Cate and Nicole – Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre
“We’re one of the first Neighbourhood Centres in Tasmania. We celebrated our 40th year in 2019. Originally, neighbourhood houses started over 100 years ago by a disability pensioner in England and look where they’ve come!
This was a youth centre before it was a neighbourhood house. That would have been in the 80s. The community expands, things change and you need to expand. So they moved over here in the 2000s.
The programs now are still social, you always have to have your social side. But there’s mental health, domestic violence, health and wellbeing programs as well. And also skills and learning programs.
They never had them back then, I call them a ‘cuppa tea and a bickie’ day. That’s how far it’s expanded.
And the state government has just acknowledged that we’re no longer just that type of worker, we’re frontline workers. Which is a completely different role to what we were.
Even though we were doing frontline work, especially during COVID, we weren’t acknowledged. We actually got a letter from the Prime Minister commending us for our work during COVID, that’s how impressed they were.
We never closed. Not one day. We adapted really well. For us it was making sure that people were getting what they needed. We made hundreds and hundreds of meals, I don’t know how many now.
We started handing out gloves, sanitisers, food. We made kits up with food that would last three, four days and something called Sudoku for people to do.
We started online programs – cooking, music, playing the flute, Steve was doing tutorials on how to use computers, NILS loans.
We were going everywhere, driving and delivering food everywhere. We were going as far as Brighton because of the need.
Volunteers could still come here but limited times. We had the opposite effect to a lot of places where everybody wanted to be in here doing it. So we had to limit how many.”
“Neighbourhood houses are it for some people. That is all they have.
Whether it be just attending for a simple coffee every day or some sort of socialisation, run into someone in the foyer, that’s all they have. So it’s very important to them.
The centre itself is fairly relaxed. You can come in and speak to anyone. There’s generally someone at the centre to contact. Public holidays, when we’re not open, you’d think people’s throats were cut.
We help a lot of people with domestic violence. We had an issue with a lady who had three children and had to escape her husband.
She had axe marks in her car as she was escaping from that situation.
She came here from another area because people know to come here. Because they know the work we have done.
The marks were well and truly through the car, through the doors, the bonnet.
Kids were great. They’d seen everything. They’d tell you, Daddy put the axe through the car. They were in the car.
We helped clothe them, helped feed them. They had no shoes on. It was freezing cold and they ran out. The second-hand shop’s important in that way.
As far as I’m aware she’s staying with a friend. She hasn’t gone back.”
“That just shows how much neighbourhood houses have changed from the tea and bickie days.”
Cate Clark is the Manager and Nicole Cordwell is the Assistant Manager of the Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre. They told their story to Reena Balding.
The Shaping the Plains project is supported by a Clarence City Council Recovery Grant.