That high quality, affordable social and learning experiences are equally accessible to everyone in the Baw Baw Shire.
Rosemary Allica – Centre Manager
Alice Robinson – Project Development Officer
Helen Taylor – Bookkeeper
We began in 1978. A local woman, Bette Boyanton and five or so of her friends saw the need for a Neighbourhood House in Warragul – to provide learning, support, friendship and self development, focusing initially on women. Attitudes towards many issues were changing rapidly in the 1970s, and particularly the role of women.
Our first premises, in 1979 were the old Cooinda Hospital in Victoria Street. In the early days, speakers were brought in – on women’s health, self defence, financial management, coping with death and other relevant issues. Classes of interest to were organised, based on what the members wanted.
The concept of cooperatives was a big part of our early days. There was a housing cooperative, a food cooperative, and a LETS scheme (Local Exchange Trading System) This was a barter system where people exchanged goods and services without involving money. So, for example, you could bake a cake in exchange for having some gardening done. The Children’s Playhouse was a later example. Parents could have children minded, and later give an equivalent time to the playhouse in exchange.
After a short time in Albert Street premises, a ‘home’ in Smith Street was generously provided by Warragul Shire Council. In 2003, that house was moved (by truck) to its current location in Normanby Street. After extensions and some renovations, there are several functional and flexible areas for activities and classes.
One of our functions from the very start has been to foster community development. We have auspiced many emerging groups. (That is, as an incorporated body, the Community House has overseen legal and financial aspects, provided advice and applied for grants for new groups until they could become incorporated.) This has enabled many groups such as Women on Farms, Drouin Men’s Shed and Neerim South Community House to get started. We auspice the Growing Together Community Garden.
We have received many grants for special programs over the years. Possibly the most notable was our bush fire recovery program, after the local 2009 fires. Warragul Community House was able to provide community social events, where people from affected areas could meet and support each other, as well as pamper days for women, a plant nursery for those whose gardens had been damaged and computer classes. We also arranged visits, talks and support from a Melbourne psychologist who specialises in the recovery process after natural disasters. Some people affected contributed to a book of ‘recovery’ stories.
We still provide a warm welcome to all who visit Warragul Community House, providing a high standard of learning, as well as support, friendship and self development.