IWD2022 a Great Success

MORE than 300 guests attended Co.As.It.’s high tea for International Women’s Day (IWD), Saturday 12th March held at the Rose Room at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. The theme, celebrating women, the heart in our community, was reflected in a mini documentary outlining the brilliant volunteering work done by women who volunteer in our Italian community.

Co.As.It. acknowledged the selfless work of three women who were interviewed: Ruth Allison who has been volunteering every Wednesday at Co.As.It.’s Casa Serena Social Centre for more than 15 years, Carmela Bozzi OAM who volunteers for the church and many other organisations in the Italian community, and Paolina Greco who volunteers as part of Co.As.It.’s Community Visitor Scheme, attending residential aged care facilities each week for over 10 years. They talked about the work they do, what motivates them and how their work has helped others.

Speeches by the Hon. Grace Grace acknowledged the leadership by Co.As.It. CEO Cav. Dina Ranieri, and the importance of equal representation of women in public roles and governance, and Lady Mayoress Nina Schrinner talked about dementia affecting women more than men, and encouraged all guests to support the fundraising efforts by the organisation.

Guests were treated to a professional fashion show curated by Laura Churchill from Brisbane Fashion Month featuring local designers Anannasa, Chamani, Red Ridge the Label, Annalisse Designs, Maiocchi, and Jericho Road Clothing. The collections were modelled by Co.As.It. staff and friends and was enthusiastically supported by guests.

Thanks to the wonderful enduring sponsorship from Cav. Fil D’Arro from Italiquore, guests enjoyed complimentary prosecco, as well as a delicious high tea including scones, hot savoury pastries and gourmet sweets. Over 43 raffle prizes were won, with proceeds going towards Co.As.It.’s dementia and wellness program. A fully sold-out event that will stay in the hearts of all who attended.

CEO Dina Ranieri and the History of Co.As.It Community Services

EVOLVING from a consular welfare committee in 1978, the Italian Welfare Association became Co.As.It. by 1986 and in the late 1990s, Community Services was added to the name to better reflect its broader multi-cultural and mainstream role. Today Co.As.It. Community Services employs 420 people supporting more than 5000 clients weekly with aged, disability, community support services and social connectivity.

Despite its dramatic growth, the organisation still retains its original “extended family relationship” model says CEO Dina Ranieri.

“Our culture is such that we welcome people in as a family member, and we look after clients like our own family. We create relationships with them and a sense of village is nurtured every time a new client comes on board -and they love it!”

Dina was 12 when she left Italy and arrived in Australia, with no language skills as she first started attending school. This experience helped to shape her core values, that being the importance of community and culture. As Dina says, “people stay if they like the culture and environment.”

When Dina joined the organisation as an Administrative Assistant in 1987, there were only five staff members and five Community Care Workers providing services to 10-15 clients, all of whom were Italian. At the time, Dina still had small children and was only able to work three days per week.

Soon after she was employed, the organisation became the first culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) organisation to attain aged care funding through the Home and Community Care (HACC) program.

This set Co.As.It Community Services on a path to rapid growth.

Dina’s role at that time involved “a bit of everything”- getting to know the ins and outs of every aspect of the organisation. Like many staff members, she has grown up with Co.As.It. Community Services.

“Many colleagues have been with the organisation for decades and staff turnover is low” she happily reports.

As Dina became more familiar and knowledgeable with the functions of the organisation, she was offered the role as Director in recognition of her skills and expertise. In 2018, when Co.As.It. became a company, she was appointed CEO.

The organisation has powered and grown under Dina’s stewardship, expanding both service provision, assets and presence within the industry.

Co.As.It Community Services have received recognition and won awards for high quality services and excellence in care. In 2021, they were presented with a distinguished Order of Merit Award from the Italian Government for services to the community.

“We all believe in the vision of the organisation and because more than 80% of our staff speak another language, we have the cultural and linguistic competency to excel in this area. We have since opened our arms to other new and established CALD communities.”

Co.As.It. Community Services has two divisions that Dina oversees on a daily basis.

The Italian Language Centre (ILC) promotes and teaches the Italian language and culture in primary and secondary schools Queensland-wide. The centre provides professional development opportunities, resources and support for teachers and over 24,000 students learning Italian.

The Community Services division delivers aged, disability and community care services in Southeast Queensland, from Bribie Island to Tweed heads. Based in Lutwyche, there has social activity and respite centres in Stafford, Brackenridge, Acacia Ridge, Cleveland and the Gold Coast.

Three of these facilities were proudly built using Co.As.It.’s reserves and fundraising capital- a massive achievement for an organisation that started with one office and no bathroom facilities.

