Community Idol

In the five years from 2005 to 2009, the annual Communities in Control conference recognised the important social role played by Australia's 600,000 community groups, crowning Australia's greatest community group through the annual Community Idol competition.

From hundreds of entries each year, our judging panel narrowed the field to three finalists, as well as awarding commendations to a further 10 community group entrants.

True to the Idol format, finalists then had the chance to strut their stuff in front of a live audience - the attendees of the Communities in Control conference - through a presentation about their organisation, followed by a Q&A session with conference delegates.

Each of the finalists sets out to convince the audience that it was the most innovative and effective in the country. The audience then voted and the winner was announced at the close of each conference.

In 2010, the Community Idol competition was replaced with the Kookaburra Awards, which are designed to unearth the individual, community group and project that has spoken out to change the community landscape for the better. Click here to find out more.

To read about past Community Idol winners, click the links below

2009 Australian Community Idol Competition

For the first time in the history of the Australian Community Idol competition, two groups have been named dual winners of the title. The 2009 Australian Community Idols are :

Edmund Rice Camps (SA) Inc: This South Australian organisation has only four employees yet somehow marshals more than 400 volunteers to deliver 23 camps a year for young people who come from marginalised backgrounds or facing big issues like mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and social isolation. How did they get so many people to donate their time? The way they've used Facebook and other social media is only the start.

WA Aids Council: This organisation should be a run-of-the-mill AIDS Council working with at-risk communities to minimize the spread of HIV virus. How did they get to the finalist stage? By repeatedly going beyond their mission statement to meet the needs of their key community by establishing Freedom Centres for young same-sex attracted youth, programs to decrease stigma and discrimination towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and pushing the envelope on new ways to get some important health information across.

The Cerebral Palsy Support Network (VIC) was named as a very worthy runner-up. This organisation was started by a group of mothers who were frustrated at a lack of support for people with cerebral palsy. Through sheer gumption, they've gone on to organise one of the biggest partnership coups in the country, developing the Melbourne's Longest Cake fundraiser and roping in big names like Crown Casino and Box Hill Institute of TAFE to run the event and persuading scores of corporations and celebrities to part.

Another 11 groups were selected to receive Commendations. These groups are:

2008 Australian Community Idol Winner

After years of hearing talk about "destructive and vandalising youth" in rural areas, the small South Australian community of Blyth decided to "have a crack at trying to do something about their boredom".

Their answer was the development of a community-operated cinema in this rural town, located about 130 km from Adelaide and 13 km from the winemaking town of Clare.

Three years on, the cinema has become an integral part of the local social scene, and the flow-on effects for the town have been phenomenal.

  • The cinema regularly hosts other non-profit groups for movie nights that serve as a fundraiser for both the group and the cinema, and has developed a prospectus that details a package of attractions in Blyth which has been distributed to clubs and bus companies;
  • It is attracting more visitors to the town and thereby creating an economic boost for local shops;
  • It has created work experience opportunities for local youth who volunteer in the candy bar;
  • It even acts as a very effective "baby sitter," screening G or PG rated films when local clubs are holding adults' functions in town!

True community-building in anyone's book!

Movie-goers at Blyth are treated to a PowerPoint slide show before each screening on various topics of local or general interest (weddings, social events, historical facts, farming issues, etc.), with the 'newsreel' being regularly refreshed.

Cinema Chair Ian Roberts said the slideshow had been a major success, and was hugely appreciated by locals. He said it allowed all ages to gain an insight into days past, bringing tiny box brownie photos out of hidden albums and onto the big screen.

And while only three years old, the cinema organisation has an eye on the future as well, investing profits to allow for future digital and seating upgrades and maintenance.

See the media release on Blyth Regional Cinema's win.

2008 Australian Community Idol Finalists and Commendations

The two runners-up for 2008's Community Idol were:

RSPCA ACT - One in four victims of domestic violence delays seeking help because they don't want to put their pet's safety at risk. It's a startling statistic, and one that RSPCA ACT is working hard to reverse through a unique, free, emergency pet foster care program for the victims of domestic violence. Another key initiative run by the organisation is an early intervention program that aims to break the cycle of violence in youths who are violent towards animals. The organisation has also been vocal in its advocacy on animal-related issues, and is breaking ground in challenging traditional animal sheltering rules - with dog and cat re-housing figures far above the average. RSPCA ACT's website is: Consumer Activity Network (Mental Health) Inc. - which is a unique consumer group whose board consists entirely of people living with mental illness. The organisation's core philosophy is "We CAN. We CARE. We Have a GO", and among the group's current programs are a Community Connections suicide prevention project, involving national telephone and "hospital to home" peer support, running of the Pitane Recovery Centre - the first and only consumer-run recovery centre in metropolitan Sydney - and a small 'Busting Out of the Welfare & Poverty Cycle' project. The organisation's website is:

