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Our Approach to Programming  – through a COVID-19 Lens

When the pandemic began, Clunes Neighbourhood House decided to go back to the basics and think about what we do and why we do it.


Operating in a COVID-19 world means safety measures, restrictions and uncertainty about the wisdom/permissibility of any activity that involves large gatherings. It also means a world where deficiency needs will be acute, potentially so acute that they eclipse or inhibit people's ability to focus on growth needs. Understanding this, we opted to look at our programming approach to determine how we can best meet our strategic objectives in this new world - and it turns out that that process has stood us in good stead.


At Clunes Neighbourhood House, our vision is for a community that cares for its people and place. To do this, we deliver a range of programs, and Maslow's hierarchy of needs has guided our approach. Given the diverse socio-economic nature of our population and the fact that we are a town that has traditionally had active community groups, we've focused on those target markets that are not typically represented while also supporting the resilience of existing groups.


Our core programs typically focus on the first, second and third levels of Maslow's hierarchy - physiological needs, safety and belonging needs.

Levels 1 - 2: Physiological and Safety (defined as basic needs arising in response to a deficiency)

During this pandemic, it is unsurprising that these needs have been primary and will remain for some time. With the careful implementation of safety measures, a great collaboration with volunteers and a few modifications, we've focused on nurturing activities supporting health and safety and wrapping community care offerings around each.

Levels 3: Belonging (defined as a growth need, arising in response to aspirations)
Essentially these activities build connection and as a result for those not in immediate crisis, the need for belonging has been steadily rising as the pandemic has dragged on. Following easing of the first stage three restrictions, the more formal groups (such as the Men's Shed) moved quickly and effectively to resume or (in the case of Attitude, commence) operations and where necessary, continue to focus on their future direction. More informal groups moved slower, but as their confidence built and risk could be managed we saw activities resume OR adapt. Strengthening connections across our town is vital to rebuild resilience and capacity in Clunes.



Demonstrating our ability to effectively pivot to not only meet deficiency needs but strive for recovery has benefited our organisation and those we support and has provided others with an example of what is possible.

Even before this pandemic, Clunes was a community with more than its fair share of socio-economic disadvantage. But we are also a community with innovation in our DNA.

- Accessible, early childhood community facilities
- Links to early childhood and family support

Refurbishment of a tram to house, a visiting Toy Library and provide families with a hire space for birthday parties or activities.  Work commenced in 2022 and is now nearing completion.

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Levels 4 - 5: Esteem and Self-Actualisation

Typically, we've sought to address these levels through major events or mass gatherings. This hasn't been as easy since the pandemic began, although we have successfully adapted significant events such as Christmas in Clunes to work in a living with COVID world. Doing this collaboratively with other groups in towns will strengthen ties with people in the community, creating a vital foundation for cohesion.


Supporting Creatives in our community


- Enabling an active arts and culture community by connecting local and visiting artists to and community

- A partnership project with Creative Clunes

A concept initially conceived by the community in 2017, funding has enabled the revitalisation of our cultural activities since the pandemic.

Establishing a start-up Social Enterprise that helps our town tip a bust towards a BOOM:

- Launched BOOM Clunes in 2021

- A diverse, circular economy-based business that includes retail, business centre (co-working and serviced offices) and learning opportunities

Successfully implemented and now in it's second year of operation.

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