An Idea is Born into concept that it was to become the Murchison and District Neighbourhood House. It had its beginnings in a community survey conducted in 1998. One of the community priorities that was identified in the survey was the need for a community facility to focus on providing craft, leisure and learning activities.
On 12 November 1998 a community meeting, chaired by Arch Mackinnon resolved to form a steering committee to develop a Neighbourhood House. A week later that steering committee was formed and arrangements were made with Murchison Community Care, to use the old Bush Nursing Hospital. The Steering committee members elected were; Mary Raymond, Jo Burgess, Lucy Harper, Terry Farrell, Jan Bourke, Elisabeth Capuano, Shirley Cloggie, Jan Hillgrove, Karen Armitage and Annemarie Sutcliffe.
A mere two months after the first community meeting, the first committee of Murchison & District Neighbourhood House was formed on 14th January 1999 and an afternoon tea was arranged to open the Neighbourhood House to the public on 10 February.
When he opened the 19th November 1998 meeting, Arch Mackinnon read the following section from the original community needs survey:
“The enthusiasm and strong sense of community being shown by local people augers well for the future of Murchison. Our destiny lies in our hands. If anything is to be done it will only happen if we do it.”
The words were, indeed, prophetic. The people of Murchison had acted quickly, decisively and with a successful outcome. Jan Hillgrove was elected the inaugural president of the House, with Jo Burgess as secretary and Mary Raymond as treasurer.
On the 14th January meeting the Committee also approved an auspice agreement with Murchison Community Care and resolved to join the Goulburn Northeast Association of Community Centres (GNEACC). Both of those associations continue to this day.
The First AGM
The first Annual General Meeting of the House was held on 9th September 1999. Committee members elected for the following year were: Marjorie Patterson, Jo Burgess, Jan Bourke, Judy Prouse, Mary Raymond, Glenn Sutherland, Jan Hillgrove, Anna Sutcliffe, Simon Delahenty, Rebecca Hunter, Elizabeth Capuano, Shirley Cloggie, Lucy Harper, Terry Farrell and Garry West. Subsequently, Jan Hillgrove was re-elected president, Jo Burgess secretary and Mary Raymond treasurer. Simon Delahunty was elected vice president and Jan Bourke publicity officer.
Grants to Support Activities
In June 2001 the House was successful in gaining a Victorian Department for Sport and Recreation Country Action Grant of $2,000 to support a program transporting residents to Mooroopna to participate in water aerobics. The program continues to operate today.
In November 2004 the House received a grant of $1,992 from the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal to purchase weights for the popular strength training program which continues to grow. Additional equipment has recently been ordered to accommodate the increasing number of participants. Other smaller grants have been received to support a variety of health awareness and other activities which the House would not otherwise be able to provide for the people of Murchison and surrounding district.
Three works of art have been installed at the House since it began. The mural in the play group room (originally the Bush Nursing Hospital operating theatre and now part of the day care rooms) painted by Narelle Gregory was unveiled in July 2001. This was added to by Jane Spencer in 2004. In 2003 Narelle completed another mural, which graces the main entrance to the house.
Also in 2003, a leadlight window was designed and completed by a leadlighting group at the House. The window depicts aspects of Murchison and the House. This was made possible by a grant of $900 from Regional Arts Victoria. It was officially unveiled by City of Greater Shepparton Mayor, Ann McCamish, on 28 March 2004.
Governance of the House was restructured in October 2003. Members of the new Board of Management elected at the Annual General Meeting were Marty Morris (president), Helen Eyles (minutes secretary), Anita Cory (secretary), Rod Halden (Treasurer) and Peg Trevaskis. Sue Schultz (vice president) was named the MCC representative on the Board.
Neil Lowe was later co-opted onto the Board to fill a position which remained vacant following the election. He was appointed treasurer in March 2004 when Rod Halden resigned due to work commitments.
