For the Record- ECH 2016

As we reflect on what a vigorous year 2016 was at Emerald Community House, we take a moment to set the record straight, celebrate our everyday successes and continue to embrace any challenges that present themselves.


A Strong Representative Committee

Our committed volunteer Committee of Management is made from a broad representation of the hills communities just as our membership illustrates. From retired DHHS professionals, artists, parents, disability supporters, entrepreneurs, business consultants and small businesses, our committee reflects balance in gender equity and is truly eclectic. The committee sets the direction for ECH in our 7 year Strategic Plan.

A Strong Consistent History

Emerald Community House is one of the oldest continuously running incorporated community houses in Victoria originating in 1977. The entire neighbourhood house sector only began in 1974. Originally formed by women in support of women in the community, ECH has continuously operated from the same premises initially as part of Sherbrooke Shire until 1994. Sherbrooke Shire was then abolished and Cardinia Shire was created, inheriting the ECH site where our centre has operated for 40 years to date.

In 2008, ECH was successful at gaining state funds of $150K and planned, managed and delivered our completely restored 100 year old hall on budget, on time and employing 14 local trades to do the work. Without this renovation, the hall was on its way to rotting from the ground up with the help of some rats and mice. ECH sourced external funds which provided Council and local rate payers a reprieve from the cost of restoring a century old Council building and local icon. In fact, since 2008, ECH has sourced external funds in excess of $335K outside of Council coffers to upgrade and maintain the two aging council owned buildings, gardens and grounds. Council’s annual operational funds (about$30K) go toward maintaining these buildings, grounds and cover the high utility costs of operating in non-insulated facilities.

Despite what some assume and others have erroneously stated, we do not enjoy “free” use of the buildings which we have operated from for years. We are obliged under the Council Building and Facilities Maintenance Agreement terms to cover a large part of the maintenance costs in exchange for using the buildings and grounds. While Council does offer up to $32k Capital Works funding each year to all incorporated groups using council buildings, ECH must meet 50% of whatever funds we might request to maintain or improve the buildings. However, we are not always successful with our applications.

A Strong Incorporated Charity

As part of the Victorian DHHS Neighbourhood House Coordination program for about 400 centres state wide, ECH receives some state funding for program coordination and planning to help ensure that the centre is open for at least 25 hours a week. In fact, ECH is open in excess of 55 hours a week, with extra expense covered by ECH. Victorian Department of Education and Training contributes to the educational programs and services which help to build local job skills, academic advancement and social inclusion. Some government childcare funding covers less than a quarter of the expense for the occasional childcare program. Local government also contributes to the availability of up to 2 public access computers. All of these funding contributions are part of overall state government agreements or are a matter of local government policy for all neighbourhood houses in the shire, not just ECH.

Despite what has been stated elsewhere or sometimes assumed, ECH covers the lion share cost of operations, computer equipment, internet fees, communication programs, free wifi, printing and production, hardware/software maintenance, training software, technical support and website/ social media management. In fact, ECH is the largest single funder by a wide margin of Emerald Community House activities, over all local, state or federal government resources combined, whether recurring or ad hoc. This is unusual for a small, incorporated not for profit charity in this day and age.

A Strong Employer

ECH is one of the larger employers in the Emerald area and is a strong employer of women, especially of a mature age over 50. ECH volunteers typically contribute an excess of $125, 000 worth of in kind hours annually toward support of the programs and services. Our IT remote access provision allows administrative employees and volunteers to work from home when they need to or if they prefer when other personal needs require attention. Our schedules can be flexible and reflect the various demands from our lives. Our childcare programs offer some of the lowest fees in the state to better support working parents. Many of our volunteers, childcare and office staff and have been with ECH for decades.

A Strong Membership

ECH individual and family members (about 500 annually) come from all across the hills as well as out of the area. With an overall 65% coming from the hills Ranges Ward, 35% live in Emerald, 19% from Cockatoo and about 11% from Clematis, Gembrook and Avonsleigh. The remaining 35% come from Yarra Ranges, Casey, Knox and beyond. ECH is truly a centre that circles the brink around the hills’ electorates and constituencies, providing a broad representation across the district. As an organisation, ECH has contributed over $5 million dollars to the local economy since 2009 in wages, purchases, local business support, building upgrades and community activities.


A Strong Network

ECH volunteers, staff and members are typically members of other local organisations and businesses. This helps ECH keep in touch with local programs, activities and services. It is through this vigorous community networking that ECH keeps a finger on the pulse and is able to support many local initiatives such as the Performing and Visual Arts in Emerald Festival (PAVE). Local groups and businesses have the opportunity to practice collaborating, planning and taking advantage of our collective community strength.