Background and History of the Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre at Mitchell House

Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre at Mitchell House (WNC) has a rich and dynamic history, the result of the combined vision and hard work of many committed and persistent local people.

WNC has its origins in the energy of a group of local young mothers who initially came together in the early 1980’s around the need for childcare and play groups for their young children and social contact and support for themselves.

Cape Paterson couple Lorraine and Ross Mitchell were both active community members and Lorraine was also a founding member and driving force in the development of the Centre.

A small group led by Lorraine, began working with a number of local groups, including Apex, Cape Paterson Life Saving Club, Cape Paterson Progress Association and Wonthaggi Play Group around the idea of developing a Neighbourhood Centre for Wonthaggi.

The property which is now Mitchell House, was at that time owned by Vic Rail and had originally been the Wonthaggi Station Masters’ residence. The residence had been empty for some time and was in a state of disrepair. Nevertheless the Committee, with Lorraine as its President, sought assistance from the Wonthaggi Apex Club to acquire the premises from the shire for use by the community.

Apex purchased the property and in January 1983 started renovations. On completion the Borough of Wonthaggi Council agreed to manage the property and a lease was issued to the Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre Committee.

Tragically, neither Lorraine nor Ross ever saw the final results of their efforts – both died in a car accident on 28 November 1982. This was a terrible blow to all involved with the project.

The Centre eventually opened its doors in July 1983 and – as a mark of respect and in remembrance of the important contribution made by Lorraine and Ross Mitchell – was called Mitchell House.

In the thirty five years since its inception WNC has held fast to its roots and to the philosophy of the Neighbourhood House movement. The Centre has been and continues to be a warm and welcoming place to a wide range of individuals, local groups and organisations.

In 2009 we acquired the land adjacent to The Goods Shed which we have developed into the Harvest Centre – community garden and large meeting facility (which houses the Men’s Shed program and other activities as needed)

The Centre offers a broad range of activities including: lifelong learning, art and craft classes, health and well-being, family support, play groups, community advocacy, community event management and project development and the provision of a supportive and welcoming place for individuals and groups to meet.

Responding to local needs and issues, promoting community harmony principles and developing community strengthening practice has always been the core of our work. See copy of current ‘Grapevine’ for each terms activities.

As a volunteer at the Centre you too will become part of our history and your unique contribution will also build the wonderful and colourful social fabric that is WNC