The following case studies demonstrates the positive impact Neighbourhood House Coordination Program (NHCP) funding has had on these six Neighbourhood Houses that received NHCP for the very first time in 2018.

These six are part of a group of 27 Neighbourhood Houses that risk losing their entire NHCP funding after June 2024, which is why we are calling on the incoming State Government to make this funding permanent.

The following Houses capture the diversity of locations and organisation types, including organisations that were pre-existing and newly established, in rural and growth areas, as well as Aboriginal controlled Neighbourhood Houses.

Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association

Aboriginal controlled
Metropolitan (Hastings)
New Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS Statistical area level 2)
  • Population: 22,016
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 1.7 %
  • Median age: 41
  • Families: 5,710
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.8
  • Average people per household: 2.4
  • Median weekly household income: $1,175
  • Spoke English only at home: 90.4%
  • Unemployed: 5.9%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 27.2%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 37

Willum Warrain (‘home by the sea’) Aboriginal Association is the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the Mornington Peninsula. It is a gathering place where Aboriginal people and non-Indigenous Victorians come together to realize community aspirations and forge shared identity.

For local Aboriginal people, it is a place of hope and healing and importantly, provides connection for members of the stolen generation.

Prior to receiving NHCP funding, Willum Warrain had experienced stop start activities as one-off project funds were secured but then ran out. The NHCP has brought stability through the employment of a coordinator who has built on the organisation’s solid governance and management, to expand the range and scale of ongoing activities aimed at connection, healing, and reconciliation.

Willum Warrain attributes the consistent staffing through the NHCP with an increased capacity to secure and implement grants that meet local Aboriginal community needs and advance their reconciliation work. The certainty of the position has allowed them to attract and invest in an employee with the skills, critical knowledge, and relationships required to manage the complexity of negotiating between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal worlds.

The Neighbourhood House coordinator now manages a team of employees running regular activities and major events such as a Reconciliation Walk, activities for Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week, and other significant events usually attracting between 250 to 500 people. In 2019, five thousand people participated in their Reconciliation Walk.

Willum Warrain has now doubled its ongoing activities and runs Bush Playgroups, men’s, women’s, Deadly Kids and gardening groups, with Aboriginal Cultural Leads. It is also a place where people come to connect informally, and where immediate supports, including material needs, referrals, and advocacy, are met. Their open Fridays enable non-Indigenous Victorians to join them, participating in volunteer activities in a community garden and bush nursery, and a shared meal.

They have grown two successful enterprises which are facilitated through the NHCP funding. Under normal circumstances, each week around five school, kinder and/or corporate groups, undertake cultural immersion tours advancing reconciliation and understanding. Despite COVID-19 interruptions, there were 62 tours conducted in the first three quarters of 2021 with thousands of people participating. The bush nursery enterprise employs four people. Willum Warrain is now the biggest employer of Aboriginal people on the Mornington Peninsula with sixteen of their eighteen employees Aboriginal.

They have also grown their membership base to around 500 Aboriginal adult members but with a wider reach closer to 1,500 with their kin. From between 200 and 300 non-Indigenous associate members prior to the NHCP, they now have around 650.

Willum Warrain has effectively brought a diverse group of Aboriginal people together into a community, strengthening their connection to culture while building bridges and practices across the cultures to advance reconciliation.

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Nagambie Lakes Community House

Pre-existing Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS Statistical area level 2)
  • Population: 4,004
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 1.3 %
  • Median age: 50
  • Families: 1,067
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.7
  • Average people per household: 2.2
  • Median weekly household income: $1,061
  • Spoke English only at home: 86.9%
  • Unemployed: 4.4%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 30.4%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 35

Before receiving NHCP funding, the Nagambie Lakes Community House (NLCH) was often limited by money and time, and activities provided were limited to the skills and know-how of NLCH members. Neighbourhood House Coordination Program (NHCP) funding has enabled NLCH to respond to the needs and wants of the broader community and they are now able to proactively consult the community.

