Meet Avondale's Storyteller
Despite growing up in Taranaki, Dayne always felt like Avondale – where he and his family came from originally – was home. He grew up with photos and stories of Avondale in the 60s–70s, and spent lots of time there during the 80s–90s for school holidays and family events before moving back himself in 2001. Today, he is raising his own family in the ‘828’. Maybe that is why he is so passionate about community building in Avondale.
Starting out in 2014 on social media under the banner “I Love Avondale” (I♡AD), Dayne started to celebrate and showcase the good things in Avondale. As he created momentum, he came to the attention of Avondale Community Action (ACA) who had secured three years’ community development funding via the Department of Internal Affairs. From 2017, I♡AD became a fully funded project under ACA “showing and growing the good in our hood” online and on the ground.
That funding really launched I♡AD to another level as Dayne and his then-colleague Leilani Kaihe-Bennett were paid to address community needs and aspirations. Most not-for-profits rely on volunteers to some extent, but to reliably and consistently move forward you need people who will show up every day and that means paying them. Not everybody realises that he has support for his work. Recently someone said they thought that recognised him washing car windows at the Ash St intersection. Dayne was taken aback. “Seriously?”
The first major initiative launched by I♡AD was a fortnightly community dinner called Feed the Streets (FTS). The meal was started in 2017 in response to a large number of streeties in and around Avondale’s town centre, and the availability of rescued food. Today, FTS is weekly and is part of a group of I♡AD-led community food initiatives under the collective name, Kai Avondale. Alongside FTS is a weekly social supermarket called Free Guys, a small food rescue service collecting unsold food from local eateries and a growing network of Avondale school breakfast clubs.
Many people assume that if kids are going to breakfast clubs, then the parents must be poor or not looking after their children properly, but this is simply untrue in most cases, says Dayne. Working with breakfast clubs has made him keenly aware of the various narratives and nuances of the children’s situations. While it’s true some come to the breakfast club because they have no food at home, some do not have time in the morning to eat or eating breakfast is not normalised at home, and others may have eaten but come because they are still hungry or to socialise with their peers. So, what else is happening now?
Dayne worked hard to secure the lease on a council building at Eastdale Reserve which is becoming a new hub for recreation, youth and after school activities which complements his work in schools. Schools are where the greatest needs and opportunities come to the surface. He can make a big difference in one place at one time by working with local schools because there is the highest volume of need in a single space. For example, Dayne is also involved with activating Rosebank School’s Community Hub, a storytelling project with Avondale Primary School and a one-to-one student mentoring programme across a cluster of five Avondale area schools.
Much of Dayne’s work is collaborative or supportive in nature whether it is helping reestablish the Avondale Wolves rugby league team, finding paid opportunities for the Fresh One Crew of young creatives or connecting Crescendo Trust of Aotearoa with Panuku Development Auckland for a music mentoring hub on Avondale’s mainstreet. He notes “building community isn’t about doing it all yourself. It’s about utilising our collective strengths to work together and putting the kaupapa of ‘doing good’ before our egos.”
Another key pillar of Dayne’s work is storytelling: whether words or visuals. With support from Panuku, he showcases Avondale’s culture and creativity by curating the street posters fronting the 3 Guys site on Great North Road and shares local stories online via #PeopleofAvondale and other social media posts.
However I♡AD’s online content has evolved since its inception in 2014, when it was the only dedicated Avondale news and information platform on social media.
There has been a changing of the guard in the Avondale Business Association executive which has brought fresh energy and a different vision to the business community. Dayne backed the changes and now no longer needs to promote local businesses as that is now being done well by the ABA.
The area also now has its own Facebook Group which has grown rapidly and sees very active engagement. Dayne says he is glad there is another platform to ask questions about lost pets or what that loud bang was last night, and to find out what is going on locally.
Now as dad to three children with partner Katy Galo, Dayne is at a different stage of life, but just as active and passionate as ever. He is on the board of Rosebank School and has recently joined the board of The Kindness Collective, a charity that matches those in need with those that have more to share.
In the last decade, change in Avondale has accelerated and Dayne is changing too in the way that he delivers community building services. Representing the neighbourhood of Avondale, Dayne has been offered the opportunity to once more pitch for government funding for community building in the area but this time with more of a focus on the town centre and Rosebank Peninsula. How he might do that work has changed but the goal remains the same: to show and grow the good in Avondale.