Melbourne, Australia and Michigan, USA presents an historical framework of community education concepts with its roots in Michigan, USA and an early Melbourne, Australia example of schools as community hubs – the Princes Hill School Park Centre. The writer’s reflective narrative reveals first-hand experience of a rich history of interaction between schools, communities and local government fostering place-based neighbourhood community decision making. It demonstrates the radical moves that were made expanding the concept of community education from community use of school facilities to community empowerment and resilience. In the context of reviewing the current largely untapped potential of schools as community hubs, the term ‘Rear Vision’ springs to the mind of the writer, reflecting a sense of ‘looking back to look forward’. The experience of community education in the 1980’s in Michigan and Melbourne, can inform how ‘schools as community hubs’ can embrace the building of new connections. In the 1980’s the Princes Hill School Park Centre, adopted a community empowerment model reflecting the need to move beyond the use of school facilities and instead radically engage the school, local community and the city government in a range of activities that promoted and facilitated participatory decision-making. The history of the community education movement provides evidence that broadening the role of schools beyond the use of their facilities can build connections, resilience and participatory decision-making in a post pandemic and increasingly fractured world.
Keywords: school community, empowerment, connectedness, resilience.
Senior Research Fellow
Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, The University of Melbourne
Martin Brennan was the Community Education Officer at the Princes Hill School Park Centre (1978 – 1985) and Community Education Director, Straits Area Community Education, St Ignace Area Schools, Michigan, USA (1983). Martin has a long political and professional record of seeking community empowerment and sustainable solutions for cities at the local, national and international level as a Melbourne City Councillor and a professional working in the local government sector. He is the former Regional Director, ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability – Oceania and is currently a Senior Research Fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute at the University of Melbourne, Australia.Profile