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Big change from small beginnings

23 August 2017 | Posted in: News

Petra Hilsen is stepping down from her position as a board member after eight years of solid commitment to our cause. Petra has been a huge asset to both Renew and Newcastle by providing a unique perspective and enthusiasm to support new ideas and change. We wish her well on her travels around Australia.

Here is her story:

In Melbourne, I had worked in community development, managing a childcare co-op. Here in Newcastle, I worked for the business improvement association and had good knowledge of the already existing businesses. I could see that increased creativity would bring life back to the city and how it would assist already existing businesses by bringing more foot traffic to the areas.

Being part of a board that is committed to Newcastle and to creative business has been extremely rewarding. I believe Renew’s success is due to board members being focused and able to work together in a highly professional way. It could have been easy to stray and take on other issues, but we stayed true to our mission to connect people with vacant spaces, and support a community of creative entrepreneurs who bring life, interest and activity into under utilised neighbourhoods.

I was very new to Newcastle when I joined the board. Being involved with Renew gave me a great opportunity to understand this city and to be an active part of its renewal. Some of my favourite memories are of the early public events held in the church in Morgan Street. The property owners, supporters and creatives all got to know each other at these events.

The announcement of the winner of the busking competition in 2009 in the Tea Project shop front on Hunter Street was particularly interesting and raw – an event embraced by a younger demographic wanting to make the city theirs again. This project later on was given notice to make room for a new commercial business to move in becoming one of the first success stories for Renew. That business, One Penny Black, continues to be a successful commercial business operating in the mall.

For the future, I would like to see the importance of Renew’s contribution recognised as a vital part of the city’s renewal with a long term funding commitment.