A large crowd gathered in the beautiful Art Deco Rex Theatre, the new home of the Charlton Neighbourhood House to celebrate the official opening. The two community-based organisations are cohabitating the space and hope to create a warm welcoming environment, for the community members and travellers to enjoy.
Charlton Neighbourhood House President Kaylene Cossar welcomed the gathering on behalf of the committee and extended a warm welcome to Neighbourhood House Victoria CEO Nicole Battle, Buloke Shire Mayor Carolyn Stewart, Charlton Forum President Alan Getley, members of the steering committee who obtained the funding, supporting groups and individuals who have assisted with the establishment of the House and members of the Mallee Neighbourhood House Network.
She noted apologies from Hon. Luke Donnellan, DHHS Minister the funding body of the Neighbourhood House, Buloke CEO Anthony Judd, Ripon member Louise Staley MP, Committee members Richard Porter, Deb Whykes, Xanthe Fitzpatrick and Susan Harley and steering committee members Trent Cossar and Nathaniel Holmes-Brown, as well as Rotary President Sue McLean, Carolyn Olive and Leonie McGurk.
Kaylene touched on the difficulties the Charlton community had experienced in the past to obtain government funding to establish a Neighbourhood House and how exciting it was that today it became a reality. She noted that it would not have been possible without a large support network and thanked the following- Buloke Shire for their support and assisting with the application, particularly Mark Remnant and Rose Harris; Charlton Forum for auspicing the House in the interim and their secretary Carolyn Olive for her involvement in the steering committee; Mallee Neighbourhood House Network, particularly Simone Christie who has supported and guided Charlton throughout the process; retired members of the original steering committee- Hayden McKinnon, Kelvin Baird, Trent Cossar and Nathaniel Holmes-Brown; members of the inaugural committee- Barry McKenzie, Richard Porter, Debra Whykes, Susan Harley, Leanne Rose, Margaret-Anne Wright, Marea Judd and Rebecca Cossar, along with the many people who had assisted along the way.
To the delight of the crowd she said, “Today as we open this House we are delighted to inform the community that not only has the Charlton Opportunity Shop graciously allowed us to ‘take over’ their name Charlton Neighbourhood House, that they have actively worked supporting the community under for excess of 20 years, but we are excited to announce that they will become a Social Enterprise of our House.” Kaylene extended the good news by saying “Not only do we have a Social Enterprise, but we are thrilled to announce we also have under our banner- the Charlton Youth Group, The Second Tuesday Book Club, Charlton Carers Group and we will be providing the administration services for The Rex Theatre. We are in discussions with a Health provider to provide lifestyle programs and will be providing our first Courses this Sunday-CPR & First Aid. I encourage the community members to provide us with your requirements and utilise the House to help this Charlton asset grow.”
She then invited NH Vic CEO Nicole Battle to speak. Nicole congratulated the Charlton community on the calibre of the application, it was 1 of 57 received for new house funding and of these 27 were funded. Nicole explained how varied Neighbourhood Houses were as they are all based on meeting the needs of the community and that she could see the support of the community by the attendance of the large crowd and the many supporting letters attached to the application. Nicole concluded by saying that she looked forward to returning in 1 years’ time to see the growth of the House.
Mayor Carolyn Stewart was then invited to address the crowd. Carolyn spoke enthusiastically about the partnership between the two parties, she said “Council recognises the value Neighbourhood Houses deliver to our communities. They provide an inclusive, welcoming touch point for community members seeking a range of answers, services, connection and assistance.
Neighbourhood Houses have proven to be a vital cog of the community in each of our other Buloke towns and it is so wonderful to be able to slot in the last missing piece of the puzzle in Charlton.
The asset Neighbourhood Houses bring to our communities can’t be understated. They are so close to their communities and the strength in being able to tailor programs, courses and services to community need, the responsive nature of the Houses and the grass-roots approach deliver a level of community development that can never be achieved by government or larger organisations.
Through this, Neighbourhood Houses are able to capacity build within their community through a co-design approach that works alongside the community which we all know is the key to success in community development. Neighbourhood Houses uncover hidden need, valuable hidden skills within our rural towns and have a unique ability to bring people together in ways that they’ve never had the opportunity before. This brings a vibrancy of new ideas, community cohesiveness and in-turn a resilience which is vital to our future.
Neighbourhood Houses are also great champions and advocators for their community, Council often works with and through Neighbourhood Houses in a representation of a community to advocate for issues and aspirations and capture funding opportunities to fill gaps. This is just one example of the strong community partnerships which will be forged and strengthened through the CNH.”
Nicole and Carolyn were then given the honour of cutting the ribbon declaring the House Officially open.