Sue Schultz was elected president in the following year, with Marty Morris vice president and the remainder of the Board unchanged. During 2004 the Board completed a major review and revision of House policies and procedures.
Marty Morris was elected president for 2005-2006 with Alan Rosser replacing Sue Schultz as the MCC representative and one position remaining vacant with the retirement of Peg Trevaskis. Inaugural president Jan Hillgrove was co-opted in March 2006 to fill the vacant position.
Board members elected for the 2006-2007 year were Marty Morris president, Tanya Clonan secretary, Neil Lowe treasurer and Jan Hillgrove. Marg McMaster was the MCC representative. Anita Cory and Helen Eyles retired, although Helen’s retirement was short-lived. Tanya Clonan resigned when she left the district due to a change in her husband’s employment. Helen was co-opted back onto the Board and elected secretary.
Marg Clarke replaced Marg McMaster as MCC representative and Joanna Burckhardt was elected as a Board member, with other positions remaining the same for the 2007-08 year. Subsequently, for the 2008-09 year all members of the Board were re-elected.
Major renovations and an upgrade to computer facilities were undertaken in 2007 following the receipt of a $24,600 Modernising Neighbourhood Houses grant from the Department for Victorian Communities.
A wall was removed between what had been two single bed wards in the old hospital to allow the installation of eight computers and broadband Internet data access. The project also required the relocation of the House Library which was upgraded with permanent shelving.
The Board decided to take the opportunity to replace damaged ceiling panels in the adjacent corridor as well as old electrical wiring to that part of the building.
Word processing, internet and digital photography courses in the new facility have proved popular. Residents, and increasingly tourists, are also taking advantage of low cost public internet access in the facility.
The opening day on 10 February proved to be very successful with over 50 people attending. The initial activities offered at the House were Cuppa and Chat Club, Newcomers Club, Book Club and Playgroup. Craft, Weigh and Walk for Health, Garden Group and Textile Craft “Bring your own UFO” (unfinished objects) were added to the activities by March and aerobics and computer classes (the latter provided at the Primary School by Marty Morris and Kerry Tuena) were soon to follow.
By June arrangements had been concluded with the Greater Shepparton City Council to provide a Maternal & Child Health Service at the House. Immunisations were to follow in April 2002.
The committee also approved the first Mission Statement:
Our mission is to provide a safe and welcoming place, where people of all ages can gather together for social and recreational activities and educational and health programmes.
When the House first opened, Murchison Community Care (MCC) donated $500 for initial expenses. MCC also provided the use of the Bush Nursing Hospital buildings.In August the House received a Greater Shepparton City Council Human Services grant of $3,500 for establishment and program coordination.
Participants were charged 50 cents for the use of the House. This has since increased to $1. Course fees were also struck to cover the costs of tutors and course materials. The Murchison Lions Club donated a refrigerator and members of the public donated various pieces of equipment.
The House was opened and operated by members of the committee. This was life on a shoestring budget, but the House was thriving. The bank balance was $1522.31 by the time of the first Annual General Meeting.
Grants and Development of Facilities
The COGS Human Services Grant of $3,500 was paid in November 1999 and used to purchase tables, crockery, shelving, heaters and promotional equipment.
Following a submission from the House Committee the first annual operating grant from the City of Greater Shepparton was received. The first grant was $5,OOO. In later years this increased to $7,500 per annum and in 2008 further increased to $15,450. Over the years this grant has been used for a variety of purposes including equipment purchase, training programs for volunteers, subsidising participants’ cost for some important but expensive learning activities and maintenance.
As early as 1999 the Committee was approached by groups wishing to operate an opportunity shop at the House. Initial interest was from a Nagambie church group. Later local interest became apparent. In February 2001 what is now called the PreLoved Shop began operation under the organisation of Helen Eyles, Dot Rosser and Re Carver. Over the years many different volunteers have been a part of the shop’s growth.
