By Melissa Keogh
Tailem Bend is the Murray River town remembered by most as the gateway to Melbourne, but this important transport service centre is in the throes of huge change.
But what about the hard-working locals who believed in Tailem Bend before these infrastructure projects were even heard of?
At the heart of the community’s spirit are the staff and volunteers at The Tailem Bend Community Centre (TBCC).
The centre has helped to build lifelong skills, reduce isolation and offer learning opportunities for locals since 1987.
This financial year the TBCC has already secured almost $500,000 in grant funding to support services in the Murraylands region.
TBCC co-ordinator Tammy Shepherd says Tailem Bend is a caring community that is wary of the changes ahead, but hopeful they will bring huge economic benefits for the town.
“Our main industry is farming and it used to be a big railway community,” she says.
“Tailem Bend is experiencing massive changes and there’s certainly an awful lot happening here.
“We are a town to watch.”
On average 3500 people take part in the variety of courses, programs and activities offered by the TBCC to learn new skills, make friends or simply unload with a cuppa and a chat.
The centre receives funding from various State and Federal government programs to put on the courses, which include exercise, sewing, craft and woodworking classes, school holiday activities, grief education, and internet support for seniors.
Funding streams include the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, Communities for Children Murraylands Program, and the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion Community Services Support Program.
Along with a small handful of staff, 40 volunteers help to run the centre and its programs, putting in more than 3800 hours annually.
The TBCC services a total population of 59,800 across the Coorong, Murray Bridge, Mid Murray and Mt Barker council areas.
TBCC co-ordinator Tammy Shepherd says Tailem Bend has limited health and social services, meaning the community centre is the “frontline” for providing assistance.
“Tailem Bend is a small community, so we don’t have any mental health services, people have to travel to Murray Bridge (25km away) to access these services,” Tammy says.
“So we are the frontline.
“We offer counselling services and support to people to be able to talk and get them through the tough times.”
TBCC’s regular ‘Our Time’ group allows parents to have a coffee and a chat, while their bubs interact with other children.
The woodwork class is popular with seniors and allows them to acquire and build upon skills and socialise.
The services are affordable, accessible and targeted to those who are “most in need”.
“It’s a crazy busy centre,” Tammy says.
“The funding model in the centre is renowned and often replicated by others in SA.”
“We are definitely a caring community, it’s got that community vibe about it where everyone looks out for each other.”
Tailem Bend is about 96km from Adelaide and home to 1500 people.
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