Revitalising Norlane

Walking through the new construction site where Norlane workers toil, John Timmer, Baptcare`s Affordable Housing director, tells the story about his migrant family. Timmer is all familiar of how Australia used to be.

“When I started in this business, on social housing, I built in the CBD of Melbourne, and this is early 90’s, 10 apartments for 1 million dollars.”

In current years housing stress is especially experienced by low-income earners and the disadvantaged. The SEIFA Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage rates show that there are seven areas that can be titled as “the most disadvantaged.” They are Corio, Norlane, Thomson, Colac, Whittington, Bell Park and St Leonards.

The new Norlane Baptcare housing project will offer a symbol of prosperity for one of the most disadvantaged communities in Victoria. The Baptcare Affordable Housing initiative will provide safe, secure and affordable housing for the financially disadvantaged. The non-for-profit initiative enables access to education and employment.

“This is a 32 million dollar project in the heart of one of the most disadvantaged communities,” says Timmer. “We want to turn the community around.”

Baptcare`s project is being developed on a disused school site in the heart of Norlane, opposite one of the last viable strip shopping centres in the suburb. Before construction began earlier this year, there were 18 months of community consultation. Residents of Norlane were asked what they would like to see happen on this disused school site. This was to ensure that the project responded to community need.

“The biggest need amongst those who are disadvantaged is access to housing that is affordable, safe and of high enough quality,” says Timmer.

Once completed the Norlane site will include 52 units of housing, a new aged care facility, a community hub, gym and a café.

The community hub in particular is being designed to provide a space where people can gather and participate in activities and educational programs.

Timmer says, “The day this is open, we will be providing 100 jobs to the local community.”

“We are creating local jobs for local people. So we are not just saying we are going to provide 52 units of housing so you can have better housing. What we are doing is saying, we are coming into that community to revitalise it.”

Construction of this project is currently providing 66 local jobs. Additionally, 130 permanent jobs will be created.

“We are already talking to job trainers and getting people trained as personal carers and nursing staff, cleaners, kitchen staff, admin and all the sorts of things that you will need in an aged facility. We are committed to local procurement.”

This is exciting news for Norlane. With a 16.7% (2011) unemployment rate, the suburb ranks as one of the most disadvantaged in Victoria.

Since post Second World War Baptcare has been an aged care provider and still continues to do that. Over 70 years the agency has been involved with a range of activities such as child and family services, general community welfare, disability support and family violence issues.

– Amelia Chapman

Amelia Chapman is a Deakin University student