Incoming Bli Bli Neighbourhood Watch leader, Matthew Hooper.
Incoming Bli Bli Neighbourhood Watch leader, Matthew Hooper. Michelle Smytheman

Only way for community organisation is to move forward

EDITH Blanck is giving up her Neighbourhood Watch leadership role to a much younger person because she knows, without doing that, the organisation won't have a future.

"We need to future proof our community associations," Mrs Blanck, 72, said. "To do that we need to allow young people to not only step in, but to do it their way. Let them have their way and if it doesn't work, well we can always go back to the old way, but try we must."

Local resident Matthew Hooper, who is in his mid-30s, is at the top of her list for taking over the role of Bli Bli Neighbourhood Watch president from Mrs Blanck next year, who has held the position for four years.

She'd been watching Mr Hooper for a while as he posted to the group Facebook page and recognised he had key skills that the community organisation needed. "I wanted to send messages out to the community," Mrs Blanck said.

Mr Hopper then offered for his young company Eudomia Media to take on Neighbourhood Watch as a project. As a result, both of Mr Hopper's parents have also joined in as volunteers.

Mrs Blanck is a great example of giving a job to a busy woman and seeing it happen. "You need a purpose in life," she said. "If it's to be, it's up to me."

The former businesswoman and international entertainer has run the Neighbourhood Watch the same way she used to run her businesses, but with a modern twist.

"The largest demographic here is zero to 14, so I knew we had to do things with families and kids."

She put together a five-year plan for the Neighbourhood Watch organisation and then turned to social media and current marketing strategies to get out the message, 'not in my neighbourhood'.

It's an enormous job for Mr Hooper to take on. The group run four crime prevention events a year.

"Each March, we run Turning the Screws where we change the screws on people's car registration plates and that stops them getting stolen."

In May there is an annual youth focused free event at the local skate park in partnership with Skate Aid Australia.

"We get 60 to 80 kids there every year," Mrs Blanck said.

"We have found that months after that skate competition, the kids are still using that space and a lot of the drama that used to happen there doesn't happen any more."

Then there is the annual Fun Run to raise domestic violence awareness within the local community. The newest event is Dogs on Patrol which was run for the first time in July this year. Each dog participant receives a new lead which has the Policelink number on it. She says the event "teaches the community what to look out for when they are walking their dogs" and report any concerns to Policelink.

Gradually Mrs Blanck is bringing more and more young people into the organisation. "I am liking what these young people are bringing to our community," she said

"They are not only the future of community I now live in, but also of my grandchildren."

"I think it's great because they bring in a fresh approach," she added. "They make me look at it from their point of view; from their world and their lifestyle. It's a long time since I was 30 and it's a different world."

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