Blog by Tracie Lund, Morwell Neighbourhood House’s Manager in Australia.
The Morwell Neighbourhood House is located in the middle of a public housing estate, 2 hours drive east of Melbourne in the Latrobe Valley. The region is often described as the Ruhr of Australia. With open-cut mines covering hundreds of kilometres across the valley. Towns like Morwell, Traralgon, Moe-Newborough-Yallourn North, and Churchill sit on the fringes of the industrial development that has powered the state for decades. The town’s hardworking community, who has sacrificed their health and life expectancy, so that we might all have the privilege of instant power when we flip a switch.
In its heyday, Morwell was a thriving town. Now the town is littered with empty shops, highly rates of socio-economic disadvantaged, unemployment rates that are double the nations average, high levels of domestic violence and food insecurity.
The Morwell Neighbourhood House has been operating since 1982. Known locally as The People’s Place. We deliver supports that address food security issues. We provide programs that reduce social isolation and enhance well-being. We provide support services for people experiencing hardship. To do this work, partner with organisations, community groups, government departments and philanthropic bodies to share and activate resources in order to grow, replicate, or introduce programs for the community. Our workplaces emphasise on people’s self-determination and strengths. We work from the presumption that our participants, service users and community are resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity. We support individuals to grow, bring people together and develop our community’s capacity to identify and find solutions for local issues.
In recent years our work has evolved to responding to emergencies or acute shocks in our community. We played a pivotal role supporting, responding and driving the recovery through the devastating Morwell Mine Fire of 2014. It is off the backdrop of this work that we have found ourselves being frontline responders to our communities everyday needs.
When the global pandemic hit earlier this year, stepping up to respond happened came naturally. Our work through the #covidcoaster took on many forms from food delivery and meal preps to making and distrusting facemasks & developing community music playlist.
We have unpacked fortnightly pallets of deliveries from Foodbank Victoria
We packed and distributed over 400 food parcels. The parcels were packed by a small team of volunteers who worked on a rotation roster.
We saw 265 people seek emergency food relief via directly booking appts with us. We know this means at least 412 people have received food support
We have been supported with generous donations from our community of shelf life food items, fresh fruit and veggies.
The staff and volunteers prepared and distributed over 600 home-cooked meals.
We have delivered over 200 food parcels and meals directly to the doors of our community that means at least, 503 people supported with food through deliveries
We have made over 1,500 phone call/ welfare checks.
We focused on creative ways to support at this time. We created a community playlist. Songs to listen to through ISO. We had over 90 songs suggestion come in directly from the community.
The Front Door Step (website)Project is a worldwide movement of capturing photos of local communities during the lockdown. We worked with 37 families to produce the Latrobe Front Door Step Project. We joined the movement to capture messages of support from our Latrobe families. It is our hope that these messages help to make a small difference during these uncertain times.
At The People’s Place, we have a therapy dog Honeybell’s Lollipop, her job title is Director of Community Well-being and Happiness has taken on extra roles including reception duties, games supervisor, box manager and relaxation coach.
Of course, we could not do all of this without an incredible team of 22 volunteers, working alongside our staff.
We put a call out for people to sew masks. We were hoping to get 10 volunteers. 88 talented peeps from across Latrobe answered the call.
Our youngest volunteer is 12 years old.
One community powerhouse made 553 face masks and became a local Facebook celebrity for his efforts.
Our Volunteers made over 2,460 face masks which have been distributed, for free, to the general community including to local boarding houses, disability advocacy groups, local youth services and the Police Proactive Unit.
The mask up project ran over 4 weeks and in that time we engaged with 89 volunteers who made 2,520 face masks. Each mask takes about 30minitues to make meaning our volunteers contributed 1,260 hours of volunteering for the community. Just on our #maskup project
All the things The People’s Palace does, the range of services we offer, the connections we encourage and facilitate, supports our community by building resilience, skills and connection. In a time of Covid restrictions and isolation, we have supported personal wellbeing by building confidence and relationships.
Blog by Tracie Lund, Morwell Neighbourhood House’s Manager.