By Derek Schlennstedt
The future of the Belgrave South Community House remains uncertain after the Department of Education announced plans in June to demolish the main building.
The building will make way for a $200,000 new, modern outdoor classroom and community centre building, which will be used by Belgrave South Primary School, and by community groups when not in use by the school.
On Tuesday, 3 July, Liberal Candidate for Monbulk, John Schurink visited the site and spoke to the ‘Mail’ about the buildings importance within the community.
He suggested that if it were refurbished it could continue to service the community and house the Belgrave Men’s shed, who are keen to expand.
Currently the Community House, which is on school property, is shared with the Belgrave South Scouts who use it for meetings and to store their equipment.
“For some reason the government wants to demolish this building and clearly it still has several uses,” Mr Schurink said.
“The men’s shed is looking for alternative accommodation … well perfect, let’s have three community groups providing those sort of services to the community – ranging from the scouts, the occasional care with the community house and then the men’s shed as well.
“What a perfect use of a community asset.”
It is suggested that the ‘community asset’ could be used by the Belgrave Men’s Shed who are at full capacity and in need of more space.
“In Belgrave we’ve got a membership of 28 and it’s going up,” President of the Belgrave Men’s Shed, George Harmon said.
“One of the problems we have is lack of space; if 28 people turn up we can’t operate, because we have equipment that requires space.”
We’ve had people with disabilities and in a wheelchair that we’ve had to gently say ‘we can’t fit you in’ … there’s simply no space to work.”
According to a Department of Education and Training spokesperson, the current ‘building requires significant investment to continue to be used,’ and that ‘Belgrave South Community House and the Yarra Ranges Council have advised that they will not provide funds for this purpose’.
It is believed that the building will be demolished in September, though the date is subject to change.
The new community centre which will replace the building is described as being a place that the ‘wider community can use.’
During the construction, it is believed that Belgrave South Scout Group will be able to store their facilities in the school’s gym, and once construction of the community centre is complete, they will be able to utilise the new facilities.
The Belgrave South Community House also has two other buildings which won’t be included in the demolition.
However, Lyn Taylor, Centre Manager at Belgrave South Community House said they would not be able to be run all their programs from those locations.
The Occasional Care program, which provides care for children on either an hourly basis, or for short periods of time is one of the programs that will be lost.
Ms Taylor said that apart from the Selby Community House, whose occasional care is full, there is no other occasional care close by.
A Parliament of Victoria e-petition created by John Schurink requests the Legislative Council to call on the Government to save the Belgrave South Community House. The petition can be found here: https://bit.ly/2u6BfYK