Monday 3 December 2018

Following a cabinet reshuffle, neighbourhood houses will fall under the portfolio of Luke Donnellan MP, Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, and Child Protection.

Neighbourhood Houses Victoria CEO Nicole Battle welcomed Minister Donnellan to the neighbourhood houses sector.

"We look forward to working with Minister Donnellan and his team, to continue the legacy of Jenny Mikakos MP, whose understanding and appreciation of neighbourhood houses helped to secure an additional $21.8 million in State Government funding over the next 4 years."

Nicole also sent her well wishes to Jenny on behalf of the sector.

"We wish Jenny all the best in her new role as Minister of Health and Ambulance Services, and congratulate her on all that she's achieved in strengthening the neighbourhood houses sector. The passion and commitment she's shown our communities right across Victoria has been invaluable."

NHVic also congratulated the re-elected Andrews Labor Government on its decision to make 50 per cent of its cabinet female.

"Gender equity is a key theme of our new Strategic Plan so we fully support the Government's proactiveness in this space. We're hopeful this sign of leadership will influence communities across Victoria to bridge the inequality gap," Nicole said. 

To find out more about Minister Donnellan, visit his website.

Interview with Minister Luke Donnellan

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve had the honour of representing Narre Warren North since 2002 – which makes this my 17th year in the Victorian Parliament. Since November, I’ve been the Minister for Child Protection and Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers in the Andrews Labor Government. Before that, I was the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Minister for Ports and have also been a Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and the Treasurer.

Before entering politics, I worked in commercial property, and as a financial planner and client services manager, having graduated with a Commerce degree from Melbourne University. I even had a stint as a milk man for a while! I’m a born and bred Melburnian and I love spending time in my veggie garden tending to the tomatoes, and going to the footy with my wife and two sons. I try and find time to go for a run most days.

What are your portfolios about?

For Child Protection, we want all children and families to be safe and have the support they need to have a great life. It’s our job to work with families to build their capacity and ensure they have support, regardless of where they live. For Disability, Ageing and Carers, my aim is to help build a more inclusive Victoria. It’s vital that people with disability get all the opportunities and services they need, and that we continue to tear down barriers to their full participation in society.

Within my portfolios, I also have responsibility for community participation which includes initiatives like neighbourhood houses and Men’s sheds. We hope to get more families accessing their activities and services, closer to home.

What are your priorities for this new term of government?

As Minister for Child Protection, I’ll be continuing work on the Andrews Labor Government’s Roadmap for Reform: Strong families, Safe children. The Roadmap is our blueprint for the re-design of the child and family services system, shifting the focus from crisis response to early intervention and prevention. We want to make sure that vulnerable children and families get the right support at the right time.

We’ve made strong progress over the past term – but there is a lot more work to do.

As the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers I’ll be continuing the Labor Government’s work in supporting Victorians with a disability through the transition to the NDIS. It’s vital that the Commonwealth delivers on the promise of the NDIS to ensure everyone gets the care they need. That requires investment. And the scheme must have the quality, safeguards, standards, advocacy and most importantly, clear and enforceable rights for all participants.

I’ll also be working to give a greater voice to our hard-working carers across the state, who will have a dedicated Minister for the first time.

“We’re backing our neighbourhood houses so that more Victorians have better access to vital employment, training and volunteering opportunities – this is about putting people first.”

Have you visited some of the neighbourhood houses in your electorate?

I try to visit as many as possible! Most recently I was at Hallam Community Learning Centre. It’s such a welcoming and friendly environment. 

Why do you believe neighbourhood houses are important for local communities?

Neighbourhood houses are a place for people to come together and access vital employment, training and volunteering opportunities. The breadth of services available always impresses me. There’s language classes, computer tutoring, health and wellbeing activities, life skills lessons, self-help groups and occasional childcare.

Victoria has more than 400 neighbourhood houses across the state and almost 200,000 Victorians visit one each week. We understand they are an important part of the Victorian community, which is why we announced a record $21.8 million in last year’s Budget to boost the Neighbourhood House Coordination Program. This is the biggest funding boost to coordination hours, with an extra 76,700 hours to be delivered each year by 162 neighbourhood houses across the state.

What’s on the agenda for the Neighbourhood Houses Coordination Program in 2019?

We’ll be rolling out funding for 27 neighbourhood houses through the Neighbourhood Houses Coordination Program, including 16 brand new houses across Victoria. 11 of those successful applicants were previously unfunded houses which will now be able to deliver more activities and services to their local community.

There’s also 26 neighbourhood houses that have recently received grants of up to $10,000 for minor works, equipment and communication technology upgrades, plus 10 neighbourhood houses that received grants of up to $30,000 to implement small-scale accessibility modifications. These projects will be implemented during 2019.

I’m looking forward to seeing the roll-out and impact of these initiatives and hope to visit as many neighbourhood houses as I can over the course of the term.