Gippsland network of Neighbourhood Houses (NHG) “Statement of Support for a First Nations Voice”
Neighbourhood Houses Gippsland gladly accepts the invitation from all First Nations Australians to the entire community, to walk as allies in support of establishing:
· a “First Nations Voice”, enshrined in the Australian Constitution, for representing all indigenous Australians and advising the National Parliament on matters affecting indigenous Australians; and
· the formulation of a process for treaty-making and truth-telling here in Victoria.
We recognise the unbroken links of First Nations peoples to, and their unceded custodianship of, the lands across Australia and the Torres Strait Islands, which has persisted across eons as the oldest living civilisation on Earth. We recognise the special place that much of Gippsland holds in the ancestry of the Gunai-Kurnai, Bunurong and other bun wurrung clans who first inhabited these local areas, and whose knowledge and beliefs have been handed down through generations of story-telling.
The fundamental principles of Neighbourhood Houses include:
– empowerment through self-determination;
– diversity & inclusion; and
– fairness & equity,
as these are the true foundations upon which all strong communities are developed and nurtured. These are also the concepts and principles underpinning the Voice. We could not be true to our own principles without supporting the creation of a Voice and a treaty-making process.
Just as we do with all segments of the local community, the NHG promises to work with our local First Nations clans and with their national and Victorian representative bodies, to listen to their needs and to help them advocate/explain these needs to the wider community, in an effort to heal the wrongs of the past.
This invitation from our First Nations brothers and sisters arose from the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, but indigenous Australians’ attempts to have a self-determining voice over matters that affect them, go back to the initial time of white colonisation in 1770. However, many past attempts have been overruled by successive governments. So NHG believes the time is now well overdue, and we believe that a change to Australia’s Constitution is the best way of perpetuating this Voice in an enduring, inalienable manner that cannot be changed.
NHG urges all of our stakeholders to fully acquaint themselves with the history leading up to, and the landscape surrounding the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and encourages our stakeholders to vote YES in the upcoming referendum on 14th October 2023.
Last week Neighbourhood Houses across Gippsland came together for their Network’s AGM Awards presentation. Awards were presented under 3 categories; Climate Action, Community Resilience and Community Development.
These categories capture the unique and important work Neighbourhood Houses do within their communities. Applications were submitted and judged by specialists from outside of the area to make the difficult decision of choosing the following winners:
Climate Action Award, sponsored by Gippsland Climate Change Network winner Venus Bay Community Centre for Community Energy for Venus Bay. This project saw the installation of solar, battery and back-up generator at the Venus Bay Community Centre to provide resilience for the local community. The secondary outcome of the project was to be chosen for a large-scale Feasibility Study into Community Resilience and Reliable Energy with funding support from the Federal Government.
Community Resilience Award sponsored by Aussie Broadband: Yarram Neighbourhood House for Let’s Feed them project. During June and October 2021 South Gippsland was hit with storms that caused large scale destruction, flooding and extended power outages, YNH cooked and provided meals and offered shower facilities to those without power for the duration of the power outage event. As a result of this project funding was secured to purchase 4 generators with lighting and power kits to support communities who are experiencing severe weather.
Community Development Award sponsored by NHG: Wurruk Community House for Play, Learn Share; an interactive after-school activities program for local primary school-aged children in their community. The program supports at-risk children through positively engaging recreationally, socially and educationally in a trusted, safe non-threatening environment supporting place-based grass roots methodology.
“These projects are excellent examples of how Neighbourhood Houses listen and respond to the changing needs in regional and rural communities. We have exceptional staff and volunteers working with limited resources in our Neighbourhood Houses/Community Centres across the region.
We are extremely thankful to our sponsors Aussie Broadband and Gippsland Climate Change Network in recognizing the vital role Neighbourhood Houses Play in their communities” Toni Halloran-Lavelle, NHG Network Manager.
For more information see: https://nhg.org.au/awards/
Also celebrated was NHG’s AGM. Guests listened to Carolyn Turner; retired Editor of Warragul Gazette talk about the power of local press and how to generate the best exposure. Leanne Potter from Lifeline discussing the impact of mental health on physical health and the role Neighbourhood Houses play in supporting positive outcomes for community members. Caitlin from Gippsland Pride who talked about the importance of safe spaces for LGBTIQ members and some of the issues currently being faced in addition to the upcoming celebrations.
