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We have been proactive in sourcing funds to develop and deliver Network-wide projects that build the capacity of our members to work in emerging priority areas, including the reduction of loneliness and isolation; building social connections; active participation in emergency preparedness, response and recovery; and contributing to community resilience.

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Supporting social enterprise in Hume Region

Hume Social Enterprise Network (HSEN) is a network run by and for social enterprises and their champions to connect, support, and promote social enterprises across the twelve LGAs of Victoria's Hume Region. 

As well as offering a local social enterprise community for those in Goulburn and Northeast Victoria, we’re also one of five Social Enterprise Network Victoria (SENVIC) regional leads, making us part of a greater ‘network of networks’ amplifying the voice and influence of the social enterprise community across Victoria and throughout Australia.

In 2023/24, our focus is on support and learning through the Hume Social Enterprise Melbourne Tour. This tour will provide opportunities for learning about social enterprise, support for developing a new idea for an enterprise, and sharing learnings with a broader audience.

Opportunity #1: EXPLORE

We will convene a subsidised field trip to Melbourne to visit city social enterprises, including The Purpose Precinct at the Victoria Market. The trip will be limited to a small group (maximum 10), travelling together by mini-bus to Melbourne. 


We anticipate leaving from a designated pick-up location mid-afternoon on Day 1 and travelling to our accommodation. Representatives from Melbourne-based social enterprises will be invited to have an informal dinner with us in the evening, giving participants lots of opportunity for networking and learning. On Day 2 we will visit The Purpose Precinct at the Queen Victoria Market, as well as 1-2 other social enterprises before returning home later that afternoon. We will identify those enterprises based on your input.


The date for this tour is yet to be finalised but is likely to be mid-late February 2024. The cost to participants will be time, a small fee of $50 and a commitment to sharing the Melbourne experience at the Share Back workshop in March.


Opportunity #2: SHARE BACK

All those who attend the field trip will be invited to a full-day gathering to share back what they learnt to a broader audience, and identify opportunities for the Hume region. This facilitated workshop will take place in early-mid March 2024.


Social Prescribing project

Connecting Community in the Upper Hume Pilot (CCUHP) Social Prescribing Project was funded by the Department of Health through the Bushfire Response Package, and ran from October 2022-June 2023. The project applies the Living Our Best Life model developed by the CHAOS (Community Houses Association of the Outer-eastern Suburbs) Neighbourhood House Network.

There were five participating neighbourhood Houses: Open Door Neighbourhood House (Wangaratta), Chiltern Neighbourhood House, Yarrawonga Mulwala Community & Learning Centre, Mt Beauty Neighbourhood Centre and Corryong Neighbourhood Centre.

The CCUHP project aimed to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Reducing social isolation and loneliness amongst members of Upper Hume communities, especially for those who are currently not connected or engaged with other people

  • Activating and linking social and community activity that is already happening in local communities

  • Establishing and strengthening relationships between Upper Murray neighbourhood houses and the health sector, and positioning our houses as a vital part of the social prescribing and social inclusion environments

The Living our Best Life Model has three key components

  • Community Connecting (which includes social prescribing)

  • Talking Café, and 

  • Signposting


Talking Cafes – these were sessions that take place in a café in the general community at regular times (usually weekly) and hosted by a volunteer. The host is guaranteed to be at the cafe each week at the same time to welcome newcomers, help facilitate conversation and provide information. Others in the community (signposters) can confidently recommend to people that if they drop by on that regular day and time they will be able to connect with the project.

Signposting – this is providing information (and potentially some training) about the project to people who are in touch with members of the community who may be quite disconnected or isolated, for example library staff, hairdressers, and people providing home care services.

Community connecting – this includes social prescribing, other sources of engagement and the process of community connecting.

Because of the very tight timelines, most of our project concentrated on recruiting volunteers and setting up the Talking Cafes. Cafes across the 5 houses differed. Some changed their name (for example Chin Wag Café in Chiltern), Two were in a Bakery, others in a local café.

