"Making a real difference in people's lives" - opinion piece in The Mercury, 15 May 2024

Neighbourhood Houses are delivering positive outcomes, writes Simone Zell

I’ve found a place where I fit in … I feel comfortable to be myself without judgement.” 

— Male community member 

I’ve met so many new people, there’s many different characters and I’ve come to know many of them over time. I enjoy helping people as a volunteer … The House feels like family.” 

— Female house volunteer 

Resilient. Adaptable. Generous. Welcoming. 

These four words could just as accurately describe Tasmanian people as they do our state’s network of 35 incredible Neighbourhood Houses. 

That’s because Tasmania’s Neighbourhood Houses reflect the character of their local communities and the diversity, challenges, opportunities and warmth of our people.  

The Houses, located in suburbs both big and small dotted throughout our state – including on King Island – are built from and for our communities. The hundreds of House coordinators and volunteers who bring these vital hubs to life, comprise of people from every conceivable background who apply their diverse skills and passion for their neighbours’ wellbeing to running these vibrant, energetic and often innovative spaces. 

Every single day, Tasmania’s Neighbourhood Houses connect people, build resilience and deliver positive local outcomes. These can range from supporting someone to get out of the cold drizzle to enjoy a warm cuppa and a friendly chat, to transforming lives through access to literacy programs, No Interest Loans and connection with nutritious food and supportive services.  

At the core of all these activities is the sense of connection that is so much a part of how Tasmanians define ourselves.  

And like all Tasmanian community members, Neighbourhood Houses aren’t there just to give you a hand up in hard times; they also love to see their friends thriving, strong and pursuing their passions. 

So many of the stories we hear from our Houses are of people who stopped in by chance when life was hard, people who have travelled life’s ups and downs and who now drop in every other day to care for the local community garden, to enjoy lunch with new friends or stand ready to make a lasting difference in the life of the next person who walks through the front door. 

We all know a hot cuppa feels good, but when it’s enjoyed at your local Neighbourhood House, it is so much more than a comforting beverage: The work of Neighbourhood Houses alleviates the pain brought by isolation and poverty in their local areas.  Connecting people, lifts their wellbeing and provides a welcoming, non-judgmental front door for government services and other supports. 

Neighbourhood Houses are places where Tasmanians come together and find support, belonging and purpose; places where we can work with our local community to make a real difference in people’s lives.  

As we celebrate Neighbourhood House Week from 13 to 19 May we encourage you to drop in to your local House to say hello, make new friends, learn new skills and have fun with the activities on offer. You might even find the perfect volunteer opportunity. 

Tasmanians deserve to be extremely proud of the work our Neighbourhood Houses do to support our local people to be stronger together. 

Simone Zell is CEO of Neighbourhood Houses Tasmania

NHT acknowledges the traditional and original owners of the land on which we work and meet, the palawa / pakana of lutruwita / Tasmania. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and acknowledge that this land remains unceded.
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