Commendations were also awarded to these groups:

  • Alzheimer's Australia NT - which provides provides support, counselling, information and education to help people living with dementia, their families and those working in the dementia field.
  • Arts Council of Mansfield Inc., VIC - which aims not only to have a fun time together, but works hard to get arts out into the community.
  • BEST Community Development, VIC - BEST Community Development's vision is "Enhancing individuals and enriching the community" by delivering employment, education, training, community and business services.
  • Can Assist: Cancer Assistance Network, NSW - which has, for 50 years, been caring for NSW cancer patients and their families through a network of volunteers and members in 40 branches across rural and regional NSW.
  • Milang Old School House Community Centre, SA - which promotes well-being, by integrating community development and health promotion with mutual support, adult learning and a focus on families.
  • Redland District Committee on the Ageing Inc., QLD - which supports and advocates on ageing-related issues in the region.
  • Righteous Pups Australia (RPA), VIC - whose mission is to raise and train assistance dogs to do a variety of practical tasks for children and adults with disabilities, and to act as companion dogs for the elderly and socially isolated.
  • Sudan's Bor Youth Association of Australia Inc., VIC - founded in 2004 by a group of youth dedicated to joined their efforts to create a network of easy communication between themselves across the globe but especially in Australia.It also aims to enlighten and entertain the community to help facilitate peaceful interactions across diverse cultures.
  • Sunshine Heights Cricket Club, VIC - which combines success and community-mindedness on the pitch with a large number of successful fundraising activities off the field.
  • Teddy Love Club, SA - which is a program for bereaved parents who suffer the loss of their baby or babies to miscarriage, genetic inducement, stillbirth and neo natal death. The program donates teddy bears to bereaved parents, in the hope the Teddy can help to ease the pain of leaving the hospital with empty arms.
  • The Red Room Company, NSW - which creates, promotes and publishes a spectrum of poetry by Australian writers, in unusual ways - including the use of radio, new media and live performances.
  • Western Chances, VIC - which has, since 2003, helped young people in the western suburbs of Melbourne to realise their potential by providing scholarships and through other related programs.

The number and standard of applications this year was so high, the judges decided to award 12 commendations this year instead of 10. Many more groups could have been included in the list.


2007 Australian Community Idol Winner

two eight two eight was announced as the winner of the 2007 Australian Community Idol competition.

Many small communities are struggling with economic downturn and drought but few are tackling their challenges in such a positive way. two eight two eight has led the reinvigoration of the small community of Gulargambone in the central west of NSW (postcode 2828), encouraging locals to seize control of their own future.

The group's activities extend beyond the economic (although it has had significant achievements in that area) to include significant community-building initiatives.

Some of two eight two eight's initiatives include:

  • The purchase and renovation of a dilapidated building in the township's main street, transforming it into a tourist information centre.
  • Expanding and improving that tourist information centre so it now boasts an award-winning cafe, art gallery and gift shop - the latter selling local handmade craft and produce - as well as a successful function centre and other attractions.
  • The use of the cafe's food and quality coffee to draw travellers off the highway so they stop in the town, spend some money and contribute to Gulargambone's economic health.
  • The launch of local "movie nights", as the nearest cinema was in Dubbo, more than 100km away. These nights have attracted locals as well as people from neighbouring communities for a meal, a movie and some great social interaction.

These initiatives have created employment for local tradespeople, provided those in the area with an outlet to sell their art and craft, given training and skills development opportunities to people and furnished locals with a venue for their social activities - again, bringing the community together.

Find out more about two eight two eight at


2007 Australian Community Idol Finalists and Commendations

The two very worthy runners-up for 2007 were:

  • United Cricket Club - this is an ordinary cricket club that is making an extraordinary contribution to understanding and inclusion in the sports-mad central Victorian regional city of Bendigo. Among its on and off-field achievements, the club is working to integrate people with an intellectual disability into the very fabric of the club, a move that stands as a shining example to all groups, not just those involved with sport. Find out more by emailing:
  • Yirra Yaakin Aboriginal Corporation - Yirra Yaakin is an Indigenous theatre company based in Perth but servicing all of WA. Regarded as Australia's leading Indigenous theatre company, the group is also notable for its work in promoting understanding of Aboriginal culture, traditions and stories, and its commitment to fostering reconciliation, empowerment and pride. Yirra Yaakin's website is:

Commendations were also awarded to these groups:

