Neighbourhood House and Learning Sector Principles

Sector Vision:
Building community, valuing diversity

Sector Purpose Statement:
Building sustainable community connections with choice, opportunity and flexibility that is responsive to local needs and issues.

The three levels of the sector are connected by a shared philosophy and style of practice that is based on well-established community development principles. These principles, outlined below, inform the practice of the NH&LC sector. While this community development philosophy is most apparent in the work of Houses and Centres at the local level, it also informs the day-to-day practice of the peak body, ANHLC and Neighbourhood House Networks.

The philosophy of the NH&LC sector is built upon ten key community development principles.

Community Participation:
Everyone has a valuable contribution to make and community members can join in at any level. Volunteers and community members are integral to the decision-making, evaluation, provision, participation and direction setting at all levels of the organisation. The community is defined primarily, but not exclusively, by the geographical neighbourhood in which Houses and Centres are located.

Community Ownership:
Members are actively involved in decision-making and have ownership of the programs and activities in their House or Centre. A voluntary management committee, collective, or board comprising elected members who live, work, or participate in the local community governs each House or Centre. The governance model operated is
developmental, with the governing body working co-operatively and collaboratively with staff, volunteers, House/Centre participants and the wider community, thus generating a range of community benefits.

A process that respects, values and enhances people’s ability to have control over their lives is put into practice. This process encourages people to meet their needs and aspirations in a self-aware and informed way which takes advantage of their skills, experience and potential. Change and growth occurs through informing and empowering individuals and communities. Houses and Centres do not seek to do for others but to empower others to do for themselves.

Lifelong Learning:
Learning is integrated into all aspects of their activities, thus building and supporting the personal skills, knowledge, abilities and resilience of people. They develop the health, wellbeing and connection of people and their families, through formal and informal pathways in education, employment and self-development.

The diverse contributions that people make are valued, no matter what their background or varying abilities. Individual and local needs are acknowledged and addressed, often through informal interaction. Identifying these needs and issues through a range of methods is instrumental to informing the planning and development of activities and programs.

Access and Equity:
Situated in local community settings, Houses and Centres are accessible and welcoming. They promote a fairer distribution of economic resources and power between people by aiming to improve the social, environmental, economic and cultural infrastructures within their communities.

Social Action:
Internal and external factors that impact on the local community are analysed and relationships between individuals, groups and organisations and within the community transformed through collective action.

In meeting individual and group needs, Houses and Centres act with, or on the behalf of, community members.

Linking, forming alliances, collaborating and working with individuals, groups, other agencies, government and business are crucial. The strength and distinctiveness of the NH&LC sector model is the interaction between formal and informal methods to achieve connections within the local communities.

Self Help:
Individuals are supported in coming together in a caring group environment to share information, knowledge, skills and life experience in order that each participant can reach their own personal goals.