44. Maxine Matthews

18 Nov

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‘I believe everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of who you are,’ Maxine Matthews says thoughtfully. She looks around affectionately at her home, the West Heidelberg Olympic Village and a proud smile curls onto her lips.

Having moved to West Heidelberg in the 1980s as a public housing tenant, Maxine has seen and heard it all living in and advocating for community safety and youth involvement in the area.

Before moving to the 3081 community, Maxine left Adelaide as a self-proclaimed ‘wild child’ who was always dodging trouble with the law.

‘I remember saying, no one’s going to tell me what to do,’ she laughs heartily, an infectious sound that places those in her presence immediately at ease.

However, after becoming involved in the local community, Maxine has become a dedicated volunteer. She has volunteered herself for services such as 3081 Community Safety Working Group and the Regional Tenants Council as a representative on a range of policy issues, including homelessness, housing, community safety and community health. Over the past 15 years, there has been an increase in agencies working in with the locals. In addition to these services, Maxine is also an advocate for youth wellbeing and safety.

Maxine believes that the younger community members are entitled to leading a good life. Despite having faced many hardships, it is important they just have to get up and give it a go.

‘Don’t sit inside and feel sorry for yourself, go make life what it is,’ Maxine advocates to the younger generation, who are being given more opportunities to make for a better life.

There is no doubt Maxine’s involvement with adults and children is much appreciated in the West Heidelberg Community. These actions have almost nicknamed her the ‘voice’ of the community, because of her natural ability to connect with others.

This gift of talking and listening has allowed Maxine to create a sense of belonging among the village. An activity such as the Community Garden helps build a strong sense of community as well as receiving a great reception. It is activities like this that bring the community together.

‘No one knows the area better than we, the locals do,’ she says smiling.

And Maxine knows what locals want and need. As a part of her volunteer work, Maxine has advocated the Olympia Project. The project will pull down 300 houses with the aim to rebuilding 600 in the West Heidelberg Olympic Village. Maxine is satisfied that residents are happy, safe and comfortable while the new homes are being built. The project is in its second phase, and is shaping up to be a success.

Despite being the first person to take on the Office of Housing and coming out successful, Maxine humbly describes how she still gets nervous talking publicly.

‘I love talking to people,’ says Maxine. ‘But even after all the speeches I’ve done I still get butterflies,’

However, it is her compassion for the West Heidelberg community that motivates her to keep giving the residents opportunities to create a sense of community among the village. Through her work, she has found a unique description for the community.

‘I call it Yin Yang,’ she explains, smiling. ‘Because for every bad, there is a good to balance it out,’

And Maxine has certainly brought a great deal of good to this community. After the death of a young community member, it was Maxine who organised a barbeque for the local young people to connect and grieve together.

This was the first time Maxine had organised an event like this, but felt something needed to be done for the emotions of young people who had lost a community member. Over 100 teenagers attended the event and Maxine describes how the whole time everyone was wholly respectful.

‘It’s hard for them (the younger generation), so many authorities are telling them what to do, but no one is there to listen to them,’ Maxine shares.

‘Sometimes, the best part is to listen, just sit there and listen,’ she says gently. It becomes clear in that moment that while Maxine is a vocal advocate, she is also a gentle listener willing to lend a hand in any way she is needed to.

Words: Liana Gangi

Photo: Sean Porter

 

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