Boosting connections at a Community House

Community stories: 26 October 2023

New Norfolk, a pretty town on the banks of the Derwent River and Tasmania’s third oldest settlement, is home to a significant number of community members vulnerable due to age, socio-economic impacts and existing physical and mental health issues. The Derwent Community House provides a welcoming space for the New Norfolk community, servicing a catchment of over 5,000 people in an otherwise under-served region of Tasmania. The House offers access to training, educational & employment pathways, and programs to connect and support vulnerable community members.

The DVCH moved into the old kindergarten site in 2017, receiving state government funding to renovate the facility, although a lack of space has restricted the delivery of activities and services. The Community House identified a shower facility and outdoor activity spaces as the highest priorities to further improve the facility’s functionality.

A $10,000 Strengthening Rural Communities (SRC) grant supported by the Sidney Myer Fund, matched funds raised by the Community House to enable the new outdoor deck and shower room to be created. The building has been transformed into a thriving community hub and the enhanced facilities have been eagerly embraced by local community members. The outdoor deck is a popular space for meetings, activities and gatherings, fostering opportunities for greater community connection. The accessible shower facility supports community members who may lack access to shower facilities or hot water.

The House co-coordinator, Dianne Booth emphasised the importance of the accessible shower facilities. “Some Community members do not have access to shower facilities for a number of reasons, often as a result of homelessness and/or the inability to meet the cost of services such as electricity.  Not having access to a shower has far reaching impacts, not only on a person’s health, but on their mental wellbeing. It also has a major impact upon a person’s ability and/or willingness to participate in activities, even within their own social and family circles, let alone within the wider community.“

These improvements have boosted the Community House’s ability to address the diverse needs of the community and improve health and wellbeing. 

Dianne said the project “has gone a long way towards achieving our goal of providing our community with opportunities to feel connected, included and respected. Some people express that they simply feel more comfortable in an outdoor setting, but due to factors such as weather, personal health & mobility issues, this is not always practical without modified spaces to gather. 

“Having a modified outdoor space also provides us with an opportunity to address our forward planning to include an outdoor kitchen facility to provide even more scope for community engagement.”