Today all the centres offer themed-day activities, transport and meals for clients. Every centre operates five days a week with two activities offered each day that are “often the highlight of the week for the clients” says Dina.

There is also an activity group specially designed for people living with cognitive impairment, the Sunshine Group, which is an essential service for carers and those who attend.

“Co.As.It is providing services that are very much needed in the community. We are supporting families in a way you would in a village; extended families, that is our ethos”

Dina Ranieri

The newest facility Amici House at Bracken Ridge was refurbished entirely from its own funds to the cost of $1M and has been operational since mid-2021.

An array of classes and activities is offered through this centre including respite, Latin dance, art, technology, physiotherapy, podiatry, information sessions and social group meetings. This community hub also boasts a café offering tasty meals and snacks at an affordable price for clients and guests.

 

One of the most enjoyable activities is having children from Tumble Tots Kindergarten and Goodstart Early Learning Centre visit to share their day with clients. The intergenerational exchange between the two generations is extremely precious and rewarding- so much so that it’s not clear who enjoys the day more the children or the elders.

Co.As.It have evolved their services to meet the needs of their clients; to continue to support them on their life journey. “Italians migrated to Australia in large numbers, so they are the first to age in large numbers,” Dina says.

Services like the free ‘Stay Active Exercise Programs’ have been created, to encourage physical activity for older community members. This program is funded entirely by the organisation and started with a pilot study of 15 people. Now the program proudly boasts 6 weekly classes with over 120 participants in three different locations.

The organisation has cared for many clients for generations.

Including children who initially attended playgroups when they were young now attending as parents who have their own offspring and clients who previously attended Co.As.It social outings in the 80s now receiving social activity support, in Italian, as they have moved into aged care homes.

“The demographic has changed but we will always have the history with the Italian community, and Italian will always be part of us,” Dina says.

The sense of continuity and continued strong relationships with their clients are just like a village – the sense of which is loved by all clients regardless of their cultural heritage.

Yoga Classes at Amici House

ARE you wanting to learn yoga without breaking the bank? Why not join our yoga classes on offer at Amici House? All you need to do is register your attendance, bring a yoga mat and wear loose, comfortable clothing. The classes on offer are suitable for all levels and you will learn postures to help improve your mobility, core strength and stability.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The benefits of yoga are well known and some classes charge up to $20 per class, this is a fantastic way to learn this modality for only $5 in a wonderful environment. You can contact  Co.As.It. Community Services on (07) 3624 6100 to book your place. This course is very popular and highly recommended – register today!

Art Classes at Amici House

DO you live in the Bracken Ridge area and keen to learn something new? Have you ever wanted to join an art class but not sure what you might be good at? If you want the option to try sculpture, painting, sketching, collage, working with clay or watercolour, why not join an art class at the wonderful Amici House! Classes are held every Monday from 10am to 12pm at Amici House, 294 Bracken Ridge Road, Bracken Ridge. Access to the centre is via the service road and there is plenty of on site parking.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The art classes at Amici House are suitable for students interested in developing their skills or learning new skills. A perfect class for anyone seeking to explore their creative side. All materials are provided for the very affordable cost of $5 per class. Classes are run by a qualified art teacher who can deliver tips and tricks to help you develop your skills. All you need to do is contact Co.As.It. Community Services on (07) 3624 6100 and register your interest.

Nourishing the Soul at Amici House

COME and experience two hours of pampering, wellbeing and friendship. This is a monthly event open to women from the ages of 16 years and above for a $5 contribution. The event will present the importance of self care and how to take time out – there is also time for connecting.  The presentation will be followed by a delicious morning tea including tea and coffee and something nutritious to eat. The gatherings are held on the first Wednesday of every month from 10am to midday at the wonderful Amici House in Bracken Ridge just near the corner of Bracken Street – entry via the service road.

Amici House is a re-purposed gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road that has received a new life as a café and community facility.  The centre runs weekly community activities for seniors, yoga classes, art classes, and latin dancing. The centre is a hub for the local community and boasts over 170 visitors weekly.

The “Nourishing the Soul” talks are filling up fast, all you need to do is contact the Co.As.It. Head Office on (07) 3624 6100 to register and book a space for you and a friend, if you wish. It’s a women-only event and there is plenty of on site parking.

International Women’s Day 2022

CO.AS.IT. Community Services is delighted to host the International Women’s Day Celebration on Saturday 12 March, 2022 from 10am to 2pm at The Rose Room,  Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. International Women’s Day is a unique global event that is the highlight of Co.As.It.’s community calendar.

