We’ve all got that capacity/talent, sometimes we just don’t honour it enough… I truly believe we all have this core brilliance, but so often it gets pushed down… If we can truly see ourselves and others as precious, that’s what gives me hope”.

– Robyn, 2024

With so much land development happening across greater Perth, we continue to see the development of new suburbs and new local communities. With the establishment of these new communities, there is the opportunity for us all to discover how we can sow the seeds of thriving community life right from the early days of a new community’s life.


Ellenbrook, in the City of Swan, has been growing as a significant population centre in Perth’s northeast. One community group that has been nurturing the development of a more inclusive, connected local community in this area is Ellenbrook Mile. The group was born out of a series of community conversations in early 2018, and initiated by a group of residents who sought to take matters into their own hands to influence stronger levels of neighbourly connection and mutual support, to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of the community.


Robyn Pickrell has been an integral member of the group since its inception. Robyn has been connecting with Swan Community Builder Ally, and is also participating in the current season of Befriend’s Possibility Fellowship. We caught up with Robyn to learn more about her journey.


Robyn recounted that so much of her role in the early days of Ellenbrook Mile was simply trying to understand how a NFP worked and to find ways to engage with others. 


For some reason there has always been a lot of discussion in the community about antisocial behaviour and mental health… A friend called me and said they wanted to start a mental health support group. There had already been some conversations about the idea of The Ellenbrook Mile, so I suggested we use the name! Activities began evolving out of peoples interest.

Alice and Community Builder Ally

Robyn explains that “our whole concept is walking together.” This began with a weekly walk, and has grown organically over the past 5 years to encompass a number of regular social walks and other social activities. All the activities are initiated and hosted by local residents, drawing upon the gifts, interests and goodwill of local community members.


Robyn explained that the group haven’t created any particular distinction between ‘members’ and ‘volunteers’ – “We’re all just in it togetherWe believe everyone is so valuable, everyone’s got something to bring to the table.” Contributions have naturally emerged from the group through time, positive experience and encouragement. “If you enjoy spending time with us, and you’ve been with us for a year or so, it’s going to come from that heart space.” There is a strength in the group’s culture in how it recognises and invites contributions of all shapes and sizes. “If somebody’s got an idea, have a go! I believe when we work in community every day is a new adventure.”

People from a range of diverse backgrounds and lived experiences now host Ellenbrook Mile’s activities, including older people, younger people, and people with disabilities. Robyn explained that much of the strengths in their approach are in the group’s inherently inclusive mindset.


It’s just letting people do it – saying ‘ok, go for it!’ and ‘how can we help?’ Sometimes we don’t do anything, just respecting their capacity and talents and that they can do it. I truly believe everyone has gifts to share.


We have connected with some amazing young adults who have added a great depth to our organisation.  They’re all so interesting.  We have the deepest respect for our young people who have taught us to play Dungeons & Dragons and helped us mature folk to see the wonderful benefits of the game which engages creativity and imagination skills! We have watched as their ‘Games Knights’ group has grown to develop friendships and supportive relationships with one another and the wider group, and seen them taken on new volunteering roles, gain paid work and go back to study.” The group now has the opportunity to become a regular fixture at the Ellenbrook Youth Centre, which they have achieved all while supporting each other to navigate some considerable personal challenges.


Robyn reflected on her own personal growth over the past 5 years, and the changes that have emerged through her seemingly simple yet powerful relational approach. “I love people and know I’ve grown exponentially, sharing people’s journey through all of the stories I’ve heard…it has changed the way I view the worldPeople are their own best asset, they have so many hidden skills and it is just walking and talking together.”


Robyn believes “We sometimes devalue some of the simplest things that are the greatest forms of support in community. My life is so enriched by the people (who now feel like family) who take care of my dog. I’m gifted by that time out, it’s a major gift.  Sometimes we get too caught in the perceived ‘importance-level’ of the ‘saving-the-world’ stuff, but it’s those little things, cooking someone a meal, sharing a coffee – they’re the little things that make a big difference. We’ve all got that capacity/talent, sometimes we just don’t honour it enough… I truly believe we all have this core brilliance, but so often it gets pushed down… If we can truly see ourselves and others as precious, that’s what gives me hope.”


We’ve loved connecting and working with Robyn and the folks from Ellenbrook Mile, and it seems the feeling is mutual. “Ally speaks my language… She is just such a great sounding board. I find her so refreshing, she’s real… We meet up and brainstorm things together, talk things through. She helps me have a better look at things.” 


Ellenbrook Mile currently hosts 5 weekly walks (‘Walking sMILEs’), two craft groups (‘Crafting sMILEs’) and three gaming groups (‘sMILEs and Games’, and ‘Games Knights’). Connect in at https://www.ellenbrookmile.org/

With deep and heartfelt thanks to Robyn for sharing her story with us