Meander house of hope

Meander house of hope

September 2016 | Joanne Eisemann

WITH LEASE negotiations on the old Meander School almost complete, Teen Challenge Tasmania (TC) is busy finalising plans to convert the buildings into ‘Home of Hope’, a women and children’s rehabilitation centre.

“We have no desire to change the way it looks, the school has an incredible heritage… we want to pay homage to that,” says TC CEO Tanya Cavanagh.

Once Council has approved plans, a mixture of local volunteers, contractors and teams of volunteers from WA will carry out the work.

“This will be the first women and children program of its kind in Australia” explains Tanya and has come about through repeated requests to her and her husband Pete while working with school age Tasmanians on a drug education program called ‘Not Even Once’.

“We had woman after woman coming to us with kids, men we can help get into centres here or on the mainland and single women we have some success with, but women with kids forget it,” explains Tanya.

Once complete, the centre will be home to up to twelve women, (some with children) for up to 12 months while they complete an intensive program to help build a positive framework for their lives.

To be part of the program women must complete a six-week induction outside the centre to make sure they are clear about what the program involves and that they are committed to change.

“For the ladies to come in they have to want to be here…we are interested in people who are dead serious on getting themselves right,” comments Tanya.

“Before they come into the centre we need to make sure they have been detoxed” explains Tanya adding, “when they first arrive they are tested and throughout the program they are tested.”

The program is holistic in nature with an emphasis on establishing life skills and emotional resilience.

“What we do is because of our faith … within the program there is a lot of Christian content but as far as expectations on individuals to follow our faith, that is up to them. I can’t force anyone to become a Christian,” says Tanya.

All staff will have completed a 12 month Teen Challenge training program as well as a minimum of Certificate 4 in Community Services with senior staff having a degree in a related discipline.

Tanya says that because the program is highly structured there is little risk of outsiders being able to access the program. “It’s not a come and go as you please type of place … we will have video surveillance, alarms on doors and have well established risk management policies.”

Summing up the program Tanya says, “Its about these mums and kids, and giving them some hope and helping them get their lives back on track and the community being part of that.”

Residents of Meander and surrounds continue to be divided in their support for Council’s decision to lease the old school to Teen Challenge.

A number of locals have erected welcome signs and offered to help in any way they can.

Christine Chilcott is firmly on the pro side. “When our school closed, we lost an identity within our community.  I just feel we can bring the community back together again by having a purpose.” “This is our chance to make a difference.”

On the other hand 50 people have come together to incorporate the Meander Area Residents and Rate Payers Association (MARRA).

President, Bohdi McSweeney says that notice has been served on Council that MARRA will be taking legal action if the lease of the school to Teen Challenge goes ahead.

“We believe the school should stay in public hands and the process of Teen Challenge becoming the successful proponent was inadequate and excluded community involvement,” explains Bohdi.