Themed ‘Celebrating Women, the Heart in our Community’, be immersed in a stunning event that will honour the quiet achievers in our community who dedicate time, love and energy to helping others. In collaboration with Brisbane Fashion Month’s Laura Churchill, this year’s event is shaping to be unmissable.

Laura Churchill will curate the Co.As.It. International Women’s Day fashion parade, she is one of Brisbane’s leading stylists and fashion event producers. As director of Brisbane Fashion Month, a month-long series of runway, networking and public events each October, and producer of the Ekka Natural Fibres Fashion Parades since 2017, Laura helms the two largest showcases of Brisbane and Queensland fashion in the state and is a passionate advocate of local fashion designers and makers.

Join Co.As.It. for a wonderful high tea with prosecco upon arrival, generously sponsored by Italiquore, and a chance to win raffle prizes – all in a breathtaking setting at the opulent Rose Room, at Cloudland in Fortitude Valley. Returning as emcee is the masterful Kim Skubris, exceptional communicator, ambassador – a true powerhouse of personality.

Enjoy this event with friends, family, and celebrate the work that women do in our community. Co.As.It. is hosting this exclusive event with all funds raised going toward their Mind Wellness Program – a fully funded counselling and support service for carers and for those living with dementia. Brisbane women of all ages are invited to this event to celebrate women’s achievements and to help #BreaktheBias for a more equitable future.

You do NOT want to miss this one! Tickets via Eventbrite or the Lutwyche Office.

Organisers: Grace Demaio and Linda Moffat

Amici House Community Café

BRACKEN Ridge has a new Community Café at the newest community hub, Amici House, at Bracken Ridge. The former gospel chapel on Bracken Ridge Road has received a new life as a café and community facility. Opening the facility on 8 May, the Hon. Grace Grace MP, Minister for Education, Industrial Relations and Racing, praised the “wonderful” centre, noting the quality of service Co.As.It. has been providing to the community for more than 40 years, including to her own parents.

Other guests including Italian Vice Consul for Qld and NT Oreste Lastella, Luke Howarth MP,  Cr. Tracy Davis, Cr. Sandy Landers, Co.As.It. CEO Dina Ranieri, Co.As.It. President Cav. Nereo Brezzi and President Com.It.Es (Committee for Italians Abroad) Mariangela Stagnitti, were among many other notable VIPs at the official opening. The commercial kitchen and various allied health equipment were obtained with funding from the Community Benefit Fund, which was represented by Alan Sparks, AM, BEM.

Beth Merkus and Sue Lawrence-Duman were thrilled to see their father’s legacy being repurposed. Designed and built originally by Albert Lawrence and Arthur Sweeney, the newly renovated community hub boasts a commercial kitchen, allied health facilities, a large deck for café guests and community gatherings, ramps and a 46 space carpark, making it easier for community members to access the facility. The centre will service Co.As.It. clients from Brisbane’s northern suburbs to Redcliffe, Sandgate, Pine Rivers and Caboolture, providing exercise classes, physiotherapy and podiatry, information sessions and social group activities.

The community café offers Italian cannoli, panini, arancini, lasagne as well as staples such as wraps and muffins. The range of coffees is extensive, all day options, and delicious smoothies are also on offer. The café is set in the beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding Amici House.  Open from 7am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, Amici House Café is located at 294 Bracken Ridge Road, Bracken Ridge.

View the menu here!

Amici House is Officially Open!

On Saturday 8 May 2021, Co.As.It. Community Services celebrated the official opening of its third community centre, Amici House in Bracken Ridge. Two events took place including a VIP event with over 60 guests including The Hon. Grace Grace MP, Qld Minister for Education, Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister for Racing; The Hon. Luke Howarth MP, Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services, Federal Member for Petrie and also representing Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck and The Hon. Trevor Evans MP; Councillor Sandy Landers, Councillor for Bracken Ridge Ward representing Brisbane’s Lord Mayor; Councillor Tracy Davis, Councillor for McDowall Ward and Vice Consul Oreste Lastella, representing Her Excellency Francesca Tardioli and Italian Ambassador and Salvatore Napolitano, Italian Consul for Qld and NT.

