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.