Today, other than grants, it is the largest money maker for the House and is utilised by not only local residents but also visitors to the area. The latter often relate that they have heard that the Pre-Loved Shop is worth a stop on the way through Murchison because of its reputation for quality goods at reasonable prices.
Volunteers The Lifeblood of the House
While volunteers have been relieved of some of their operational duties since the appointment of coordinators, they remain an integral and essential part of the success of Murchison and District Neighbourhood House. The Board of Management, PreLoved Shop assistants, group leaders and most tutors are volunteers. In all, 30-40 volunteers continue to work for the House each month.
In May 2005 Vicki Dowling became the first administration volunteer at the House. She continues to act in that role and has been joined by a series of others over the years. For the most part, those who have left have done so to take up paid employment after refreshing or adding to their work skills as volunteers at the House.
Currently three admin volunteers work a total of 15 hours each week, enabling the House to be open five days per week. They perform a range of routine office tasks and front of house roles, as well as research and document preparation tasks, enabling the coordinator to concentrate on more complex operational and planning tasks.
A major result of these community development activities was the establishment of family day care services at the House in September 2007. Local residents, mainly young working mothers, had been lobbying for such services in Murchison for some time. An offer from the Board of Management to provide Murchison & District Neighbourhood House as a venue was followed by the drawing together of stakeholders at the House. The resulting letter writing and publicity campaign was successful.
The Board of Management has continued the process, begun by the early committees, of improving facilities and equipment. Reversecycle air conditioning is now installed in most areas of the House. Repainting and repairs have made the facilities more amenable and equipment such as photocopier, laminator and computers have been upgraded.
The House purchasedand installed home quilting machine in 2005 with the costs being recouped by fundraising carried out by the Traditional Crafts Group. The machine, which can be hired by members of the public, has proved very popular with Murchison quilters as well as those from the wider Goulburn Valley district.
In 2008 Murchison and District Neighbourhood House provided over 3200 hours of program and community development activities for the Murchison community. Activities and services provided at the House by other community groups accounted for several hundred more hours.
Activity hours have increased steadily over the past 10 years and can be expected to continue to increase as relationships with local groups, Greater Shepparton City Council and the wider community continue to grow. This growth has the potential to be quite dramatic if the current statewide campaign to increase coordinator funding for all neighbourhood houses to 35 hours per week proves successful.
Since Murchison’s population has a high proportion of people over 50, the House has always had a focus on providing services and activities for an ageing population. While this focus remains, early on the House broadened its offerings to meet the needs of a wider cross-section of the community. This broadening is expected to continue in the future as the House seeks to engage and help meet the needs of the whole community.
Continuing to expand
The range of activities offered by the House continued to expand in the next two years. A variety of health promotion activities were regularly scheduled such as Healthy Bones, and presentations on breast screening, depression and the quality use of medicines. An information session on wills and powers of attorney was attended by 30 people. There was also an introduction to photography, a facial evening, a session on self defence for women and bush-walking. Other new classes were begun including ceramics, yoga, calligraphy, water aerobics and first aid.
During school holidays, programs in ceramics and art were held for primary school children.
Jan Hillgrove was again re-elected president in September 2000, with Terry Farrell vice president, Shirley Cloggie secretary and Mary Raymond treasurer. On Australia Day 2001 the House received Murchison Australia Day Award for Club Achievement for the work it had done to provide valuable services and activities for a broad range of local residents.
After leading the Committee for three terms Jan Hillgrove stood down in September 2001. Terry Farrell was elected president, Gloria Shearer vice president, Shirley Cloggie secretary and Debbie Baker treasurer. The president and vice president were re-elected the following year, with Garry Evans elected secretary and Fiona Campbell elected treasurer. Later in the year the president and treasurer resigned. Gloria Shearer was elected president with Evelyn Donders elected treasurer. Anna Sutcliffe was elected vice president.
In July 2000, a book exchange (now called the House Library) opened in the Neighbourhood House. The facility continues to be popular with avid readers in the district to the present day . A large range of fiction and a smaller number of non-fiction works are available. The entire collection has been amassed from donations from the public.