Coordinator Kim Laffin spoke briefly before cutting the ceremonial cake with her representing the future of the house, Forum President Alan Getley representing the present auspice body and Rose Harris representing the Buloke and their strong support. Kim expressed her passion for the house “This is an exciting time for the Charlton community. This House is a start up organisation that is driven from the ground up and we need to crawl before we walk. We look forward to the Charlton community providing us feedback in the direction, they wish this House to progress. All activities, programs and courses will help develop the Charlton community, she said.”
The Charlton Neighbourhood House will initially be open Monday to Friday 10am-12.30 then 1-4.30pm. There will be days when the coordinator is undertaking training and the House may not be open, so look for the A-frame board on the footpath. The House is running a First Aid Course and CPR Update this Sunday. To book phone 0473-759456. All Charlton groups and individuals are encouraged to pop in and have a chat about how the Neighbourhood House can assist. There will be computing, administration and general printing and copying available after the Film Festival this weekend.
The bleachers in the Charlton Stadium quickly filled, to listen to Beau Vernon address the crowd on Tuesday evening.
Beau was a guest of Charlton Neighbourhood House, as part of their Mental Health Week activities. President Kaylene Cossar welcomed everyone to the event, noting that it would not have been possible to have a speaker of the calibre of Beau, without funding from Look over the Farm Gate and Charlton College. She highlighted that although Beau’s life changing injury had occurred playing sport, it could have just as easily been a car accident, or workplace injury and she hoped that his message would resonate with everyone. Beau’s courage, strength and believe when faced with adversity is the reason the committee and the Youth Group chose to have him share his story.
Beau commenced his address to the crowd “It’s not a poor me story, everyone has their own challenges and I am no worse off. Tonight, I want to give you an insight into my journey whilst passing on key messages around having a positive mindset, dealing with adversity and challenges, removing limitations, and being the best people, we can be.
"We talk about nutrition for our health, we talk about exercise for our health. In this day and age, the biggest issue we are facing with our health is mental health. I want to help people wire or rewire their brains so that they can prosper and live the best life they can, no matter the situation”.
Beau cited a staggering statistic that our brains have 20-50 thousand thoughts a day and that 80% are negative. He explained the importance of flipping that process and re-training the brain to be positive, whilst acknowledging that stress through things such as finance, droughts and studies can impact on our emotions, it is important we acknowledge them and then concentrate on things we have in our lives we should be grateful for. Beau explained at the end of each day he takes a few moments to reflect on 3 things that he is grateful for and quite often they may be little things, like the beautiful weather, or that someone offered to assist.
Beau dislocated and broke vertebrae’s c5-c7 from a hip and shoulder bump, whilst playing footy. He explained the process of using part of his hip bone to fuse his neck together; of the five weeks in hospital; and the subsequent 7 months in rehabilitation. He was determined to go home independently, a feat that the rehab centre had not seen happen before, as he wanted ‘to live life to the best of my ability, as this was the only way I could repay all the people who had helped me’.
Beau explained his injury “the further up the neck you hurt the less movement you have. With my level of injury, I have movement in my neck, shoulders, upper back muscles and biceps. I have half my wrist that works, some pec muscles and despite having movement in my arms, I am still a quadriplegic, as there are different levels. My fingers don’t move at all, I have no feeling below my chest, I can’t feel my skin, or pain and I can’t regulate my temperature”.
Beau then entertained the crowd with stories, of gratitude of not feeling pain when he had an accident at a train station; of screaming every time a nursing student injected into his numb stomach; of making his mum scratch his ‘itchy feet’ that had no sensation, along with many other stories, resulting in peals of laughter throughout the stadium. Beau realised very quickly he and his family needed humour to get through the bad situation, and he suggested that we all look at life this way.
He reminded everyone ‘that as bad as it gets you will get through it’ and ‘if you don’t face challenges and adversity, it won’t change your perspective on life. Adversity will make you stronger, more resilient and more positive’. He explained that after the accident he kept reflecting on a guest speaker he had in school who drew a small circle inside a larger circle, with the smaller circle being your comfort zone. How easy it is to stay in there, but how much your world and zone expands when you spend more time outside it.
Beau showed footage of him playing golf in a specially designed wheelchair that stands him upright to swing. Of a surfboard that is controlled by a watch on his arm, that has allowed him to return to his love of surfing. His kayak that allows him to fish for squid and whiting with his brother and of his revised dart throwing technique which is good enough to beat his brother the drive to perform at his best was a theme throughout the evening. He played the final minute of the grand final when he coached Leongatha to a one-point victory, not to highlight his success, but to show footage of the football community rushing to the players demonstrating that success is bigger than yours alone.
Beau Vernon is many things. He is a son, brother, husband, father, coach, ambassador, university graduate, work colleague, team mate, but most importantly Beau Vernon is a role model and a changer of lives. There was not a single person in the room who did not take a moment to reflect on the way that they could retrain their brain to be more positive, or how they could control their mental health issues, or how lucky and grateful they should be for the lives that they have. Those in the room felt their lives were enriched for listening to this incredible young man.