Over the eight months of the cafes being set up, 89 people attended, 44 of whom were completely new to the neighbourhood houses, and several of whom had not been participating in anything at all and had become isolated.


Comments from participants about their experience with the Talking Cafe include:

  • "It is a reason to get out of bed.”

  • “I can find out about things happening around town.

  • "It saved my life"

  • “It gave me a feeling of belonging"  

  • “We have fun!”

  • “I was welcomed at the café on arrival as they knew I was coming. I felt connected before I got there”

Comments from participating neighbourhood house managers:

  • “The Café has enabled us to reach the community in a different way”

  • “People have taken ownership of the café. They’ve swapped phone numbers, made times to meet up outside the cafe with a shared interest and even organised to phone some of our more forgetful members to remind them or assist them in getting to the Café”

There were many learnings from this project, including:

  • Relationships were made with a range of health services – this was most successful when the NH staff who met with the services had a high level of understanding and confidence in the LOBL model, and could show the potential benefits for the health services to their clients.


  • Connecting was done in a range of ways

    • Self referral - for example the person saw a poster or heard about it on the radio

    • Signposting – for example someone told them about the café or an existing participant encouraged them to come along

    • Referral – verbal as well as formal – from health professionals


Participants then connected into other activities – for example joining café as volunteers, attending activities or groups in the community for example, joining a Carer Support Group. Most managers noted people coming in who were not only new to the neighbourhood house but often not connected with local services, and all reported that they already assist members of the community to connect but that the project enabled them to put sustainable processes in place.


  • Creating a welcoming and friendly environment was vital to ensuring people felt ‘at home’ and not pressured to converse or participate. Having the ‘Talking Café’ set up in commercial space was beneficial, often with easier access, opportunities for participants to build social skills and confidence and increase public visibility for the neighbourhood house.


  • A lot was achieved in a very short timeframe, but highlighted that a long term approach is required to build relationships – especially with GPs and health services - make connections and promote the benefits of connecting to the broader community. eedback from the houses about this included:

    • Mt Beauty Neighbourhood Centre – “The hardest thing about getting the project up and running was being able to grasp the idea and then explaining the project and its purpose both to partners and community. The community are only just starting to comprehend what the project is all about and now supporting the ideas.”

    • Open Door Neighbourhood House – “The amount of preparation needed to develop relationships that impact all areas of the project – having existing relationships is vital with such a short timeline”


  • Although no specific age group was targeted by any of the participating neighbourhood houses, the majority of participants were older. We need to do further analysis to understand this better


  • We learnt that it was important to ensure all staff and volunteers working at the neighbourhood house are aware of the project, and that they looked for opportunities for intentional connecting. Staff and volunteers at the neighbourhood houses became important signposters, especially into the cafes 


  • We certainly understand the importance of data collection and we collected some great anecdotal data. However, with the sort time frame, being able to see the true impact through data collection such as the UCLA Questionnaire, was not able to be achieved


  • The developing of a Project Reference Group and the CHAOS Community of Practice provided valuable opportunities to share information.  Learning from each other had massive benefits, as well as sharing successes and challenges. Engaging Leanne Fitzgerald as our project consultant was also a great way for us to learn more about social prescribing and how to implement the model in different environments

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Neighbourhood houses working in disaster recovery

The UMRNHN was successful in securing funding through the Victorian Government Mental Health and Wellbeing Bushfire Response Package in May 2020 for the Enabling Communities project. We were encouraged to apply f by Department staff who were very familiar with the work of our neighbourhood houses and could see their intersection with the recovery space. This project ran from May 2020-June 2022.


At the time we were delivering the Behind the Scenes project based on a ‘hub and spoke’ model where the Network applied for and managed the funds and the neighbourhood houses applied for funding from the Network to deliver small local initiatives aimed at reducing isolation and loneliness – contributing factors to problem gambling. 


