Summary:

This is a study to determine the feasibility of a community hub in central Footscray. Our preliminary research indicates that there is a need for a multi-purpose facility that could offer services, space and support to diverse groups and individuals in the City of Maribyrnong and surrounding LGAs. A community hub has the potential to bring together much needed services (eg material relief, employment training), provide meeting and community spaces (eg community learning activities), offer resource and “incubation” space to emerging community groups (eg hot desks) and also provide “airspace” for much needed social housing (eg above the other services). This study will test initial research findings, refine the model, research funding opportunities and present options for next stage development.

 

Location

60 Paisley St

Footscray   3011

Map Reference  Melways/ 42 B4

 

Background:

Footscray Baptist Church (FBC) has a unique, unparalleled location in Paisley Street Footscray, sandwiched between the City of Maribyrnong Central Library and the Western Region Health Centre. Within a ½ kilometre radius are other important reference points: the Footscray Railway Station, Bus and Tram terminals, Footscray Market and other shops and a range of service providers, including AMES, Saltwater Mental Health Services, Wesley Mission, Mission Australia and others. Total FBC land area is approximately 1800 square meters. Current structures include a 300-seat church, a large meeting hall, a smaller meeting room and office space. Car parking space is also available on site. All buildings are single storey. The property is owned by the Baptist Union of Victoria.

For the last two to three years, FBC has been investigating ways in which its premises could be better utilised, ideally in a way that develops community services and support structures in the local area. In 2003, the church commissioned research into community gaps and service needs with local providers, research that identified the need for the following facilities:

  • Meeting space;
  • Community kitchen;
  • Crisis accommodation;
  • Child care facilities;
  • Office space;
  • Recreational/social space.

Recognising that existing buildings would not meet these needs, in January 2004, FBC commissioned initial concept plans for how the premises might be re-developed in line with some of the needs identified in the above list, although FBC’s thinking has progressed significantly since then.

There was some initial planning for Footscray Outreach to re-locate to the FBC hall, however, with the merger of Footscray Outreach into Wesley Mission, this will not take place at this time. Footscray Outreach remain a partner in the Research Project and may be a prospective tenant in any re-developed premises.

In October 2004, representatives of Footscray Outreach and FBC met with Minister John Thwaites and outlined the basic features of the planned community hub. The Minister encouraged the organisations to prepare and submit a planning application as the first step in the development process.

With this history in mind, and in co-operation with a range of partners, FBC and Footscray Outreach are seeking a planning grant to research the feasibility of a community hub to cater for people who are disadvantaged and the groups and networks which support them. The research will focus initially on a few key areas, but be mindful of other areas that might arise in the course of the project. The initial focus will be:

  1. Project start-up, including establishment of a representational Community Reference Group to oversee the research, appointment of a research worker and procurement of specialist financial/planning advice

  2. A needs analysis of support services and support facilities (eg. Childcare, vocational training, life skills support) for people in need, particularly for people at risk of homelessness. This research will be based on Footscray Outreach’s expertise, input from Footscray Outreach clients and be undertaken in conjunction with the City of Maribyrnong (eg Project Brief: Development of Community Strengthening Plan, Feb 05), other service agencies, and community groups.

  3. Research emerging self-help groups and their need for premises, meeting places, ICT (information and communication technology) and other support systems (particularly with volunteer support systems).

  4. The need and potential of a “place of welcome” eg café, kitchen, meeting area, food service that can provide a “common space” for centre users as well as potentially providing job skills and training opportunities.

  5. The possibility of establishing social housing as a key component of the overall centre.

Underpinning these areas will be an investigation into the financial viability and long term sustainability of such a centre, including research into funding sources for the initial development as well as outlining the longer-term operational model, which could potentially include short-term facility hire (meeting spaces, hall areas) a range of “commercial rate” clients (eg larger agencies) as well as subsidised tenants (eg emerging CALD community groups). The study will also include some research on the potential of attracting philanthropic trust funding and commercial sponsorship support.

The Reference Group will also be responsible for working with other stakeholders with an interest in community facilities, including Mission Australia (whose proposed project complements this project) and Western Bulldogs re-development (whose plans seem to focus more on high-impact recreational facilities).

Project Linkages

This project aligns with both resource and infrastructure needs and community strengthening, since it seeks to develop resources and services in an under-serviced area of Melbourne, and it does so in a manner that builds community capacity for all potential users of the community hub.

It builds on the community planning already commissioned by the Footscray Baptist Church (FBC) and the LGA (City of Maribyrnong) and complements the broader community space feasibility study being proposed by Mission Australia.

It will link in with and partner a broad range of service providers and community representatives, and it will maximise the potential of the well-located but under-utilised premises of the FBC.

The study itself will have a strong focus on long-term sustainability of the community hub.