Neighbourhood Houses Gippsland (NHG) funded by the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions Let’s Stay Connect and the Regional Digital Fund, developed a website which collates programs being run from Neighbourhood Houses within the NHG network. The website also showcases the volunteer stories and opportunities within the sector. This is the first time a Network have developed a site like this and believe it will strengthen their work and increase participation from community members across the region. The website can be viewed here: www.nhg.org.au
NHG Network Manager Antonia Halloran-Lavelle said “During the pandemic the Network became stronger than ever and, recognizing the unique differences between what each House provides, wanted to improve access for communities. If the House in your local community is not offering opportunities that meet your need then have a look at what other Houses within the region are offering. Community members can walk into any Neighbourhood House and be met with a warm welcome and access their services.”
The website was launched during Volunteer Week in recognition of the significant contribution volunteers make to the sector. Speaking at Phillip Island’s Community & Learning Centre (PICAL) Antonia said “the variation of volunteer opportunities within Neighbourhood Houses is incredible, they are the backbone of the sector. Opportunities will be advertised on the website as well as showcasing the fantastic work undertaken by volunteers”.
A Wurruk Community House volunteer, Jade Bradley, was awarded the prestigious 2021 Victorian Social Housing – Frances Penington Volunteer Award on Thursday (5 May 2022), at an award ceremony held at Victoria Parliament House.
Jade was nominated for her invaluable work with the delivery of the original ‘Wurruk Community House Foodbank Outreach Program’ in the first year of Covid.
Then last year, when our community demand outstripped capacity with the outreach program, and we successfully gained charitable status, Jade worked tirelessly setting up and in-house delivery of the Wurruk Food Pantry, which was achieved in record time.
The Wurruk Food Pantry is a vital service, delivering much needed food relief for the community of Wurruk, as well as a way for many community members to connect with their community house and other community members.
Receiving this prestigious award acknowledges and recognises Jade’s fabulous contribution to Wurruk Community House.
We’re super proud of Jade and our wonderful team of volunteers!
Neighbourhood Houses in Gippsland have provided more than $8 million in value between April 2019 to March 2020, to their local community according to a study by Deloitte. The social return on investment for Houses was calculated at an astounding $2.78 for every dollar invested in activities. As well as this outstanding financial return, the report also found that the Neighbourhood House’s in Gippsland provided significant community benefit by building individual and community resilience, improved social participation, emergency relief and improved health and well being.
There are 20 Neighbourhood Houses within the Neighbourhood Houses Gippsland (NHG) network. These houses support communities from Warragul to Loch Sport and down as far as Phillip Island. Often seen as a safe space within communities their work includes community lunches, exercise classes, adult learning, community garden activities as well as arts and crafts. In addition to these activities many houses now, seeing the need within their communities, offer emergency food relief and are dealing on a regular basis with community members struggling with social isolation, loneliness in addition to domestic violence and mental health issues.
Often overlooked and misunderstood NHG reached out to Deloitte for support to evidence the vital role they play in communities. NHG’s Network Manager Antonia Halloran-Lavelle stated “Neighbourhood Houses play a vital role in their communities. The current pandemic is a clear example of this, volunteers and staff from Neighbourhood Houses in Gippsland worked tirelessly checking in on community members, shopping, providing emergency food relief and collecting scripts. We connected with each other, listened to their community and responded swiftly.” Despite this Antonia went on to say “Neighbourhood Houses are often not included in emergency response strategies”. For further information contact Antonia on 0409 110 939 or call in to your local Neighbourhood House.
This last month we hosted a marvellous launch for our Community Energy Resilience project at the Venus Bay Community Centre: Community Energy meets the People!
The project has seen additional solar array added to our existing solar system, and a significant lithium battery. This means we can act as a mini Microgrid – with resilient energy available for our community members when the grid goes down.
We know that we are facing more frequent and severe weather events – and we know the impact that has on our community with no water, no power and for some no cooking or heating. This project seeks to address some of these issues while we look towards the bigger project of Community Energy for Venus Bay.
We hosted a range of State, Federal and local government representatives along with other stakeholders in our region who are looking at community energy/renewable energy projects. Most importantly, we welcomed community members and champions for this project.
With support from the Victorian State Government through Sustainability Victoria to the Gippsland
Community Power Hub, along with cash and in-kind contributions from the Venus Bay Community Centre; we were pleased to showcase our project and demonstrate what community can do when they work together on issues they share.
Where to from here? We have applied for funding from Federal Government to undertake a significant feasibility study to understand what community energy solutions might look like for us – with opportunities for plenty of community input and feedback along with way. Ideally this will help to define a business case for which we can then look for ways to implement. In addition, we know lots of community members have questions about their own renewable energy systems – what kind of system might be suitable for individual households, what kind of battery capacity is needed etc.
We are aiming to host another community forum in May to offer some practitioner guidance on these issues, and to share what we know.