Nine Yarra neighbourhood houses gathered last week to launch a plan to reduce their environmental footprint and support the local community to adapt to climate change.

Neighborhood houses are among the first to step up during community crises such as dealing with the impacts of extreme weather and are key responders for community members experiencing ongoing vulnerability – yet they themselves aren’t often well-prepared for the impacts of climate change. 

Across six months Jesuit Social Services’ Centre for Just Places, in collaboration with City of Yarra, supported the network of houses to design a collaborative climate action and resilience plan for the network. The plan builds on the Centre’s work building climate resilience with community services and councils across Melbourne – including work with Springvale and North Dandenong Neighbourhood Houses and the Darebin Neighbourhood House network. 

Reflecting on the Yarra Neighbourhood House Network’s plan, Tony Milne, Executive Officer of Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre, described it as “a beacon of collective, community-driven action towards a sustainable and resilient future.” 

The Yarra houses recognised they were already doing much with their communities that they could build on, in particular, to mitigate climate change and care for the environment. They shared examples of this work, from the awe inspired when a newly installed ‘frog bog’ attracted its first frog, to the more than 36,000 kilograms of waste diverted from landfill at Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre. 

The plan addresses a range of considerations for building both climate resilient houses and communities – including increasing emergency preparedness, continuing to strengthen local support networks and decrease social isolation through programs and events, providing opportunities for learning about climate impacts and preparedness through new and existing programs and projects – such as English classes – and investigating the role of houses to be part of a network of safe spaces during extreme weather.  

It also lays out actions to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and build more sustainable houses – including continuing to reduce community waste, developing an ecological and social justice procurement policy, and providing sustainable living and climate action education to communities. 

The houses shared that working as a collective has strengthened their capacity for action and amplified the influence of each individual house. 

“By building collective knowledge around community needs and issues and sharing skills and expertise, we are constantly innovating and growing,” the plan states. 

In early 2022, the Centre for Just Places worked with a network of six neighbourhood houses in Darebin to co-design a climate action and resilience framework for neighbourhood houses, including a Guidance Document and other resources.

The Centre for Just Places was established by Jesuit Social Services with seed funding from the Gandel Foundation and the Victorian Government.