Montmorency residents are showing that community is not dead.
A group of locals bought a piece of prime real estate and are busy transforming it into a community-owned hub.
When a former church and kinder went up for sale in November 2020, the group called on Banyule City Council to buy it. However, after the council indicated they would not purchase the property, the group got enough grassroots community support to successfully bid for the site.
The group raised an incredible $650,000 from 300 different contributors to secure the site for a community hub – but now the challenge is on to secure its future.
Marissa Johnpillai (MJ) is project coordinator and one of the driving forces behind the hub.
“Community effort led to an asset remaining in the community,” MJ said.
“I could see how valuable a resource this hub would be and the only way we could retain it was through community action.”
Unlike similar enterprises, the community group had no government support for the purchase. The hub is not paying council a small nominal rent for use of a public building.
Because the group bought the land and buildings, it now needs to raise funds to pay ongoing costs. This includes debt servicing.
“The first fundraising push secured the purchase, but now we need to ensure we can keep it,” MJ said.
Shares in the hub are available for $5,000 each, paid in a lump sum or installments. They are a nonprofit social investment in community infrastructure rather than a financial investment.
Already, more than 125 shares have been sold. This translates to nearly 30% community equity in the site.
The hub also has memberships available for $55 a year; however, people can donate any amount to the hub.
Donations of skills and time are also gratefully received.
The hub is volunteer-run and operated by a registered charity that is governed by a seven-member volunteer board.
Father-of-two Terry said he decided to get involved as there was no space dedicated to meeting, learning and gathering – despite the various schools, sporting clubs and cafes in the area.
He added: “I work as a design consultant on building projects all across the country and have jumped at the chance to assist on a site in my own community because I understand how places such as the hub have transformed other communities.
“I want my family and my community to benefit from the hub for years to come.”
MJ said the hub was aiming to double the number of shares it sold this year.
To do that, the hub is calling on people in surrounding suburbs to get behind the Monty Hub.
One woman, who has lived in the area for 35 years, recently got involved with the hub. She said it was the first time there was something available she thought she could connect with.
Stories like hers are what drives the volunteers at the hub.
“The most important thing we are seeing is that people who get involved with the hub are feeling more connected to community,” MJ said.
“They also share that the hub has improved their mental health.”
The hub is starting to host events and activities such as food swaps and community meetings, as well as yoga, qigong and pilates classes.
The hub itself runs a repair café and offers gardening working bees, a chess club and board games night and after school art, craft and play.
After the purchase, the Monty Hub has also been successful in obtaining grants and support from the Australian government, Victorian government and Banyule City Council to help refurbish the buildings.