For example, this consultation has resulted in new programs for children who aren’t into sports, and a Responsible Serving of Alcohol course for community groups and small business.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, NLCH organised the making and delivery of facemasks. To combat isolation and loneliness and support mental health, they instigated several activities such as regular phone calls, home delivered newsletters, a Community Quilt and a YouTube Advent Calendar.

NLCH believes everyone has got something to bring to the table and because the NHCP funded coordinator can now organise workshops and classes, “one off" activities happen more frequently and with a greater variety. Even in the midst of the pandemic, NLCH managed to organise an International Women’s Day breakfast with over 80 participants, a Healthy Ageing Day with speakers such as Dr. Jane Fyfield and local lawyers and physiotherapists, and a conference for our local Neighbourhood House Network, GNEACC.

Both the number of participants and the number of members have increased considerably, but the House is also starting to reach a different demographic. They are currently facilitating a Supported Playgroup which is run by the Strathbogie Shire. When the ‘regular’ Nagambie Playgroup found themselves without a home, they were able to invite them under our umbrella. Alongside the Shire, NLCH has arranged a free bus trip and movie night for teenagers. They have started an online book club reaching many young mums. Their YouTube Advent Calendar had over 11,000 views and involved all age groups, with schools, kinder, aged care facilities and everything in between participating. They arranged Family Walks with free lunch to create outdoor activities for families to do during the pandemic.

NLCH has been effective in assisting new residents to make social connections. In a recent survey conducted by NLCH, 83 per cent say they have made new friends or managed to maintain existing friendship, while 28 per cent say they have found a way into the community after recently having moved to the area.

Over the next four years, they intend to implement more opportunities for pre-accredited and accredited training for young people aged 16 to 23 years, with a view to generating more opportunities for local employment. They are also keen to expand some of their existing programs to create more opportunities for intergenerational connections, as a way to combat loneliness and social isolation, particularly amongst some of Nagambie’s older residents.

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Koling wada-ngal Aboriginal Corporation

Aboriginal controlled
Growth area of Wyndham
New Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS Statistical area level 2)
  • Population: 23,273
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 1.4 %
  • Median age: 31
  • Families: 6,162
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.9
  • Average people per household: 3
  • Median weekly household income: $1,511
  • Spoke English only at home: 62.5%
  • Unemployed: 8.5%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 15.4%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 34

Prior to receiving NHCP funding, Koling wada-ngal Aboriginal Corporation was a project in development. Supported by Wyndham City Council since 2013, this group was formed to fill a gap in both a place and services to meet the needs of a growing and diverse group of Aboriginal Victorians living in Melbourne’s west.

Creating a culturally safe place and services has required extensive consultation with and between Traditional Owners and the diversity of Aboriginal residents living off Country, and for those disconnected from culture through stolen generation practices. The NHCP has allowed for the ongoing employment of a Taungurung woman as coordinator who can facilitate this consultation, which provides the essential and shared understanding that forms the pillars on which all activity, policy and practices are and will be built upon as the organisation continues to develop.

This development work has been interrupted by COVID-19, making gathering unsafe for a vulnerable Aboriginal community, however the foundations are well established with the group now successfully incorporated as an Aboriginal Corporation in 2021, providing a legal framework for self-determination and community control of the organisation.

Located in the Wunggurrwil Dhurrung Centre which includes an early years centre, the work of this Neighbourhood House focuses on building and strengthening connection to culture and connection between people, with a view to creating future generations strong in identity, culture, and cultural practices. Through the Elders Initiative, local Elders have been identified and brought together and older Aboriginal residents, disconnected from culture are being connected to Elders to rebuild their connection to culture.

The Possum Skin Cloak Initiative is passing on cultural knowledge and practice to a new group of Aboriginal people, preserving a traditional practice. A partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Childcare Agency is developing a community garden to supply food for the centre’s commercial kitchen, to assist with promoting healthy eating and to further cultural practices. A kick fit program also promotes active living.

Koling wada-ngal has created a safe space with 250 people attending an open day. The number of people engaged since the NHCP became available has grown from around 100 to now between 300 and 400. Koling wada-ngal’s focus on healing through culture, providing a wrap-around approach for local Aboriginal people, compliments the service delivery from other providers rather than replicating them.