This model was upscaled, with the neighbourhood houses in the identified bushfire affected areas developing local initiatives to meet community needs. We contracted Anne Leadbeater as the project consultant because of her many years' experience working as the manager of Kinglake Neighbourhood House, and her vast experience in emergency recovery and planning.  She could see the potential for this approach and together we developed the model and application in consultation with the six participating neighbourhood houses.

The project aims were to:

  • Empower each community to work with their neighbourhood house to design and deliver local initiatives that will benefit recovery and resilience

  • Build the capacity of participating neighbourhood houses to respond more effectively to emergencies by developing a recovery plan that will link to broader emergency plans within their LGA

  • Support neighbourhood houses to be included in future emergency planning

The project rolled out in two stages – Stage 1 was about understanding the needs of the community and Stage 2 involved the neighbourhood houses working with their community to develop locally responsive initiatives. This stage also involved the development of a Recovery Action Plan that would help place the neighbourhood house strategically in recovery response.

Impact on the Network

The project has had a significant and very positive impact on the UMRNHN. It has progressed our thinking about the role of neighbourhood houses in recovery and resilience building in the community. It has also highlighted how the Network works with our community of neighbourhood houses, especially in relation to project development and delivery. We’ve been invited into several working groups and committees, including the working group for the development of the VCOSS Outcomes Framework for Community Organisations, and Ovens Murray Mental Health Alliance. This has come about because people are increasingly recognising the role of neighbourhood houses in resilience and community building work. 


Learnings from this project continue to be shared with other neighbourhood houses in the Network and more broadly across the State, especially the development of Recovery Action Plans.

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Reducing harm caused by gambling through increasing social connections

The Upper Murray Regional Neighbourhood House Network was successful in securing Prevention Partnership Program funding through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF). The project, called Behind the Scenes at the Neighbourhood House, ran from October 2019 to March 2022.

The overall goal of the project was to increase the skills, knowledge and understanding of UMRNHN members so they can be proactive in their work with people at risk of gambling harm, particularly through the reduction of social isolation and loneliness and overcoming the stigma associated with gambling. 

The project had a staged approach:

  1. Raise awareness amongst members about the issues of gambling. A project worker worked with members individually and collectively, providing information, training and tools so they developed the understanding and confidence to proactively consider new and existing opportunities with a ‘reduction of gambling harm’ lens.

  2. Resource members through seed funding to develop local strategies that reduce the risk of gambling in their community.

This project recognises the work done by CHAOS Network in East Melbourne in the Together We Do Better project, and aims to build on the learnings from that project to contextualise it to a rural/regional network setting.


Project partners

Several organisations partnered with us to help with the successful delivery of our project:

Highlights of the project include:

  • Education workshops for NH staff and volunteers, with presentations from Jody Riordan of Gambler's Help and lived experience speakers from ReSPIN

  • Cultural Awareness workshops with Robynne Nelson - very impactful and will pave the way for our development of a Reconciliation Action Plan for the Network. 

  • Lived experience performances from Three Sides of the Coin and Aaron Perkins-Kemp-Berger. For those who attended, these were extremely powerful and moving performances that clearly demonstrated the devastation that can be caused by gambling.

  • The range of locally developed initiatives 13 of our 16 NHs delivered in their local communities, ranging from radio interviews and discussion groups with young people about gambling to cultural cooking and community picnics. Our focus for the NH activities was on providing opportunities to connect and socialise out of ‘normal’ opening hours when someone might otherwise gravitate toward a gambling venue.

  • The development of protocols outlining how Gambler’s Help and the Network will continue working together into the future.

  • The drafting of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Checklist for Neighbourhood Houses, in consultation with Chris Thorne (formerly CHPCP) and Coby Brock (VACCA). 

  • “Connect with Community” referral guide for service providers, listing the resources, services and programs available at NHs across the Upper Murray. 


​Information about gambling and gambling harm

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