Broker receives top honour for community project

by Sarah Megginson03 Aug 2020

The inspiration for Money Jar Concept owner John Ng’ssocial and community connection platform, Humans of SKY, came from his iPhone, which offered him a portal to the other side of the world.

After following and enjoying Humans of New York, the famous photoblog of portraits and interviews collected in New York City, which was started 10 years ago by photographer Brandon Stanton, Ng modelled his Humans of SKY Facebook and Instagram pages on the same concept. (SKY stands for the suburbs that make up Ng’s local community: Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville.)

Now in its fourth year, Humans of SKY has more than 5,000 followers and allows Ng to exercise the writing skills he developed as a journalism graduate.

“The idea behind Humans of SKY is to break down the barriers that have been developed over the years by people relying so much on social media and build rapport, harmony and common goodwill,” Ng says.

“I want to help the local community and encourage people to get to know their neighbours.”

Ng adds that he’s “excited by the humans who make up the social fabric of the inner west” and aims for his social media communities to be a “guide to food, drinks, services, community and, most importantly, the humans behind them”.

Connect with humans of SKYHis work on Humans of SKY recently led to Ng receiving the City of Maribyrnong’s Citizen of the Year Award for his unique form of storytelling, which has spotlighted more than 120 people in Melbourne’s inner west. The annual Civic Awards, which were held on 30 January, celebrate the efforts of individuals and organisations within the community who help make the city a wonderful place to live, work and visit.

Ng’s platform has connected people with distant family members from the other side of the world, raised awareness of cancer sufferers and increased foot traffic for local small businesses.

“The idea behind Humans of SKY is to break down the barriers that have been developed over the years ... and build rapport, harmony and common goodwill”

Ng says he has a series of questions he asks himself when canvassing the community for locals to highlight: Who are the humans who have transformed the inner west into such a liveable community hub? Why are they here, and how did they get here? Where are they from? What’s their story? Where can you find them?

While the Humans of SKY social media platforms have been running for several years, their ability to help people connect at a local level has become even more important in 2020 as the pandemic has forced people into lockdown; Melbourne is currently in its second quarantine period.

Ng says he enjoys the combined challenge of running his mortgage broking business while further developing the Humans of SKY concept, while also spending time with his wife and three kids. This year, Ng plans to officially launch an offshoot, Humans of SKY (Business Stories), which he believes will help local businesses recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.

“In this day and age, it’s important to have your own brand and something you are recognised for outside of your job,” he says.“I’m often asking myself what kind of legacy I’m going to leave, and Humans of SKY is something I am proud to have created.”

John Ng, owner, Money Jar Concept
Photo: John Ng

Paul Hollema, resident of Yarraville, musician, performer, parent

“I was born in 1957, in the small Dutch town of Culemborg, located along the River Rijn. I am the youngest of six, an unexpected child. I have five brothers who are all a lot older. One of them has since passed away. My parents were Catholic. Mum was 43 when she had me, a huge scandal at the time! Before she passed away fi ve years ago, she once said, ‘If I lived today, I wouldn’t have listened to the Catholic Church. I would have used contraceptives, and I wouldn’t have six kids, but I do love you all very much!’

“I did all the things Dutch boys do in Holland. I went fishing every week and got into trouble. I would go ice skating when there was ice, and I swam in the lake in summer. I had piano lessons when I was six. Dad was a handyman and had fixed up a piano he had purchased. There wasn’t a lot of money to go around with six kids.”

Luís, resident of Maidstone

“Greetings, I’m Luís (pronounced, in Portuguese, something like Luueesh). I have been living in Maidstone since 2017. I came to Australia in 2015 with my wife, Naomi, who is from Perth. We met in Timor-Leste in 2006. Our eldest son, Vasco, was born in Geelong in 2016, and our daughter in 2017 at Sunshine Hospital.

“I grew up in Monforte, a small village in Portugal’s beautiful Alto-Alentejo. It’s a region of castles and Roman ruins, of rolling hills peppered with holly oaks and cork oaks. Here and there, you see vineyards or olive groves. I am one of six brothers and sisters. My parents and siblings all live in Portugal.”

Delia Paul, resident of Yarraville, writer, editor, UN watcher and believer in a better world

“I was born in Johor Bahru, a coastal town at the southern tip of peninsular Malaysia. Growing up, I always wanted to travel, and I loved reading the atlas. I was a bookish kid. Johor Bahru had American Peace Corps volunteers stationed in the city in the 1960s, and a couple of them boarded with my parents.

“I always had this feeling of wanting to be part of the wider world. At our local library in town, next to the post o ce, I’d borrow storybooks from the US and UK, and I’d imagine what life was like elsewhere.”