How the Neighbourhood Centre got started in Clarendon Vale

When Vonnie moved in, at the end of 1978, there were no fences, no clotheslines, no shops and bitumen was just being put down on the roads.

The school was being built with the kindergarten and some classes were being held in musket huts.

In the 70’s a group of women found daily life a bit boring because there was nothing for them to do.

Due to this they started meeting at one of their houses. This became the first Neighborhood House in Clarendon Vale.

Just like today it was so important to have somewhere to come together, build a sense of community and support each other.

As the Neighbourhood House started to grow it moved to No. 9 Saladin Circle, a small unit.

Again, outgrowing the space, the house moved to a 4-bedroom House in Saladin Circle and eventually found its home in a purpose-build space at 65 Mockridge Road (now the second building of the Neighbourhood House).

When the old creche closed its doors after many years of services to the community the building at 63 Mockridge Road became the ‘Social Heart’.

This service was run very much like a Neighbourhood House and with both centres running side by side they eventually closed their doors in the early 2000s.

At the time the community was coming together to create FUTI (Facing Up to It) – a Family Violence Community Program that still runs today.

The community rallied behind the Neighbourhood House. With no staff and no funding, the doors stayed open.

The community woke up every morning, came in, turned the lights on, answered the phones and made sure the coffee was hot.

They showed just how important and valued the house was and with the help of three women and TACH (now known as Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania) they managed to keep it open.

Unfortunately, though, the Social Heart closed through lack of funding, and this left the building empty for many years.

With new funding the Neighbourhood House was able to secure a Project Worker for 3 days per week. They worked with the community to design the centre’s new constitution, policies and procedures, Committee of Management and the daily programs and services.

This meant it could be reinvigorated and incorporated as Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood Centre in 2006.

It was about this time that the House offered some Community Services training. Both Vonnie, Kristy and a group of other community members took up the offer.

They completed their certificates 1 and 2 within the centre and then travelled daily to the Bridgewater Neighbourhood House to gain their cert. 3.

From here they both followed on to Tas Tafe where Vonnie completed her Cert. 4 and Kristy her Diploma in Community Services and Youth Work.

After many years of trying to find out who owned the property and working to gain access for the Neighbourhood House they finally gained access to the building and funding to renovate the Social Heart and create a larger more inviting space.

The works were completed at the same time as the Clarence Plains Child and Family Learning Centre, and CVNC moved into its current home in 2012.

Both Kristy and Vonnie started their journey in the community as children, parents, neighbours and friends, just like most people in Clarence Plains, and say they feel very lucky due to their involvement in the Neighbourhood House.

They have made friends that are like family, been able to give back and share their knowledge and skills and unlike most people, they have been able to do this in their own community which has been an amazing experience.

While Vonnie is sure Kristy is crazy with some of the things she does, such as making 4500 sugar cookies and delivering them to every house in Clarence Plains, she said she does the job properly and everyone gets a good laugh.

Kristy could not think more highly of Vonnie, when asked what impact she felt Vonnie had had on the community the answer was simple “Vonnie has changed lives, she has a very caring way of doing things, sometimes I worry she is too caring”.

So, what is the Clarendon Vale Neighbourhood Centre? Both Kristy and Vonnie say CVNC is the Communities’ Space, it’s a space to come together, get support, learn, share and just be.

Story by Reena Balding, Vonnie Bradford and Kristy Leishmann.

The Shaping the Plains project is supported by a Clarence City Council Recovery Grant.