Tag Archives: 3081

44. Maxine Matthews

18 Nov


‘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


32. Sonni and Nathan

13 Nov

_MG_0025-EditIt’s an infrequent happening for one to live through the glee of others; in fact in this case it’s just as rare because I know of two beings that do so. Nathan and Sonni, both 24, have a knack of bringing people joy. More specifically, joy to those living in the West Heidelberg area-many of whom having a mutual love of basketball. For the past few months the basketball thriving duo have given the local teens and young adults of West Heidelberg, the opportunity to play Friday night basketball without the heavy cost of club memberships. Taking temporary base at the local half courts, the boys had soon discovered a shared love in the thrill of casual basketball and were surprised to have a high demand in players. With popularity of the group on the rise and inviting arms to those willing to join, Sonni and Nathan now hire out a court at the Olympic Leisure centre for 2 hours every Friday night. This has become an easy option for sport lovers in the area who may be living with financial, family and life struggles or for those who simply have a love for the game. Their weekly group of around 15-20 players ranging from 15-26 years of age, have become an honourable team in the self-titled program, ‘Hoop Dreams.’

Growing up in the suburb of 3081 had its share of lows for the boys, “We grew up in a rough area,” says Nathan. “As a kid I never liked growing up in West Heidelberg,” Sonni explains, “Some days I used to go to school with no lunch and remember saying, I wonder if we’re sleeping at another house tonight.” Whilst living in a big family, Sonni prioritised, thinking about his mother and being a role model for his younger siblings. However basketball arose as a silver lining for his own personal gratification. Both Sonni and Nathan found sanctuary in the passion of the game and so they lived many positive childhood memories through the sport even when surrounded by negativity. At a young age Nathan was diagnosed with Leukaemia and relied on basketball to fish him out of the depression of the illness, “When I was sick as a kid it got me from strength to strength and motivated me to get better.”

Throughout their high school lives, close friends Nathan and Sonni remember playing with the old basketball team Banksia Bulls. The community team was an easy program to be a part of and remained a strong tie of teamwork between the local players. Though years flew by and sadly the Bulls were no longer. Post high school, the two B-ball fanatics missed the game and the communal buzz of the suburb and so an idea stemmed from their two minds, the seed of an idea which would soon become the league of ‘Hoop Dreams.’ “Basketball kind of kept us all together [it] was one of those things that unified us rather than segregated us,” Nathan says.

With a sense of reminiscent integration of the game, Sonni realised a purpose for goodness was on the loom for their hometown. “We used to bag our own neighbourhood, but you’ve got to stop doing that, you’ve got to help it instead!” And so the tag team of old time friends were unanimous in the decision to give the residents of West Heidelberg “something to do.”

Sonni and Nathan hold onto the aspiration of allowing future generations the chance to do something greater than participate in the mischief throughout their neighbourhood. “Today there’s nothing. The area’s full of drugs, full of violence, full of trouble. All the bad stuff just makes your life turn upside down,” Nathan says, “We know the struggle, we know what it’s like.”  And so, with priority for the forthcoming generations, Nathan and Sonni now strive to give people of the area a purpose and hobby that will also guarantee safety and warmth from the community team. “Our idea is to bring basketball back,” Sonni exclaims.

The boys have now established an environment free of intimidation or competition, Hoop Dreams is a team built on growth, determination and solidity. With support from local organisations and in receipt of local grants, Hoop Dreams has become a stable program growing with each step, ”We’ve even got uniforms on the way,” Nathan declares triumphantly.

Although the boys of the basketball loving duo are not currently working, they rely purely on themselves to run the program with no outside help from the players involved. “We want to give them something to look forward to on a Friday night.”

With a well-structured two hour program of training and games, Sonni and Nathan cater for the needs of anyone interested in skill gaining exercises or for the adrenaline rush of the game itself. Both Nathan and Sonni are thrilled to see the eagerness of those involving themselves with Hoop Dreams. With newly found titles as mentors, the boys encourage all to “Hang out with us,” rather than dabble in misfortune on the streets. Sonni says, “From five till seven [o’clock], for those two hours, they can get away from any problems at home or school or any little thing.” Sonni and Nathan have already proved themselves worthy of honour in their community as respectable young men striving to give others the lifestyle choice of safety, joy and teamwork. The Banyule City council also find the two deserving of the immense amount of praise given to them for their efforts and for the establishment of Hoop Dreams, but I believe it all comes down to a purpose. After spending a couple of hours in the presence of these two gleaming coaches, I was certain that Sonni and Nathan shared a life purpose, and that was to bring others utter fulfilment and purpose of their own. After withstanding hardships of their own, the boys are just glad that they’re there to give others something better to do.

Words By:Peta Petidis

Photo by: Sean Porter