The accommodation for the collection was upgraded to a new room with fixed shelving as part of renovations but the joining fee has remained at $3 per annum since 2000.
For some time the Committee had been aiming to develop a toy library, running raffles, walkathons and other fundraising activities. However, a grant of $4,750 from the Forest Hill Early Childhood Foundation in June 2000 ultimately made this facility a reality.
The toy library opened in August 2000 with a range of toys, games and videos for children up to 6 years of age. By September, 19 families had joined and the toy library continues to serve families from Murchison and the surrounding district. The collection was added to in 2004 when the House was successful in gaining a grant of $1500 from The Goulburn Valley Community Fund.
Coordinators and Volunteers
Committee members operated all aspects of the House until the first paid coordinator, Jenny Jenkins, was appointed in October 2000. This was made possible when the Committee secured funding from the state government’s Neighbourhood House Coordination Program to pay for 10 hours per week coordination.
Jenny Jenkins resigned in September 2001 with Debbie Baker appointed the new coordinator in October. She was to remain in that position until June 2004. Len Schoenborn was appointed m July 2004. Following a successful submission from the House Board of Management as part of a state-wide campaign by neighbourhood houses to increase coordination time, coordination funding increased to 20 hours per week in September 2006.
While the House continues to provide a wide range of activities and learning opportunities, a developing focus in the second five year period of operation has been community development. To this end, the House has worked with various residents’ and local government groups to run focus groups, provide information on local government policy development, to provide input into solutions for community needs and to help local businesses to establish.
Liaison with Council
While Greater Shepparton City Council has supported the House financially from its earliest days, the last five years have seen a steady growth in cooperation and consultation between the House and Council to achieve shared goals. The child care service is a case in point.
Beyond this Council has increasingly used the services of the House to disseminate Council information and gather community input on proposed policies. In other cases, such as the preparation and printing of a guide to children’s services in Murchison, the House and Council have shared the task.
Council Community Development officers regularly provide advice on available services, provide assistance to the House to identify and acquire solutions to House needs and seek input from the House on developments in Murchison.
Community Events and Businesses
Over the past 10 years the House has organised and run many of its own events such as open days, plant markets, a Collectables Exhibition and Christmas break-ups. In later years it has also been the venue for events organised by others in the community such as CWA regional craft days, jewellery sales, community groups’ AGMs and the like.
The House has also rented rooms to orginations and businesses to allow them to provide services that would otherwise not be available in Murchison. Clients have included embryonic businesses, music teachers, counselling services, diabetes educators and eduational program providers.
Vision, Mission and Purposes
As it moves forward the House will strive to achieve the vision, mission and purposes set out for it in the revised statements adopted by the Board of Management in April 2005.
Vision: To be recognised as a centre of excellence in adult education, supporting the community, business and growth of the individual.
Mission: To provide a safe and welcoming place, where people of all ages can gather together for social and recreational activities, and educational and health programs. Murchison & District Neighbourhood House operates as a not for profit organisation with a commitment to the principles of equity, access, participation and the rights of the individual.
- To provide a venue for individuals or groups to use and participate in activities.
- To develop an understanding of the social and emotional needs of our community.
- To identify and encourage community participation in its management and delivery of health, welfare social, educational recreational services and other activities.
- To seek funding and support for the development of programs and other activities designed to meet these needs.
- To encourage and facilitate the establishment of self help groups and assist in the provision of reasonable access in relation to these services.
- To provide information in relation to the availability of programs and activities.
- To liaise and cooperate with other agencies and organisations similarly committed to self-help and community development.
- To operate in a non-political and non-sectarian manner.
- To extend the hand of friendship to all members of the community.
- To foster self-determination and encourage people to organise their own activities, make decisions, and become involved in community activities.
- To provide opportunities for access to courses, programs and information to people who would otherwise be excluded.
- To do such things as may be considered consistent with these statements.