Big plans for Yarra Valley ECOSS

Community stories eNews: 26 February 2021

Yarra Valley ECOSS is an inspiring educational and recreational facility that demonstrates sustainable living solutions for the community of the Yarra Valley and beyond. ECOSS has established a well-respected reputation for facilitating and mentoring people in the local community to improve their work skills to prepare them for re-entering the job market, and in partnering with school groups.

The site and its programs have been successful in engaging marginalised or vulnerable groups in ‘hands on’ projects that aim to increase skills, confidence, self-esteem and capacity of participants. These groups include work for the dole participants, students at risk of disengagement and people with a disability.

Most school groups and work for the dole volunteers that engage in activities at ECOSS were either directly impacted by the 2009 fires or are dealing with trauma related to complex social issues and increased anxieties caused by living in a high fire risk area.

The organisation is working towards ongoing sustainability through the creation and delivery of facilitated programs. Due to the response to growth that has occurred and the limited capacity of staff, there was little time to project plan and develop according to their master plan. They needed additional support for the projects they were already facilitating, as well as seeking new opportunities for training and development in the local community. 

A $20,000 grant from FRRR’s Community Group Futures program, funded by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund, enabled them to hire a Project Development Officer for two days a week over a 12-month period to support their initiatives and investigate new opportunities. The strategic nature of the role was designed to strengthen the foundations of Yarra Valley ECOSS and support program staff and facilitators to run well-considered, fit-for-purpose and professional programs. 

As part of the project, the Project Development Officer also set up processes and procedures for program facilitators and created a comprehensive operations manual, leaving a legacy of resources within the organisation that will support operations into the future and enhance program delivery. 

Another direct outcome of the engagement of the Project Development Officer resulted in ECOSS expanding their workshops and programs for adult members of the community, upon realising that a broader participant base was needed for them to remain sustainable.

Now, adult community members as well as school students can be engaged in a learning environment, and gain valuable, practical, lifelong skills in building, gardening, and cultural awareness. 

Chelsea McNab, Executive Officer of ECOSS, told FRRR, “We are so incredibly grateful for the funding support to undertake this project. We could not have developed our program and manual without this support. We feel this has been an extremely successful process and wish to undertake it in all areas of ECOSS.”