Centre coordinators work many hours unpaid overtime as government funding fails to keep pace with ballooning demand and award wages, says Clare Corbet of Victoria’s Association of Neighbourhood House & Learning Centres (ANHLC). Half of Victoria’s 360 Neighbourhood Houses are funded for less than 15 hours per week, a benchmark unaltered in 12 years!
There is a growing demand for courses, support groups and advocacy which means that most Houses deliver 40-60 hours of programs per week. ANHLC’s 2006 State Budget submission calls for an average funding of 35 hours per week. “People are under a lot of pressure to work for free and our ability to meet demand is limited” says Clare, “We cannot continue to meet community needs without realistic funding.”
Warrandyte coordinator, Karen Throssell says her House receives $23,000 or 15 hours coordination from the Department for Victorian Communities but to keep the centre functioning, she works a 40 hour week, delivering up to 60 hours of weekly programs.
A spokesman for the Victorian Local Government Minister Candy Broad said the government recognised the ‘valuable contribution’ made by Neighbourhood Houses
and had increased funding by 60 per cent since 1999.
As many of us involved with the sector know, it is like a cat chasing its tail – many coordinators’ hours are spent sourcing grants from every conceivable avenue to meet community needs – but the funding increase has not addressed this vital area. Karen Throssell makes the point that most coordinators are in their mid forties – mid fifties and take on the extra hours ‘willingly’, but future coordinators will come in with Community Development degrees, quite rightly looking for career paths. Will they work under such conditions – what happens then?