Neighbourhood Houses as Registered Training Organisations – surely VET Reform can include “community” not just “business”


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Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.


Neighbourhood Houses bring people together to connect, learn and contribute in their local community through social, educational, recreational and support activities, using a unique community development approach.

Community development is about enabling communities to identify and address their own needs. It starts from the assumption that communities have existing strengths and assets that make them part of the solution. Community development practice is about doing with, rather than doing for.

As the Association of Neighbourhood Houses and Learning Centres website states Neighbourhood Houses welcome people from all walks of life. This inclusive approach creates opportunities for individuals and groups to enrich their lives through connections they might not otherwise make. There are around 400 Neighbourhood Houses across Victoria. As they respond to locally identified needs and priorities, the program at a Neighbourhood Houses in metropolitan Melbourne is likely to be quite different from what’s on offer in remote, rural Victoria. This diversity is reflected in the different names they are known by, which include:
•Neighbourhood House
•Community House
•Learning Centre
•Living and Learning Centre
•Neighbourhood Centre
•Community Centre

A number of Neighbourhood Houses are registered RTOs. They cater predominantly for people who “fall through the traditional cracks” in education – Private and Public, e.g., disability, mental health, bad experiences in education institutions, unaffordable training.

In my work with Neighbourhood House clients over some 15 years, I am still astonished at what is achieved in the proper implementation of competency-based training, the high qualifications of the trainers involved and the quality outcomes – academic and personal – that learners achieve.

Overall, Neighbourhood Houses are small and receive limited (small) grants from the Department of Human Services – say 30 hours to cover everything (including the coordinators salary) and yet they must offer at least 20 hours of community development programs. As not-for-profit organisations any (small!) surplus must be put back into the organisation, not the pockets of the Board members , staff or volunteers.

RTO funding provides the opportunity for Neighbourhood Houses to achieve a great deal in a community setting, however, the compliance regulations eventually caused some Boards to relinquish the RTO status. A tradegy. They are regulated on so many fronts. Another problem found was the wait to receive funding after completion of programs. This may work in larger RTOs but it is too much strain on the cashflow of small RTOs.

I have raised this issue at Victoria State Government level. Hopefully, a new funding model will apply such as a percentage up front on commencing a program and the balance on satisfactory completion. That is what one MP proposed to me and a Neighbourhood House Network of 17 Neighbourhood Houses last year. We collectively brought the issue to his attention.

Some of the Houses cater for the poorest and disadvantaged communities in Melbourne. The reach of Neighbourhood Houses is State wide.

Is VET only for business or community engagement and community development too?

How Do You Build A Thriving Community?


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