Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre still under restrictions

Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre still under restrictions
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Following another difficult year of closures, the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre had high hopes for its community rooms to reopen come the new year, but have been left disappointed again.

The community rooms, which are located at the Carlton housing estate, have been heavily affected since March 2020, with the majority of classes moving online.

Expressing its concern to Inner City News in June last year, it is evident that the Neighbourhood Centre is still struggling in the pursuit of having its voice heard by the state government.

Speaking out about the importance of neighbourhood houses for the community, Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre community development manager Elle Morrell said it remained a “waiting game”.

“Neighbourhood houses are a great place to connect as a community. They are a place where you can drop in, get support, learn new skills and do creative courses like writing,” Ms Morrell said.

“At this time with COVID continuing, it’s more important than ever for a space like that to be open because a lot of community members who are lonely could come in for a cup of coffee and a chat.”

Despite the team and attendees feeling “optimistic” that their classes would be announced to resume in-person before mid-January this year, the only resolve has been for the community garden and compost hub to reopen.

“Our community garden and compost hub is open because they are outdoors. The volunteers have been really grateful that they have been able to come back because they get so much from being with other volunteers and learning new skills,” Ms Morrell said.

“It’s a social event they rely on.”

Despite remaining positive about the importance of the community garden, which is helping minimise landfill waste, Ms Morrell can’t ignore the struggle of many of the community members who are left with no place to meet.

“We run English courses for migrants and refugees, and for them it’s been a real challenge because their learning has had to go online,” she said.


We had a period at the end of last year where we were face-to-face, and during that time they all expressed how much more satisfying it was to practice English with each other in-person and to have the support of being at the centre.


While many groups and learning centres have navigated the problems that come with online learning during lockdowns, Ms Morrell has seen the major impact it has had on their Eritrean women’s group.

“During lockdown, because the Eritrean women’s group is often a lot older, using Zoom and technology isn’t possible,” she said.

“As a neighbourhood house we try to respond to the community needs as much as possible, but it’s been really hard because they can’t meet and there is nowhere for them to meet.”

Following continual advocacy for the community rooms and the housing estate, the spread of COVID remains a concern.

But according to Ms Morrell, while the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) was aware of the issue, the unanswered question around a timeline for reopening remained a major concern.

“We look at all the other community areas that have opened up and we don’t know why they don’t think public housing residents can’t socially distance themselves and wear masks,” she said.

As a centre that stands by their mission to work with the community to connect people, create opportunity, promote equity and challenge disadvantage, the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre is looking forward to what it can do.

Acting on what is in its control, the centre has partnered with Carlton agencies and residents to organise a “Carlton Harmony Day” event on March 26, which will include guest speakers, foods from diverse cultures, children’s activities and a skateboarding competition.

“We are hopeful to have the day at the Carlton Primary School basketball court and believe it will be a great opportunity for all of Carlton to come together and celebrate by sharing food, activities and music,” Ms Morrell said.

“It’s an important day for the elimination of racism and the celebration of different cultures.” •

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