  • Access for All Alliance Inc - a Queensland-based group that is working to bring about equitable and dignified access to all premises, facilities and services to all members of the community. Recent campaigns have included a national survey to highlight the difficulties experienced by people with disabilities trying to book holidays.
  • Bendigo Youth Choir - a terrifically inclusive choir operating in central Victoria that accepts all young people who wish to sing - and the only youth choir in Australia in which all members have mastered the art of harmonic overtone (throat) singing.
  • ChIPS (Chronic Illness Peer Support) - a group working to improve the lives of young people living with a chronic illness. A key feature of ChIPS is that it is not illness-specific so it provides an important opportunity for support for young people with rare illnesses who may not fit into other groups.
  • KIDS Foundation - a hard-working group that promotes awareness of children's safety through a range of initiatives, including the establishment of School Safety Clubs in primary schools. The foundation also provides invaluable support for young people recovering from injury and burns.
  • Little River Landcare Group - this group is remarkable in its willingness to go beyond the usual environmental issues that form the core concern of most landcare groups. As well as its important work on natural resource management, the group has run seminars on succession planning, depression and suicide, as well as a rural women's forum.
  • Millennium Kids - a group that delivers inclusive and sustainable projects that reflect the opinions and concerns of young people. The group's unique structure sees a Youth Board comprising 15 young people aged 10 to 25 provide oversight and direction, with the support of a secondary Advisory Council made up of 10 adults.
  • Public Interest Law Clearing House - PILCH provides pro bono legal services and undertakes law reform, policy work and legal education. The group has built a strong reputation in the community for its willingness to tackle difficult or unpopular issues, and for its work to address disadvantage and marginalisation in the community.
  • Retro Youth Café - the Youth Café was started up by Albury City Council but is shaped by two dynamic and active youth committees. The café is providing important entertainment and educational opportunities for young people living in the rural city of Albury and surrounds.
  • Toowoomba Community Justice Group - a group working to reduce the number of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system. Its achievements have included establishment of the 'Whaddup' youth diversionary program, and the culturally appropriate Murri Court.
  • Yaamanhaa Aboriginal Men's Group - a group that is working to re-establish a positive role for men in the Aboriginal community of New England in NSW. Among its successes is the 'Feeling Deadly Not Shame' program, which has been put in place to address issues of mental illness and violence.
  • Yarra Ranges Children's Choir - a choir open to all children who love singing. Remarkable initiatives the group has put in place include an Aboriginal Children's Choir that is helping to preserve the local Indigenous language, and a program for boys with changing voices.

2006 Australian Community Idol Winner

The Wunan Foundation was announced as the winner of the 2006 Australian Community Idol competition, with the announcement made on the final day of the 2006 Communities in Control Conference by AFL legend Kevin Sheedy.
Wunan, from East Kimberley in WA, supports training, jobs and related activities for the 5000-strong Indigenous community in a region as big as the state of Victoria.

It creates sustainable businesses itself, involving local Aboriginal people as well as providing management and governance support to other Indigenous groups to help them be more effective and sustainable in serving their local communities.

For more information on Wunan, visit the foundation's website at:

And to view the full 2006 Community Idol media release, Click Here.

2006 Australian Community Idol Finalists and Commendations

While the Wunan Foundation may have won the 2006 Australian Community Idol, it faced stiff competition from two other worthy finalists:

  • Way Out Rural Youth & Sexual Diversity Project based in Kyneton, Victoria. Way Out is a group of young people raising awareness on sexual diversity and homophobia.
  • It works with schools and local health professionals. It prides itselfon being youth-driven and open to gay and straight members of the community. For more information on Way Out, visit
  • Sanctuary For Refugees based in Coffs Harbour, NSW. The Sanctuary Refugee Foundation sponsors, welcomes and settles refugees accepted under Australia's unfunded Humanitarian Program. It provides interest-free travel loans which are repaid then 'recycled' to help others in need. Sanctuary's work has inspired 10 new community groups across Australia. It receives no government funding. For more information on Sanctuary for Refugees visit

Commendations were also awarded to these groups:

2005 Australian Community Idol Winner

Brisbane-based organisation Sisters Inside Inc was named winner of the inaugural Australian Community Idol competition in 2005.

Sisters Inside is an independent community organisation advocating for the human rights of women in the criminal justice system in Queensland. The organisation works alongside women in prison in the south-east of the state to fill the gaps in services that are available to them. For more information on Sisters Inside, visit

To view the organisation's address to the 2005 Communities in Control Conference, Click here.


2005 Australian Community Idol Finalists and Commendations

Two other worthy organisations joined Sisters Inside in making presentations at that year's conference. The other two finalists were:

  • CERES (the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) from Brunswick, Victoria. CERES is a community environment project which aims to encourage community participation in environmental sustainability and social equity in urban areas. For more information on CERES, visit
    To view CERES's address to the Communities in Control Conference, Click here
  • Horn of Africa Communities Network Inc. (HACN) based in Footscray, Victoria, offers a range of programs and services in employment, housing and education to ensure a better quality of life for Horn of Africa humanitarian and refugee settlers. The organisation is committed to equality for Horn of Africa minorities and promoting the development of an African-Australian identity for new arrivals. For more information on HACN, contact them via email: To view the organisation's address to the Communities in Control Conference, Click here.

Commendations were also awarded to the following groups:


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