Springvale Neighbourhood House
This marker was launched on 26 February 2016 by Claire O'Neill, the member for Hotham and the Mayor Cr Heang Tak.
This welcome was written by Merle Mitchell but as she was unable to attend it was read by Clare O'Neill.
I am bitterly disappointed that I cannot be at today’s important function. It is one of the two most important historical markers in the Spirit of Enterprise Trail. The other is the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau.
Why do I say this? It is because these two organisations, in response to the significant numbers of new arrivals entering the community through the Enterprise Migrant Hostel, developed the most innovative and successful settlement programs in Victoria, indeed, if not in Australia.
Why were they important? The impetus for the development of these services came from the grassroots, and it was the community that guided their continuing development. The community told us what they needed, and we put their ideas into our practice. That’s why the Spirit of Enterprise project belongs to the community in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.
It was Anna Galea, of the Arabic-speaking Women’s Group, who came to me to discuss her community’s need for a meeting place in the Springvale area. SCAAB took her request to Council, who allotted the land and made the house possible.
In our particular approach, we swam against the tide. Neighbourhood Houses were built to run courses. Ours was built to provide an opportunity for groups like the Arabic-speaking women’s group, and new arrivals from Enterprise, to form their own groups and meet together. It was real community development, and it worked!
When it came to the type of building, in an extraordinary move, Council said to the community, “Go out and find a Neighbourhood House that best suits your needs”. We found one in Maryborough. True to their word, Council built an identical one, with mud bricks made from the overlay of the tips.
The Springvale Neighbourhood House was the result of networking between Community Youth Support Scheme and SCAAB, and support from a visionary Council. It was built by unemployed young people, all of whom got jobs when the building was completed.
I want to give special thanks to Roy Boyd, the Council Engineer at the time, and one of his staff, the late Jack Eaton. They could not have been more enthusiastic and cooperative. Council’s cooperation continued over the years, including the life of the Spirit of Enterprise project – and I want to say a special thanks to John Bennie, CEO, for his support. There are many people who should be thanked, but one outstanding person has been Grissel Walmaggia of Council, who has kept us on track, despite the ups and downs we have experienced.
The Spirit of Enterprise project has been described by a former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, as a ‘project of national significance’ as indeed it is
There was an initial unveiling problem at the launch of the Marker. As this photo shows in the true spirit of community it was the co-operation of a Vietnamese man, a Timorese man and a Cambodian man that solved the problem.
The Text of the Marker
Welcome to the site of the Springvale Neighbourhood House.
Established in 1984, the Springvale Neighbourhood House was established to provide a meeting place for self-help groups and the empowerment of the culturally-diverse community. It provides services and assistance for newly-arrived migrants and refugees, a meeting place for community cultural groups, and a place of safety and support for individuals.
In a community that welcomes new settlers from all over the world, the ‘House’ helps people overcome their feelings of social isolation by encouraging connection to others and facilitating integration into the culturally-diverse Springvale community. It is part of an extensive and unique network of settlement and support services in Springvale.
Initially a project of the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau, the Springvale Neighbourhood House was built through an unemployed youth project whose participants constructed the bricks for the building with clay from a local quarry.
The tree inside the building symbolises growth, protection and the Australian landscape. It was harvested from the property of a local Councillor by the young people who were building the ‘House’.
During the years 1984 to 1992 many of the cultural groups who arrived at the Enterprise [Migrant] Hostel in Springvale made contact with the Springvale Neighbourhood House and, with its assistance, established support groups for their emerging communities which enabled them to settle successfully in the local community. Many of these people are still involved with the ‘House’.
To this day, Springvale is a testament to how innovative thinking, positive attitudes and a warm welcome can build a strong, cohesive, vibrant community.
“I loved the Neighbourhood House and took the idea back with me and set them up in the villages” – Amelia Sello who returned to her country after many years in Australia.
“Springvale Neighbourhood House is our second home” – Multicultural Women’s group.
“I was very upset when I arrived and found that the Enterprise Hostel had closed and then I found the Neighbourhood House and I felt safe” – a refugee woman.
“I came with a heavy heart to Australia and found a welcome and much information at the Neighbourhood House” – refugee man.
“Springvale Neighbourhood House acts as a melting pot and promotes multiculturalism” – African man