The first 30 years of the Castlemaine Community House
The Castlemaine Community House was established in 1985 following lengthy consultation and lobbying from the Castlemaine Community. A Family and Community Services grant of $3,225 funded a pilot neighbourhood centre to ‘provide an easily accessible meeting place for all people in the local or broader Castlemaine area’. How little things change . . . 30 years later this remains one of the Community House’s central objectives.
The initial community facility operated from the old CWA rooms adjacent to the RSL building, and was used by community groups such as the Community Coffee Morning Group, the South School Neighbourhood Group and the Castlemaine Men’s Group.
The centre opened to the public on 4 July 1985 as the Castlemaine Community Drop In Centre. Early programs and courses included sewing, ceramics, hobbytex, microwave cooking and skincare! A version of community lunch operated even in the early days with community members invited once a week to bring a plate to share.
In 1986, the House moved to a room at the Library and in 1987, relocated to its own dedicated space at CHIRP. CCH experienced extraordinary growth during a ten year residency there but in 1998 was forced to move once again, this time to another private property in Templeton Street. When the escalating rent for this property became prohibitive, the House moved to the School of Mines building where it operated in cramped and confined premises for over five years. There was a further move in 2011 to the Faulder Watson Hall before the most recent move in March 2014 to premises which are shared with Bendigo TAFE at 65 Templeton Street.
The new venue provides spacious facilities for the House’s programs and services which have expanded and developed over the period since 1985. The Community House’s Annual Report and website provide details of the programs and services now offered in response to local needs and priorities. In this region, there is a strong interest in sustainable living and community connection which is reflected in programs and services such as permaculture courses, workshops about keeping poultry and community lunch. Parents run the Music Playgroup. The House offers a big music program through four choirs and a community orchestra.
Castlemaine Community House supported the very popular Growing Abundance program until it established its own independent group in 2015.
Looking to the future, the Castlemaine Community House commenced a review of community needs in Castlemaine in 2013. The review will be completed in 2014 and will inform the Community House of opportunities for new programs which can be developed to ensure the House remains relevant to the community it serves.