Communities to Benefit:

  • People at risk of homelessness – who already use Footscray Outreach material relief services.
  • Emerging CALD communities (eg people from Horn of Africa), many of which are involved in local churches, other faith congregations and/or Footscray Outreach and who are struggling to find their own sense of community.
  • Emerging community organisations, many of which need organisations; support services.
  • Single supporting parents, particularly women – who have difficulty accessing child care, and community based activities in central Footscray
  • People with mental health issues – Footscray has the highest incidence of mental illness in metropolitan Melbourne
  • Self help groups eg parenting groups, English language classes, homework groups
  • Volunteers from the community – who will be able to get involved in helping to create community for other users
  • Potentially, a modern facility which is “owned by” and can serve the wider community, which is of high quality, and which can contribute to a sense of pride and community spirit in the CBD of Footscray
  • Agencies already working with these groups (Western Region Health Centre, Saltwater Mental Health Services and Doggies to Highpoint Community Building Project, given that many people from this Gordon Street precinct come to Footscray CBD for services, Metro West Housing)
  • The proposed Mission Australia community facility research proposal, which is more general in nature, will also benefit from this proposal, with the results of our research being shared openly and will be used to guide their work. FBC, Footscray Outreach, Mission Australia and the City of Maribyrnong will form a coordinating committee to ensure that the two projects are complementary and integrated into overall service planning and delivery.

 

Project Rationale:

  • There is no community meeting facility or neighbourhood house in central Footscray;
  • There is only one child-care centre, at the Footscray Pool which will be closed in the near future, probably within the next year;
  • The Western Homeless and Housing Action Network identified the need for a community facility in the Paisley Street precinct, as far back as 1999-2000.
  • Adult education services and employment training and support services are minimal in central Footscray
  • Footscray Outreach is the only agency providing material aid/emergency relief in Maribyrnong;
  • Initial research of 15 local agencies highlights the lack of appropriate space and facilities in central Footscray;
  • Maribyrnong Council recognise the need for more services and greater integration of how these services are provided;
  • Extensive research done by Council and local agencies confirms need for community hub, particularly the need for low-impact recreational and community space;
  • There is a huge shortage of social housing in the municipality;
  • The Paisley Street site was identified as an area for potential redevelopment for community services by Footscray Transit City project and the City of Maribyrnong (Community Strengthening Plan);
  • Site is 1,800 sq metres, centrally located, between main library and Community Health Centre;
  • There are good indications from multi-cultural community that the re-development is needed and that they would be supportive of the project.

Who:

  • Builds on community research commenced in 2003 involving 15 agencies and initial steps to develop a community hub through the relocation of Footscray Outreach Mission.
  • The project will establish a Reference Group, with representatives from the LGA, Footscray Outreach, community members, the agencies listed in Appendix 1, FBC, Chamber of Commerce/Local Traders Association, CALD communities, housing agencies and employment agencies.
  • The project will incorporate the learnings from other projects that have sought to creatively respond to issues of disadvantage, eg Sacred Heart Mission, St Kilda Christ Church Community Centre, Mission Australia planning proposal.
  • The project will include a forum in the last month to share outcomes with all interested parties.
  • The project will coordinate with Mission Australia’s research (if funded).
How:
  • Footscray Outreach and FBC will contribute labour in kind – time of workers and supervision contributed
  • Employ appropriately skilled Project Officer or consultant to undertake research and report back to Reference Group
  • Research to focus on:
  • Current and projected community needs
  • Sustainability issues
  • Funding models
  • Integration of services
  • Planning and statutory issues
  • On-going organisational issues (e.g. governance, management)
  • To our knowledge, there is no other project that seeks to bring together such diverse groups or services in one location.
  • Focus will be on support for emerging groups, and those organisations and individuals which currently have little or no access to funding, management/organisational support or have a limited track record, experience in Australian setting
  • Part of research will be a focus on an “incubation” approach to support of agencies. This will investigate how to work with fledgling agencies and help them to develop to self-sufficiency. Although this is often done for commercial enterprises, we are not aware of this approach being used for non-profit or community groups that are focused on meeting local, social needs.
  • Taking high value real estate, and seeking to develop full potential of the site without selling it off to commercial interest, ie benefit stays with the community
  • Possibility of creating “shop-top” social housing through innovative funding models, potentially incorporating a mix of private and public housing  as well as linking in with other community services

 

Potential Outcomes

  • Shared understanding by all stakeholders of the future feasibility of the project, in particular:
  • Key needs
  • Options for moving forward
  • Likely funding opportunities
  • Roles of key player and stakeholders
  • Key operational issues
  • Risks and strategies for their management
  • Potential partners, tenants, linkages
  • Role of volunteers
  • Basis on which to make a decision about the full implementation of the project
  • A plan for how the re-development could be implemented in a way that builds social capital and develops a sense of ownership in the wider community
  • Deliverables will include:
  • Complete written report, with key recommendations and concept plans and initial implementation strategy, if appropriate
  • Community forum to discuss the findings of the report
  • Common understanding and commitment by all members of the Reference Group, as a result of shared process of learning, discussion and resolution of issues
  • Clear outline of funding opportunities associated with the full implementation of the Community Hub (if it were to proceed)
  • If our initial research and understanding of local needs is correct, at the end of the planning project, we should have a clear and achievable vision of a community hub which could house:
  • Community kitchen, café, meeting spaces, shared office spaces for voluntary groups with ICT support;
  • Employment training and life skills development facilities;
  • Space for community participation and activity groups;
  • Supported accommodation and/or community housing in housing units above the community facilities.