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Bruthen and District Neighbourhood House

New Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS Statistical area level 2)
  • Population: 7,743
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 1.8%
  • Median age: 48
  • Families: 2,148
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.9
  • Average people per household: 2.4
  • Median weekly household income: $1,082
  • Spoke English only at home: 89.7%
  • Unemployed: 5.1%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 24.9%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 35

According to the coordinator at Bruthen and District Neighbourhood House (BDNH), the township had lost access to a range of health services over a number of years. The NHCP has enabled the Neighbourhood House to reverse this trend.

They developed a Bruthen Hub as part of the East Gippsland Community Resilience Project, a Neighbourhood House Network run project.

They have developed a range of activities including some usual Neighbourhood House activities accessed by a diverse age range, e.g. Yoga, art groups, school holiday activities etc., many operating out of the local health facility.

The NHCP has enabled BDNH to secure the use of the RSL Hall through the local shire, enabling them to support the Bruthen Men’s Shed as an auspiced group. They have also supported and invigorated a number of groups that have now increased their links to the community as a result of undertaking joint projects.

A Digital Matters program is increasing digital literacy so vital in remote communities. The program utilises computers donated from the local school and volunteers to assist people with their learning.

Utilisation by the community has more than doubled but as is typical in small towns, the role as a ‘go to’ place enabled by developing and maintaining strong local networks with other groups and agencies is a core part of the work. This has increased community resilience. Links are established with the Shire, Red Cross, Uniting Vic, Headspace and Save the Children to name a few. This improves the referral processes and information provision in both directions.

These links were particularly critical during the 2019-20 bushfires. With bushfires around the township for many weeks, people began to use the centre as a place to spend time rather than worrying alone in their homes. The centre procured and provided CFA and Red Cross resources to residents.

BDNH was incorporated into the Shire’s Local Incident Management Plan as a place of information, respite, and referral as a result of links developed with the Shire’s Emergency Management Team.

After the fire’s impact, the Neighbourhood House managed donated food with people requiring repeat visits as they had no power to refrigerate food stock. They used the local health service site to manage non-perishable food supply and distribution for six weeks, relieving pressure on the community and the Bairnsdale relief services. They provided other support including sourcing goods for people who had lost everything, even securing accommodation and clothing for one man.

Support services were slow to arrive in Bruthen, so the Neighbourhood House was the primary support site until February/March. They were able to assist agencies to quickly contact vulnerable people due to local connections and knowledge significantly reducing the time to make those connections. They have continued to link people to services – sometimes only prepared to meet case workers if the Neighbourhood House coordinator was with them. This highlights the trusted role Neighbourhood Houses play in community but also subsequently facilitates trust in those services in the community.

Since receiving NHCP funding, the BDNH regularly meets and consults with groups in the community and has expanded local connections, breaking down silos and strengthening community.

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Ballarat East Neighbourhood House

New Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS SA Level 2 [1])
  • Population: 24,231
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 1.8 %
  • Median age: 36
  • Families: 5,929
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.8
  • Average people per household: 2.4
  • Median weekly household income: $945
  • Spoke English only at home: 97.1%
  • Unemployed: 9%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 34.4%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 10

Ballarat East Neighbourhood House (BENH) was built from the ground up through an auspice arrangement with Ballarat Neighbourhood House.

The NHCP funding has assisted with their development enabling a move to establish a base within Barkly Square, a converted secondary school that now houses 18 different community groups. There are meeting rooms, classrooms, general activity spaces and a social enterprise café.

With these fundamentals in place and a large population, the BENH has rapidly grown into a thriving hub. They have developed a range of regular activities such as walking groups, yoga, tai chi, drawing groups, playgroups, friendship programs, and a support program for International students – Ballarat Buddies – 25 International Students from Federation Uni have been linked with a local volunteer as a way to provide connection/social support etc.

They have also been able to offer five student placements for students from Federation University – mostly social work – collectively this represents over 1,200 hours of placement support.

