Five houses unite under one roof

by James Poyner
14th November 2017

Manningham’s five Neighbourhood Houses have formed a new strategic alliance, which will improve access to adult education for the municipality’s residents.

Under the banner “Manningham Learns” the Neighbourhood Houses of Warrandyte, Park Orchards, Wonga Park, The Pines Learning and Living and Learning at Ajani can to pool their resources and aggregate each centre’s courses and activities into one place, making it easier for adults to access courses and activities across the municipality.

Outgoing Mayor of Manningham Cr Michelle Kleinert told the Diary having all of Manningham’s Neighbourhood Houses united will grant residents with more options when exploring their adult education needs.

“When you consider you have Warrandyte, Park Orchards, Wonga Park they are all offering different things, if someone is living in an area and they only know Warrandyte they are missing out and Park Orchards is not that far; so it gives us better access for our community to feel they have better access to more tools,” she said.

In 2016 10,500 people enrolled in activities at Neighbourhood Houses across the municipality, according to data from the 2016 Census, that would indicate between 10 and 12 per cent of the residents of Manningham who are beyond compulsory schooling age are involved in some form of activity or course run by Neighbourhood Houses.

At the Manningham Learns launch, Cr Kleinert spoke on the importance of this alliance in promoting education within the municipality.

“For young people who are struggling with learning, with education; when they see their parents and grandparents still learning — it is a very powerful message for us to give back to the next generation,” she said.

There are around 300 organisations in Victoria who are eligible for funding under the capacity and innovations fund, the money helps organisations evolve the way they engage with the community to provide education, but there is only so much money to go around and often strategic alliances are a more attractive way to fund enhancements, but alliances between independent organisations are tricky, especially in the adult education sector.

The Manningham Learns project has taken 18 months to get from planning to launch and has meant the five Neighbourhood Houses have had to change their view of each other, they have had to become collaborators instead of competitors, a task not easy to achieve and one which Julie Hebert, Manager of Training and Participation Regional Support for north eastern Victoria Region praised.

“There are about 300 [community education organisations] in the State and if every single entity tries to do it by themselves in this modern context, it is a big risk — it is working together that saves everybody in the end.

“It isn’t an easy task to get five organisations who are vastly different to agree on a course of action to do the same thing, it is a very, very, very hard task.

“It is a very, very great outcome, what you’ve done, you should be very proud,” she said at the launch of Manningham Learns.

This new alliance has received accolades from all levels of government and the managers of the five Neighbourhood Houses have worked hard to make this happen, under the umbrella of Manningham Learns they will be able to make their administration more efficient which means each manager can focus on providing a better education service, as Pauline Fyffe, manager of Park Orchards Community House explained.

“Initially we still have a lot of work to do in determining how the alliance will operate and the benefits we will see, the project has been about bringing us together, we have come a long way on that journey but there is still quite a lot to do in terms of how we will operate, how we will make our lives easier, this is the beginning,” she said.

Emma Edmond, of Warrandyte Neighbourhood House added: “because we know each other a lot better now and there is a high level of trust amongst us we will be able to just put our hand up to do something I can do instead of all of us having to do the same thing individually”.

The efficient running of an organisation like Neighbourhood House is vital if it is to evolve the service it provides the community and a lot of the changes in policy which Manningham Learns has initiated will not be seen by most.

What will be seen is the ability to see, in one place, what all five Neighbourhood Houses have on offer, which will give those members of the community who are seeking to educate themselves further a more convenient picture of what courses and activities are available, and where.

“The biggest benefit is that all our services are now in one place, so they can access the website and download a course procure — it is a one stop shop for learning,” said Ms Fyffe.

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