Community ‘heart’ needed for Dandenong

The Springvale Community Hub, currently under construction. Dandenong residents want a similar facility.

By Danielle Kutchel

Noble Park has the Paddy O’Donoghue Centre.

Keysborough’s getting the Keysborough South Community Hub.

And Springvale will shortly have the Springvale Community Hub.

So why doesn’t Dandenong have an integrated community facility?

It’s a question that Silvia Mastrogiovanni wants an answer to.

“They’ve been for years that we’ll get one,” she said.

“I’m not hopeful that we’re going to get one.”

Currently, community meeting spaces are spread out across various locations in Dandenong, and there is an appetite among forgotten residents for a single facility that has it all under one roof.

Greater Dandenong Council released a community needs survey online on Thursday 26 March, seeking community input on the community activities, services and buildings provided in central Dandenong, to explore the feasibility of a potential future Dandenong Community Hub.

Greater Dandenong Council’s acting community services director Tilla Buden said the needs analysis, including the survey, was prompted as the Springvale Community Hub nears completion, following an infrastructure plan for Springvale and Central Dandenong that was completed in 2012.

“Council is asking the community how they currently use these services or buildings in central Dandenong, why they use them, and how they see them being used in the future,” Ms Buden said.

“The feedback received will be used to help shape the future delivery of community activities and services and the provision of community buildings in central Dandenong.”

But Ms Mastrogiovanni said she didn’t believe some of the questions in the survey were appropriately framed.

“Why aren’t you asking us what we want instead of asking what we’ve used?” she said.“It’s called a needs survey, why are they not asking us what we need?”

For her part, the co-founder of Dandenong Community Association wants to see an integrated, intergenerational facility for Dandenong residents of any age to take part in activities and classes, gather informally and hold community meetings.Ms Mastrogiovanni envisages a facility similar to the Paddy O’Donoghue Centre, with a kinder on site, facilities for youth and seniors’ activities, and room for the University of the Third Age.

She believes that social activities at the potential facility would be beneficial to the mental health and social wellbeing of the whole community, providing a place of welcome for people from diverse backgrounds.

Ms Mastrogiovanni said a community hub is the sort of facility that Dandenong needs as the town continues to experience huge growth and attract residents from different nationalities.

“We really need somewhere that’s a heart for Dandenong,” she explained.

“It’s a great necessity, I don’t know why the council can’t see it. Maybe economics is driving it away but if they’ve got the money for other suburbs, why is Dandenong always missing out?”

Dandenong has an existing Neighbourhood House, the Dandenong Neighbourhood and Community Learning Centre, which provides pre-accredited training courses and other skills programs, as well as referrals to other services and some social activities – but Ms Mastrogiovanni said Dandenong had “outgrown” the services on offer there and requires a bigger integrated facility.

The centre was contacted for comment on the issue.

Residents can access the community needs survey online at www.greaterdandenong.com or email feedback to community.consultations@cgd.vic.gov.au, until Thursday 23 April at 5pm.

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