Derwent Valley Community House

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The Derwent Valley Community House is a member of the community house network of 34 houses in Tasmania. It provides a wide range of services to its local community, including learning opportunities, access to service providers and a place to meet socially. Importantly, the House provides a warm, friendly and non-discriminatory environment with services such as community information, referral, support and resources and free community internet access.

The decision on which services will be delivered to the community is made by the Community House volunteer management committee using their own local knowledge, community surveys, ABS statistics and discussion with a wide range of service providers. Currently the Derwent Valley Community House provides space for a number of service providers to enhance access for the local community.

School retention after grade 10 in the Derwent Valley is very low and the state Adult Education Program only offers fly fishing courses in the area. The Management Committee of the Derwent Valley Community House has long wished to work in the upper reaches of the Valley to help address the need in this area, but lacked the funds to do so.

The Tasmanian Community Fund provided funding to support and address adult literacy and numeracy in the Derwent Valley. This has enabled the Derwent Valley Community House to expand their Adult Learning Program to the upper reaches of the Derwent Valley and to offer adult literacy and numeracy help locally at the Community House. Other than the adult education program provided by the Derwent Valley Community House there is no adult education program offered in the Derwent Valley and in the past this has been limited to New Norfolk. The Tasmanian Community Fund funding has allowed courses and workshops to be offered in the upper reaches of the Valley to increase the understanding of the importance of lifelong learning.

The program is delivered through two formats. The first as a start to engaging with adult learning has been occurring in Maydena, Westerway, Bushy Park and Fairview, all areas with a local school as a focal point. The second format is a regular weekly session providing help with reading and writing held at the Community House. The weekly class size is small and people attend for various amounts of time. Most people have stayed with the program for six to twelve months with one participant attending for longer. Participants of the program identify what areas they need help with and receive support in these areas, whether it be reading the bus timetable or learning the order of the months of the year.

Culture change within a community takes time but this project has been the very start of a culture change. The Derwent Valley Community House is working with the communities to build trust and to actively listen to what the community wants and needs. They have consulted with local leaders at schools and the Maydena Development Association to offer workshops and course topics that engage the communities in which they are offered.

Whilst community change may take time the Derwent Valley Community House is seeing real benefits to the adult literacy and numeracy programs they are offering. Two participants of the literacy and numeracy class held at the Community House have volunteered at the House and are putting the skills they gained to practical use and increasing their employability. The House has also gained funds for a learner driver mentor program and can now assist people to sit their Learner’s licence. The literacy class can be a first step to understanding the road rules and the Community House can assist people to become independent.