Monday 20 December 2021

A message from Neighbourhood Houses Victoria CEO, Nicole Battle:

As another year battling this global pandemic draws to a close, I want to once again acknowledge the hard work and determination of this sector, which has unwaveringly continued to uplift communities during very challenging times. Everything you have done and continue to do helps make life a little easier, a little brighter, and a little less heavier for so many people.

Almost a month ago, we held our 2021 Annual General Meeting and I am very proud of our 2020-21 Annual Report. It reflects another year of adaptability and resilience across the sector during the global pandemic, but also the beginning of some really special initiatives.

Here are some highlights relating to the work of NHVic, that I wanted to share:

  • We offered houses a number of exciting opportunities to raise their profile through several successful partnerships (e.g. the Power Saving Bonus outreach program, the Carer-Friendly program, Safe Seats Safe Kids, National Science Week Grants etc).  
  • Our ongoing support to houses in responding to the ever-changing COVID-19 settings has been significant – in the last year we received over 6,000 visits to our COVID support page and responded to well over 200 email enquiries (this stat only captures enquiries to the [email protected] inbox). I have received lots of wonderful feedback in relation to this support, especially regarding the timeliness of our COVID sector updates and recent information sessions. We always aim to get the most relevant and reliable information out to our members as soon as possible, so you can plan your operations accordingly. 
  • Our assortment of professional development offerings (e.g. annual L&D calendar, Mentoring2Management course, Yarning with Kath series) have up-skilled over 600 participants.
  • Visits to our new redeveloped website have increased by over 10,000 visitors compared to our last report, and our combined social media reach tipped well over half a million.
  • Our sector luncheon in May, with special guest The Hon Senator Penny Wong, was certainly a highlight, providing a relaxed opportunity for in-person networking and a chance to celebrate your work through our annual awards program.
  • I counted up 94 meetings that I’ve attended across the past year with high level public servants, MPs, and Ministers. There is a lot of advocacy I do behind the scenes to make sure neighbourhood houses are front of mind across relevant areas of government. It's a very important part of what I do, especially as we head into a new State election cycle.

With the Annual Report, we have also included some high level figures that came from the 2021 Neighbourhood House Survey, completed by houses back in August. Impressively, despite operating at a heavily reduced capacity, neighbourhood houses still managed to deliver $1.1 million in community value, per day. That is an incredible figure, and one we can all be very proud of, given the challenging circumstances. The full report is now available to view. 

Recently during a visit to Wyndham Park Community Centre in Hoppers Crossing, I had an opportunity to share some of these stats with Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas (pictured above witnessing their food relief program). We discussed the important work undertaken by neighbourhood houses, to support the Victorian community right throughout the pandemic. Not to mention the work that is yet to come as Victoria reopens and recovers over the coming months.

Like some of you may be feeling, no doubt, the introduction of Omicron into Victoria makes me a little nervous. I urge everyone to get their booster shot as soon as they are eligible. The gap between your second dose and the booster is five months, which means if you received your second dose in July or earlier, you are eligible to receive your booster this month. Information on the booster program can be found here on the Department of Health website

It is still so incredible to me that in just a matter of months, Victoria has been able to achieve almost 93 per cent fully vaccinated. I know many houses played an important leadership role in helping make this happen, through information sharing, campaigning, and some even opening their doors as pop-up neighbourhood vaccination hubs. All of this work has been so important in containing the severity of COVID-19, but it doesn’t end here. We must continue to keep our communities informed, not just in regards to boosters, but also with the introduction of vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, starting 10 January.

I would like to thank our President Angela Stathopoulos and the NHVic Board for their guidance and support. A big thank you to the Network Managers who continue to work closely with houses, supporting their needs at a regional level. Thank you to the Department for their partnership. Thank you to my team for giving 110 per cent at every twist and turn – I am very fortunate to lead such a talented group of people. And of course, thank you to all our members for your commitment to your communities. 

The team and I look forward to, touch wood, a smoother year in 2022, doing what we as a sector do best – bringing community together.

Yours in community,
Nicole Battle