Faces of Cowra: Fran Stead

Cowra Information and Neighbourhood Centre CEO Fran Stead with a few members of her team.
Cowra Information and Neighbourhood Centre CEO Fran Stead with a few members of her team.

The Cowra Guardian is starting a new series to tell the stories of those who have, and continue, to shape Cowra. Next up is Cowra Information and Neighbourhood Centre CEO Fran Stead. 

Community event? A person in need? Simply looking for a place to meet some new faces? The Cowra Information and Neighbourhood Centre (CINC) has become a hub of staff and volunteers working their hardest to the do the best for the Cowra community. 

And the woman behind it all is Fran Stead. 

Since starting with CINC, Fran and her colleagues have taken the organisation from strength to strength. 

“When people tell me that my team are making a difference, my smile is huge. I can not ask for anything else,” she said. 

“Working at CINC has seriously had a major impact on me, as a person, a mother, a boss and a community member. I have had my eyes opened to a whole community that I did not even know existed.

“I have grown in confidence to fight for what is right, and I will take every opportunity I can to stand and speak up for people without a voice.”

But this hasn’t always been the case, and Fran and her team have sought to improve CINC during the past few years. 

“The model I started under is nothing like it is today,” she said. 

“We had a community not behind us at all, everyone had an opinion, and they were more than happy to voice it. It seriously was a sink or swim moment.” 

“Nearly four years in, we have nearly doubled the money we receive annually, our family support team are seeing three times as many families and we now have a program totally around youth.

“Community engagement and social inclusion, has had an incredible growth. These changes have come about, due to changing our mindset, living our vision and remembering what we are meant to be doing and operating as one organisation, rather than silos,” she said.

Born in Scotland Fran emigrated to Australia at the age of two and sees herself as Australian and Australia as her home.

Thirteen years ago, she arrived in Cowra just three weeks before having her fourth child. Over the years this has led her to be involved with a number organisations; including sporting, dance, swimming, United Fusion and now the Cowra Tennis Club.

But since her arrival in Cowra she’s only ever had eyes for CINC.

“It was the first job I applied for when I decided to return to work," she said. 

“My youngest had started school and I decided it was time to return to work. It was the longest break I had in employment, with my other three children I had returned to work within the year.

“CINC was the first job I saw that I could apply for - an opening had become available in the accounts department. The job was originally 10 hours per week, though I have never ever done a 10 hour week,” she said.

Fran says her children are her greatest achievement but seeing CINC nominated for Cowra’s Community Group of the Year was “up there”.

“Community events that now see our whole community taking part in them, and realising your organisation played a part in this, fills me with pride,” she said.

“I have loved when I have been able to draw attention to Cowra, and help get government authorities to notice we exist as a town and a community, we are here and our community and our people deserve what our city cousins have at the ready,” she said.

Fran encourages everyone to get involved with their community and help it grow.

“Jump in, there is a spot for everyone,” she says.

"Every little bit helps, you will feel amazing and you get the best rewards, so much more than you give. Remember you cannot comment nor judge, if you are not out there helping and having a go.

“My list (for Cowra’s future) is huge, I will start with, local organisations getting the opportunity to tackle domestic violence, Justice Reinvestment, and long term funding for employment opportunities.

“For keyboard warriors to stop with the negative, untruths, as this helps nothing and normally comments are false and ill-informed anyway.

“Let’s embrace what we have, rather than what we don’t have, being positive feels so much better than negative. Locals supporting locals is the way forward,” she says.

Fran has said she has lived each day to the fullest and treats every day as a memory.

“I do not like to live in the past, nor do I wish my life away for the future. We have to embrace each day, and be grateful for the now.”