Community Harmony

Step One
Community Harmony Guide for Local Government

www.stepone.org.au is a website aimed at giving local councils and communities the tools to:

  • Tackle racism
  • Strengthen community cohesion
  • Foster intercultural interaction in your neighbourhood

Visit the website to get:

  • Advice on building a community harmony strategy
  • Resources, research and advice
  • Local and international case studies of successful community harmony projects.

Building Neighbourhood Community Harmony Project

Pilot Study

The Building Neighbourhood Community Harmony Pilots Study focused on improving relationships between Chinese and Anglo seniors. Previous research by Dr Amanda Wise at the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion had determined that local residents, especially Anglo-Celtic seniors, were experiencing feelings of isolation and discomfort with the practices of Chinese shopkeepers in the Ashfield Town Centre.
The research indicated concerns in relation to:

  • Shop style
  • Lack of design quality for signage and shopfront
  • Excessive Bill posters
  • Phone cards on shop widows
  • Many restaurants only offering Menus in the Chinese language,
  • Shopkeepers having limited English language skills

The Pilot Study was designed to achieve a range of objectives to overcome these feelings between the residents and shopkeepers.

Objectives

  • To enhance intercultural exchange between Chinese shopkeepers and non-Chinese residents;
  • To encourage non-Chinese (especially the Anglo elderly) to go to these shops;
  • To build trust and understanding between Chinese shopkeepers and non-Chinese residents;
  • To make these shops accessible and inviting to the non-Chinese residents.
  • To tidy up the Ashfield Town Centre so residents ‘felt at home' there, and have an idea of “place-sharing”.
  • To increase the number of customers shopping along Liverpool Road and Hercules Street.
  • To help shopkeepers be more welcoming to people from other backgrounds.

Activities

The following activities were conducted as part of the Pilot Study:

  • A visit by non-Chinese seniors to a Chinese restaurant
  • A visit by the Chinese seniors group to a non-Chinese aged care hostel
  • A consultation with local Chinese shopkeepers
  • A Welcome Shop Open Day was held to encourage Ashfield residents to discover and explore Ashfield's shops and get to know the local shopkeepers. This event promoted the cultural diversity of Ashfield as a positive characteristic. The Open Day helped make the Ashfield CBD more inviting for shoppers and create a vibrant and cohesive shopping experience for a wide cross-section of Ashfield residents.
  • Capacity building around small business civic citizenship among shopkeepers and Chinese chamber of commerce
  • Building networks between council and shopkeepers and chambers of commerce (mainstream and Chinese)
  • Community Harmony residents working group
  • Clean-up Day in partnership with Centacare and Uniting Church – Participants cleaned all tape and billposters along Liverpool Road, Hercules Street and Charlotte Street.
  • Production of a Shopkeepers Information Kit in Chinese and English editions to outline important guidelines and legislation for shop signage, hygiene, health and contact details for further information.

Outcomes

Whilst the project is continuing to evolve and progress, it has already been hailed as an outstanding success by many. Positive outcomes from the project have included:

  • Several shop owners agreed to change their signage and improve their shop display as a direct result of the liaison work undertaken, and was done during the Welcome Shop Awards nomination period.
  • There has been a noticeable improvement in the presentation of shops along Liverpool road and Hercules Street.
  • The Ashfield Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SIWCCA) had all but ceased to function at the beginning of the project. As a direct result of the project the Chamber has now reconvened and has been an active partner with the Council, Macquarie University and the Chinese Migrant Welfare Association in encouraging shopkeepers to improve their practices.
  • Community workers have reported that senior citizens (Italian and Anglo-Australian) say they are now more comfortable in Chinese shops and happier visiting the town centre. This is as a result of the tidier town centre and more accessible shops.
  • Shopkeepers are beginning to trust the Council more. They feel less threatened about asking for advice and have a better sense of what the rules and regulations are.
  •   There are improved lines of communication between the council and shopkeepers and council now has a better understanding of the needs and issues facing the shopkeepers.
  •   Shopkeepers say that they now understand their important role in the local community and their civic responsibilities in the upkeep of the town centre.
  • Up to 50 shopkeepers were present at the Welcome Shops Awards prize giving ceremony. The winners were enthusiastic about their award.
  • Those shops that have followed the community harmony guidelines have seen a general improvement in their overall business. One shop, New Shanghai Restaurant changed their signage as a direct result of the project. It is now one of Ashfield's most successful restaurants.
  • Many other Councils are interested in the work undertaken in Ashfield and are keen to replicate the project.

Ongoing Activities at Ashfield Council

Since July 2006 Ashfield Council has continued funding a Community Harmony Project Worker to carry out tasks regarding the Ashfield shopping area, including:

  • Hand delivery of the Shopkeepers Information Kit to all Chinese shops in the Ashfield Town Centre This was a way of introducing shopkeepers to the project. It also provided an opportunity to collect feedback from them regarding their views to Council, the Info Kit and the “Welcome Shop Open Day”.
  • Producing the “What does Council do?” brochure in Chinese – This was mainly a result of the shop visits. The brochure has been designed as an information resource specifically for shopkeepers, since many of the shopkeepers claimed that they did not have a clear understanding about Council's function.
  • Welcome Shop Awards – The inaugural awards were initiated as a positive way to encourage shopkeepers to work on their shopfront presentation, improve the look of their shop, and therefore the overall image of Ashfield Town Centre. The awards were designed as a way to recognise and reward shopkeepers for their hard work in maintaining an attractive shopfront.
  • Information Seminars – Initiate and undertake the first of a program of education seminars for local shopkeepers in regards to Food & Hygiene (11 July 2007) and Signage & Shopfront Design (29 August 2007). The initial seminar worked closely with Chinese Migrant Welfare Association who received a grant from Community Relation Commission to run a Harmony project. This initiative demonstrates a positive way that Council and community organisations can work together to foster a positive relationship.
  • Work with Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Business Liaison Committee – as the Community Harmony project progresses, the Chamber is becoming more actively involved in Ashfield.