In a spirited gathering at the Womin Je Ka Room, Studio One Community Room, Richmond, the Yarra Neighbourhood House Network (YNHN) proudly launched its Climate Action and Resilience Plan on 10th October.
The launch was not merely an event but a celebration of collective efforts and a shared vision for a sustainable future. Uncle Tony Garvey offered a poignant Welcome to Country, grounding the event in respect and acknowledgment of the traditional custodians of the land. The Deputy Mayor, Edward Crossland, illuminated the path that YNHN has embarked upon, aligning with Yarra Council’s Climate Emergency Plan. Students learning English as an Additional Language grounded the conversation by presenting their video about what they’ve been learning this year about sustainability and climate change.
Jane Tonkin, CEO of the Fitzroy Learning Network, provided examples of how each house is taking climate action.
The Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre (CNLC) is on track to save 36,000kg of waste from landfill this year through its compost hub, involving 700 residents and a dedicated staff member who collects food waste from local establishments. North Carlton Railway Neighbourhood House has been a champion of repair and reuse, saving 43kg of items from landfill through repair workshops and community garage sales.
Alphington Community Centre has leveraged additional state funding to enhance their kitchen, expanding their ability to prepare and store community meals. Belgium Avenue Neighbourhood House is making strides towards sustainability by transitioning to almost gas-free operations and, along with Collingwood Neighbourhood House, is providing vital climate resilience information at community markets while exploring food rescue opportunities.
Richmond Community Learning Centre’s Repair Corner has been a hub for sustainability, saving 60kg of items from landfill last month and encouraging local residents to utilise compost bins at Burnley Backyard. Sustainability Victoria has backed the initiation of the Railway Repair and Maintenance workshops at Alphington Community Centre, enabling locals to repair and maintain items like sewing machines, lamps, and bikes.
Finbar Neighbourhood House operates a community compost and recycling station, an E-waste drop-off depot, and collects rainwater to nourish their gardens. Holden Street Neighbourhood House aids community waste reduction through food relief, offering rescued food and garden produce, and facilitates the recycling of various items through the Community Recycling Wall. Fitzroy Learning Network saved $15K worth of new clothes and $5K of second-hand clothes from landfill via their clothing distribution project, provides food relief, and serves as a drop-off point for recycling various items, supported by a resident volunteer recycler.
Tony Milne, Executive Officer of CNLC, shared a heartwarming story of the creation of a new frog bog at CNLC, symbolising the essence of community collaboration and enhancing urban biodiversity. His words painted a vivid picture of the plan, which was crafted through a series of workshops and is divided into six sections, focusing on the sustainability and resilience of each Neighbourhood House and the community. The plan is not just a document but a commitment, a promise towards building a future where the community is an active participant in climate action.
The plan, while ambitious, is a reflection of the urgency of the climate emergency. It addresses a myriad of aspects from supporting at-risk communities and government planning to democratic processes and infrastructure upgrades. Tony illustrated the criticality of the plan by envisaging a potential heatwave scenario, highlighting the pivotal role Neighbourhood Houses play during such extreme weather events and the necessity of fortifying them against disruptions.
Objective 2.1 of the plan underscores the need for infrastructure upgrades to enhance the physical resilience of the houses in the network. However, realising these objectives necessitates resources beyond current capacities. For instance, CNLC’s assessment for becoming a community cooling centre identified the need for substantial physical upgrades, such as double glazing, insulation, and backup power generation, amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
But the plan doesn’t stop at responding to the impacts of climate change; it aims to mitigate it. Objectives like developing an ecological and social justice procurement policy, minimizing waste, and providing sustainable living and climate action education are steps towards not just surviving in a changing climate but actively reducing our collective impact on it.
YNHN’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan is a beacon of collective, community-driven action towards a sustainable and resilient future. It calls for collaboration, support, and funding to navigate the ambitious yet crucial path ahead. It is a call to every individual, organization, and government to join hands, write those “huge cheques”, and collaboratively stride towards a future where our actions today safeguard the generations of tomorrow.