House comes under fire

Morwell Neighbourhood House is holding onto hopes it might be ‘off-the-hook’ following a funding scare.

House coordinator Tracie Lund said due to the Hazelwood mine fire, class attendance and enrolments had dropped significantly for the term compared to the same time last year.

To receive funding from the Adult Community and Further Education board each quarter, the house is required to make projections of what student contact hours will be for the following year.

Following the fire, student contact hours fell to 260 for the term, which was 300 hours under the projection of 560 based on 2013.

After the house was notified it would have to return some of the funding due the fall in student hours, Ms Lund contacted the ACFE board which requested the house write a letter asking the board to overlook the discrepancy.

“We’re hoping they’ll let us keep it rather than pay it back because we’re not in a financial position to do it,” Ms Lund said.

“Since all this has gone to play we’ve had contact with ACFE and sent a letter to them to request our under delivery will be overlooked.

“If you look at the numbers last year they’re dramatically different in term one, we’ve always struggled with numbers, we scrape by so it can just run, but we’re not even doing that at the moment so we’ve had to make some pretty tough calls.”

Despite the mine fire being declared safe on 25 March, Ms Lund said the house had not recovered and she did not expect to see change until 2015.

“I really do not believe our numbers won’t pick up that dramatically in term two or three,” Ms Lund said.

During and after the fire, the house assumed the role of a community go-to base, providing information and advocating for Morwell residents.

“While our numbers are down, they aren’t reflecting what we’ve actually been doing during the fire,” Ms Lund said.

“I really think the neighbourhood house has gotten back to its grassroots; we’ve been a voice, we’ve supported the community and really gotten back to what neighbourhood houses are about.”

Ms Lund said it was likely at least three classes would be cancelled for the rest of the year.