Kensington Neighbourhood House began in September 1975 when seven Kensington women met in the lounge room of a house in Bellair Street to discuss what they could do to support each other.
At the time Kensington had a relatively small population of 7,000 residents. Of these approximately one-third were public housing tenants. Nearly 40% of residents were migrants. A high proportion of families were one parent and low income families.
By the end of the year the group of seven had grown to around 40. They applied to the Interim Committee of Children Commission for funding for a drop in house for women of all backgrounds where they could bring their children and meet in a relaxed social atmosphere.
In 1976 the Group became incorporated and secured funding to purchase their “drop-in house”. They were known as “The Kensington Women’s Group Child Care Co-operative”.
Local Federal Member and Liberal Minister, Margaret Guilfoyle, was instrumental in helping the women secure funding. Maureen Fagan, a long term Kensington resident, was there in the early days. Maureen says, “I think we got the funding because the Minister saw us as a group of people who were willing to get off our bums and do something.”
Later that year the House at 89 McCracken Street was found. Whilst plans were being approved and financing arranged the Women’s Group began using the four room house for meetings and activities.
Initially the House was staffed by volunteers as funding was hard to come by. In the early days the House was open 7am-6pm five days a week to meet the needs of the community.
By 1986 the State Government recognised the importance of Neighbourhood Houses and the role they played in their communities so they established the Neighbourhood House Scheme to provide secure, recurrent funding for houses.
The House went from strength to strength as it became a registered community education provider and a registered training organisation.
Throughout this period of growth the house underwent several renovations and extensions in an attempt to continue to meet the needs of a growing and ever-changing Kensington community.
Today the Kensington Neighbourhood House caters for both men and women of all ages, nationalities and economic backgrounds. It remains community owned and managed and still relies heavily on the support of volunteers to help make it all happen.
Whilst the programs and activities change from year to year we’ve still got the friendly and welcoming environment and the values of those seven women that sat around the lounge room in Bellair Street over 40 years ago.