I look forward to meeting the Elders and getting to know their life, what happened in their life, and to pass it on.”
Tineesha, 16 year old student

Nancy from Red Cross brings her creative and artistic skills to the gatherings.

She’s run video workshops, photography excursions and painting days as a way for the girls to express themselves and find their voice.

“Nancy’s awesome. We love having her. She’s really strengthened our program and the girls just love seeing her.”
Robyn, Role Models and Leaders Girls Academy

Tineesha enjoys her visits to the Elders

Tineesha enjoys her visits to the Elders

Red Cross worker Nancy sharing a laugh during the teenagers' visit

Red Cross worker Nancy sharing a laugh during the teenagers' visit

"We just want to have a presence in the community and help people who are a bit vulnerable to have a voice and to have a say in our community."

Nancy, Red Cross

Smiling Nancy looking to camera Smiling Nancy looking to camera

Strong Dunghutti Brothers

There’s no flash equipment, just a back room, behind an office, off the main street.

But this low-key place is helping boys release their frustration, relax and clear their heads for school and life.

Kempsey, like many regional towns, has limited employment prospects.

Distractions and boredom can lead young people down the wrong path.

“It’s very challenging for Aboriginal youth to grow up in this environment and a lot of the issues they face, it’s hard for them.”
Josh, Red Cross

Strong Dunghutti Brothers is a gym program, helping the teenagers gain self-confidence, leadership and social skills.​

Most importantly, it gives them tools to help control their emotions.​

Daryl from Many Rivers trains with Sam

Daryl from Many Rivers trains with Sam

Red Cross youth worker Josh

Red Cross youth worker Josh

“I get to release some anger if I can just lift, do bench presses, take some frustration out. I’m sore and that, but I feel relaxed because my head’s all cleared.”​

Sam, 17-year-old gym regular

Volunteer Kenneth looks to camera Volunteer Kenneth looks to camera

On the banks of the Macleay

Camping out on country is popular with young Kempsey boys and it's easy to understand why.

There’s the thrill of catching fish, sitting around an open fire and sleeping under the stars.

When a camp’s on, word spreads quickly.

Volunteers make five or six trips runs between town and the campsite to make sure no one misses out.

“At the moment there’s volunteers who just do it. They volunteer out of their own time and put a lot of funding in it out of their own pockets as well."
Josh, Red Cross

The camps were started by a volunteers who saw young boys in town with nothing to do, tempted by drugs and alcohol.

“That’s not in our culture. That’s not a part of our lives. The camps are showing the boys the importance of a healthy, positive lifestyle.”

Kenneth, volunteer

Volunteer Kenneth looks to camera Volunteer Kenneth looks to camera

The big picture

There's a Kenneth, Nancy and Josh in every community.

Many people and organisations work together to paint the picture they want of their community, one that is vibrant and strong.

Across the country we're working with local people and organisations in 10 communities like this one.

In Kempsey, the Elders Program is run by Red Cross in partnership with Dunghutti Elders.

The Girls Program is run by Role Models and Leaders Girls Academy.

Strong Dunghutti Brothers is a partnership with Many Rivers Aboriginal Health and North Coast Primary Health Network.

Cultural Camps on country is run by volunteers

If you’d like to see how we spark more life-changing connections like this go to