Community's heart beats on

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 11 Agustus 2013 | 19.55

TUCKED away in suburbs across the state, Tasmania's network of 34 neighbourhood houses are on the front line of the state's financial crisis.

Most of the houses are under increasing pressure to meet demand and staff say promised extra funding can't come soon enough.

Risdon Vale's Neighbourhood Centre is a typical example of the many ageing, cash-strapped houses that are still managing to make a positive impact in their community.

Centre co-ordinator Ann Harrison is the only full-time paid staff member at the centre.

The centre's annual budget from the Department of Health and Human Services is about $112,000 a year.

More funding is sourced from a patchwork of grants and the houses rely heavily on a pool of volunteers.

The humble brown brick house next to the Risdon Vale shopping area was opened in 1985.

"Because of the increased demand now on neighbourhood houses and the cost of living pressures we're doing much more and there's just not enough space," Mrs Harrison said.

Young mum Danielle Clifford, of West Moonah, grew up in Risdon Vale. Her parents still live there and she attended playgroup at the community centre when she was a child.

Now she brings her own son Riley, 1, to playgroup and is learning new skills by volunteering at the centre.

"It gets us all together, and we're getting things organised and getting things done," Ms Clifford said.

Mrs Harrison said the centre was an empowering place for young mothers.

"Sometimes the young ones have babies and they become isolated at home and they get lost. When they are young they want to have a baby and then they realise it's not the be-all and end-all ... with everything that they do here, they are learning skills and it gives them confidence and self esteem," she said.

With charities buckling under rising demand, neighbourhood houses are now providing food aid daily. Staff also connect locals with financial counsellors and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Cooking classes are offered to local mums who struggle to afford healthy food and who lack a sound knowledge of cooking and nutrition.

Mrs Harrison said the Federal Government's decision to transfer some single mums from the single parenting payment to Newstart was having a big impact at Risdon Vale.

"Some [single mums] have lost $100 per fortnight and that's their food money. I don't think things are going to get any easier. Kids have poor diets in these high-needs communities," Mrs Harrison said.

As one of the few winners from this year's State Budget, neighbourhood houses will be making the most of every cent.

A total of $4 million will be allocated over the next two years to pay for infrastructure upgrades across Tasmania's 34 neighbourhood houses.

In addition, $580,000 has been provided for preventative health programs to be run through the houses.

Mrs Harrison said the Tasmanian Association of Community Houses had been lobbying the Government and MPs for extra money for some time.

"They know it's money well spent, we save the government a lot of money through the work we do, it's the community doing work to help the community."

For more information, go to www.tach.asn.au

blair.richards@news.com.au


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