NEW president of the ACT Neighbourhood Watch Laurie Blackall says he hopes his plans to expand the organisation’s online offerings will help take it forward.
“I’m happy to do the ‘doing’, as we all must as volunteers,” he says.
“We’re not terribly flush with resources, but it’s a strong group. I’ll continue to build the membership and aim to improve communication across the organisation.”
Laurie has taken over from Margaret Pearson, who had two terms as president over 15 years, and will now focus on being company secretary to the board of Neighbourhood Watch Australasia.
He says he’s not looking to make any big changes to the 4000-member, all-volunteer ACT arm of the NHW organisation, but he’d like to enhance its online operations and connection with members.
“Enhancing our website would be a good start,” he says.
“I’d like to put more information up there in real time and focus on supporting our members, helping and mentoring them, and hope to continue to bring people on board from all walks of life.
“Email can be a bit hit and miss, so perhaps we need to look at a better way to broadcast our information and engage with people. We do have a well-supported Facebook page. We might even make the leap to Twitter.”
Laurie says the group will continue to deliver its newsletter because it’s the only way to reach some members.
“I’m keen to keep on with in-person engagement too, as it’s very often the people that aren’t on computers that benefit most from what the Neighbourhood Watch is trying to achieve,” he says.
“We’ll also continue to work closely with our partners and community service associations.”
Laurie’s not new to Neighbourhood Watch, having started a group in Florey in 1989.
“Back then it was more of a distribution network for the newsletter, getting information out from the police,” he says.
“It was quite mandraulic [labour intensive], though people were also encouraged to report any suspicious activity.”
Drawn to the organisation as he spent a lot of time away from home through his time in the RAN, Laurie says he’d also had a few not-very-nice incidents over the years that made him want to improve public safety and security in the neighbourhood.
He came to the ACT in 1968 and now lives in Casey, and says he returned to Neighbourhood Watch after he retired. He was approached to become a member of the NHW Board, where he was treasurer for a year.
Having joined the Navy in 1977, with several postings to HMA ships, Laurie returned to Canberra on posting in 1985, retired from the RAN in 1998 and joined the public service.
“My interest is more in the governance side of things, so I hope I can bring my experience in leadership and management from my career in the Navy and my interest in project and programme management,” he says.
Retired since 2013, grandfather of four Laurie says he enjoys having his family nearby, his daughter in Forde and his son in Murrumbateman, and likes travelling, photography and learning to play the saxophone.
Laurie was unanimously appointed to the position by the board of directors via an online meeting, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.
“This virus has meant it’s taken a bit of time to get things moving and to meet people, but we’ll get there,” he says.
“I’d like to see the development of NHW and its place in the Canberra community cemented and grown, as an organisation where members are enthusiastic and supported, and more involved than just a name and number on a page.”