BENH has also rapidly developed a significant volunteer program with over 60 volunteers. Among other things, these volunteers support distribute a community newsletter produced by BENH. This is a community newsletter as opposed to a BENH newsletter, which has helped to create/promote increased connectivity and a greater sense of belonging – particularly during COVID. This newsletter is delivered to 7,500 people across six suburbs, six times per annum. The newsletter is delivered by a team of 45 volunteers, which also helps to promote physical activity.

NHCP funding has enabled BENH to employ a part-time coordinator. This person, in turn, has been able to leverage additional funding to employ a part-time administration person and a part-time project worker.

The volunteering opportunities have enabled new cohorts of people to participate in community life. A new playgroup has been particularly well received. Previously, there was only a church run playgroup and a number of LGBTIQ families didn’t feel comfortable attending this. The program has only been running for the past couple of months and has already engaged 16 families.

BENH is facilitating better connections between local residents and local businesses/community groups. They have developed an excellent relationship with the local Council and very much act as a community connector. All of their programs and services have really helped to activate Barkly Square as a community hub.

BENH participates in the power saving bonus scheme and has already helped lots of low-income individuals/families. One couple (older) recently attended the House for assistance after seeing the program advertised in the community newsletter. After receiving the assistance, the Manager took them down to the Social Enterprise Café to have a complimentary coffee/meal that another community person had provided via the Pay-It-Forward wall. The couple were so moved/grateful for this gesture. The manager also linked them in with the Chatty Wednesday café so that they could meet other people within the broader community.

The NHCP funding has supported the process of incorporation, establishing BENH as a legal entity in its own right in 2019, governed by local community members.

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[1] Ballarat East Neighbourhood House is located near the border of three diverse ABS SA level 2 areas. Ballarat South area is used as Ballarat North and Ballarat areas are nominally serviced by two other Neighbourhood Houses

Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre

Pre-existing Neighbourhood House

  • Demographics (Census 2016, ABS SA Level 2)
  • Population: 13,339
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people: 0.1 %
  • Median age: 33
  • Families: 3,390
  • Average children per family for families with children: 1.7
  • Average people per household: 2.4
  • Median weekly household income: $1,553
  • Spoke English only at home: 54.3%
  • Unemployed: 6.8%
  • Single (or lone) person households: 28.9%
  • Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage - state percentile ranking: 77

Glen Eira Adult Learning Centre (GEALC) is a well-established organisation with an emphasis on adult education. They are significant providers of English language training for migrants through the Adult Migrant English Program.

A significant number of participants are family members of skilled migrants and GEALC understands that assisting family helps ensure a successful skilled migration with its attendant economic benefits. Over a third of these are older parents of skilled migrants facing the challenges of migration later in life.

As a well-established organisation GEALC had a clear vision of what the needs were that the NHCP could meet and had a clear plan to get there.

The NHCP has enabled the part time manager to increase to full time and to employ a support and engagement officer at 20 hours per week. This has enabled them to address the often more pressing needs of their participants beyond their language needs.

They assist people with settlement needs providing pathways advice counselling and linking people to community networks. They have developed a strong referral system to other agencies and regularly provide information about government agencies and services including presentations in languages.

They have increased their English language provision by 500 per cent since they received NHCP funding as word of mouth has increased demand.

The funding has enabled the establishment of health and wellness programs, social connection groups that also build language competency and seniors programs such as positive aging programs. Much of this has gone online during the pandemic.

They have initiated a strong local organisation network to improve the linkages and referrals between agencies. Though an event they have connected with Bailey House allowing for placement of people with intellectual disabilities in the Centre. This has enabled greater understanding of disability amongst some participants where their cultures traditionally have a differing approach to disability. This bridging capital developed through the centre results in the formation of supportive relationships between these different cohorts.

The funding has also assisted people to successfully prepare for employment with resumes and job interview training and has also assisted with small business applications etc.

With vulnerable participants unable to attend due to COVID, GELC has secured a $50,000 grant to procure 45 iPads for loan to those who need them. Their worker has also provided culturally specific COVID-19 and support service information and provided one-on-one support over the phone. They also distributed 150 care packs.

GEALC considers the creation of community and a sense of belonging for their participants as a key outcome of the NHCP funding.

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