The Port Stephens neighbourhood centres at Raymond Terrace and Salamander Bay remain open for business

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Port Stephens Examiner

Charlie Elias
It’s business as usual for those Port Stephens residents seeking access to emergency relief and support services provided by the area’s two neighbourhood centres in spite of physical contact restrictions forced by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of utmost importance, domestic violence and homelessness programs across Port Stephens will continue to operate as a high priority at the Tomaree Neighbourhood Centre (TNC) and Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services (PSFaNS).

“We are currently not offering any face-to-face services,” said Georgina Scott, manager of TNC which operates out of the Salamander Bay Library & Community Centre.

“Both the TNC and Yacaaba Centre have noticed a bit of a dip in clients accessing our services, which could be because of the lockdown and people being afraid to leave their homes.

“It could also be because some people may believe that we have closed. But we are operating and providing support in modified ways.

“Emergency relief can still be accessed by calling us and booking a time for a phone interview.

“If the client is receiving material assistance in the form of vouchers or a hamper that they will need to collect, we ask them to still present to our office and knock on our locked door. Once we have sighted the client’s ID we can hand them the material aid.

“If the client is receiving assistance with electricity bills, Telstra bills or water bills, we ask them to email their bill through to us, prior to their phone appointment.”

Hunter Water customers are now being offered financial assistance to help ease the pressure of paying their water bills during the COVID-19 crisis.

Support services include account extensions to give customers more time to pay, interest free payment relief and flexible payment options.

The Tomaree centre’s SMART Recovery group is still running but has now moved to an online platform.

“To access this clients can go on to the SMART Recovery Australia website and register for an online meeting using Zoom,” Ms Scott said.

The Autism Support Group is also in the process of getting set up to run via Zoom.

To contact the Tomaree centre telephone (02) 4984 6220 or email

PSFaNS manager Colleen Whittle said that emergency relief as well as EAPA (Energy Accounts Payments Assistance) for utilities would now be provided online with assessments done over the phone and grocery cards sent to email addresses or mobile phones.

“The process remains the same,” she said. “The customer needs to ring the centre on (02) 4987 1331 from 9am and book in an appointment for that day. This service operates Monday to Thursday from 9am to 3pm.

“Apart from our group programs all other programs are operating. We would like the community to be aware that our Domestic Violence and Homelessness programs continue to operate as a high priority.”

Meanwhile, the Nelson Bay-based Yacaaba Centre continues to operate and offer services (counselling, referrals, support, advocacy, emergency relief) via phone and video link.

Manager Petra Offen said that emergency relief (such as food hampers) are available by appointment Monday and Thursday afternoons.

“We are accepting food donations on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, as well as money donations into our account,” she said.

For support phone (02) 4984 2176.