The VIP event included a welcome speech by Cav. Nereo Brezzi, President of Co.As.It. Community Services, noting the organisation is going from strength to strength in catering to the needs of the community, with the centre being accessible to seniors and NDIS clients living in the Moreton Bay area covering Redcliffe and Caboolture communities.  He acknowledged the work of Co.As.It. Treasurer, IT Manager Tony Brown, and CEO Dina Ranieri in making the centre a reality. The Hon. Grace Grace mentioned the “wonderful” centre itself which has a community cafè and large deck out the front, the service rooms for physio and podiatry, the beautiful auditorium allowing community members to come together. She acknowledged Co.As.It. for providing quality services for over 40 years assisting seniors, including her own mum and dad who benefitted when they were alive. The “Stay Active” room was described as a “terrific” space for seniors to exercise. The minister mentioned the importance of community and centres such as Amici House.

Local Bracken Ridge Councillor Sandy Launders said she was “really impressed” with the community centre and will look into using it for upcoming events. One of the features of the centre is a fully equipped catering kitchen made possible by the Gambling Community Benefit Fund that provided a grant and was represented by Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Alan Sparks, AM, BEM. Other amenities include a large outdoor patio, onsite parking, ramps for ease of access and beautifully landscaped gardens. VIPs were treated to generous chef-prepared canapès, peach bellinis, sponsored by Phil D’Aro from Ital’iquore, and cups of coffee from the Amici House Community Cafè.

In the afternoon, a Community Open Day welcomed over 100 visitors, including Co.As.It. staff, clients living in the local area, the local community and their families.

Greeted by a team of friendly volunteers who handed out show bags, drinks, and refreshments. The afternoon festivities included music by Nick Trovas, free coffees and time to sit and relax, enjoying the facilities and surrounds.  Very special surprise guests were the two daughters of the person who built the original gospel chapel, Mr Albert Lawrence. Daughters Beth Merkus and Sue Lawrence-Duman attended the event, honouring their father’s effort who together with Mr Arthur Sweeney designed and built the church. They learned of the event after Beth’s daughter got a flyer in the local mail, calling her mother in relief and excitement knowing the church was to be given new life as a community centre.

On the day the Co.As.It. staff said our clients cannot wait to attend as soon as the social groups are scheduled, the centre will also provide NDIS workshops and social events. The opening of Amici House was a huge success.

Harmonious Workplace Celebrates Multiculturalism

Harmonious Workplace Celebrates Multiculturalism

About 60 people gathered at Co.As.It. recently, to celebrate Harmony Day. With enough food to feed five times as many people, the acknowledgement that we’ve all come from somewhere else was demonstrated by food from all over the world. Having acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera peoples as the traditional owners of the land, staff shared recipes and dishes from their ancestors’ countries of origin, before participating in some gentle Latin dancing.

With staff speaking a total of 52 languages, other than English, Co.As.It. is a microcosm of Australia and definitely somewhere that should celebrate its successful multiculturalism. What began as a day to acknowledge March 21st, the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has grown to a week of celebrating Australia’s multiculturalism and the successful integration of immigrants into the community.

Co.As.It. staff placed posters, maps, flags and other mementos of their heritage on the walls and chatted about the history of the foods they had brought, almost all of which were home-made. The blue and orange Co.As.It. uniforms were enriched with Mexican tapestry belts, national soccer team shirts and various other accessories, or by additional orange, the Harmony Day colour. The Harmony Day website states that traditionally, orange signifies social communication and meaningful conversations. It also relates to the freedom of ideas and encouragement of mutual respect. Many people choose to wear something orange during Harmony Week to show their support for cultural diversity and an inclusive Australia.

Co.As.It. runs free weekly dance classes at the Italian Language Centre in Newmarket and staff were treated to half an hour of dancing with professional Latin dance teacher Rafael Pitarello. Staff left the event feeling refreshed and that night, many family members were treated to leftovers from the day. For information about Co.As.It.’s free dance classes, contact Cintia Paolino on 3624 6100 or email cintiap@coasit.asn.au.

New Skills in Lockdown

Since March, when life as we knew it was turned upside down, social media has been filled with pictures of sour dough bread and other home cooking delights. An onlooker could be forgiven for assuming that the whole world is consumed with cooking and making music videos. Not everyone, however, is focused on food. Co.As.It.’s NDIS participant, Lillian Northcott has maintained social visits from her community care worker Mara, so she is not totally isolated.

The two pass the time playing board games and chatting. When the physical distancing measures were first introduced, Lillian turn her hand to a craft activity. Lillian is now whiling away the hours painting terracotta pots, a past time that lets her creativity flow. While Lillian says the pots are a work in progress, it’s obvious that they brightens the lives of all who see them. Lillian is keen for the restrictions to be lifted, but in the meantime she’s enjoying her original creations and says she finds painting a relaxing hobby.

For more information about Co.As.It.’s NDIS services, contact Paola on 3624 6100.