DHS Southern Metropolitan Region


In 2007, the Servicing Growing Communities Demonstration Project was launched by the Southern Metropolitan Region of the Victorian Department of Human Services in response to dramatic population growth in the City of Casey and Shire of Cardinia.

There was a strong emphasis on developing a partnership approach to provide early intervention support, build community capacity and increase family resilience while also learning about the impacts of rapid population growth and the effectiveness of flexible and responsive service planning and delivery for each growth area in the region.

The approach aimed to engage a broad range of stakeholders, including a number of State government departments, local government authorities, community service agencies and residents.

The focus of the Southern Metropolitan Region Demonstration Project (SMR DP) was on:

  • Developing partnerships
  • Community engagement and participation
  • Early intervention
  • Family resilience
  • Capacity building and social capital
  • Sustainability.

Lessons learned from the SMR DP that can be applied to other growth areas include:


  • Ensure that there is buy-in at the top of the organisations engaged in the initiative
  • Provide a well-resourced Project Officer to facilitate meetings and follow up actions
  • If there is a committee governance structure, include a wide variety of people representing all sectors of the local community.


  • Encourage cross sector and inter-departmental (whole of government) partnerships
  • Governance departments and LGAs should form partnerships with local community service providers and work with them to apply for philanthropic funds to support local service development
  • Formalise well-structured partnership agreements with each project partner which clarify specific roles and responsibilities
  • Encourage participation from other major stakeholders who can contribute particular expertise (e.g. industry bodies)


  • Develop a communication strategy that regularly delivers up-to-date project information to the full range of key stakeholders and promotes the initiative to the broader community.

Community Engagement

  • Use a variety of strategies to engage community members
  • Liaise with major local property developers to ensure that proactive and responsive community outreach strategies are commenced as families move into the area
  • Identify needs through community consultation and address these as far as possible and feedback provided for those who have contributed their ideas.

The Library Lab, Brent, UK

The Library Lab was undertaken in collaboration with the Civic Systems Lab and the local authority to activate a disused library space. The space was converted into community workshop space, hosting free workshops, lectures, a pop-up co-working space and crèche. This project aimed to accelerate local entrepreneurship and connection with the diverse community the library services.

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Families Growing Communities: A Partnership Initiative

Current research suggests that families who include a person with a disability are at risk of increased stress and isolation due to the pressures that are placed on them in providing daily support and care for the person who has a disability.

Southern Metropolitan Region (SMR) is experiencing rapid, large growth in both population and number of households. This ongoing increase provides a number of challenges for both the private and public sector to overcome in managing for the future.

The Families Growing Communities project was developed in partnership with Life Without Barriers, Department of Education & Early Childhood Development, Department of Human Services and Chisholm Institute of TAFE.

The project aims to identify a range of opportunities that will support the following outcomes:

  • Decrease isolation of carers and individuals with a disability (‘caring families’)
  • Promote engagement of individuals with a disability and their families with all facets of community
  • Assist private enterprise to be more inclusive in their practices.

The project commences within the City of Casey moving outwards to include Cardinia and other areas in the southern growth corridor.

Project success relies on community ownership and the involvement of a range of with different skills, knowledge and experiences.

The objectives of this project are to:

  • Support contact between ‘caring families’, to create a network able to share experiences, information and physical and emotional support.
  • Support the network members to identify ways in which they can work with the community to facilitate changes in attitude and practice.
  • Work with local government, businesses, schools and other community organisations, to promote awareness and assist individuals to build confidence, to maintain old skills and develop new ones, to make new friends, to feel valued.

This initiative is part of the ‘Families Growing Communities’ project and includes partnership with the VET sector, disability service organisations, and government.

Financial Stress in Growth Areas (FIGA)

A partnership project between state and local governments, community organisations, the financial sector and community.

The Southern Metropolitan Region’s (SMR) data and service provision indicators have indicated that many families in the growth areas of Casey and Cardinia have been experiencing financial stress due to high mortgages, other credit lines and increased travel costs.

In 2010, the SMR partners identified and explored initiatives to improve the service system response to financial stress through enhancing the existing systems and evolving the capacity of the system. The following action plan has been adopted.

Key priority area one: establish a sustainable and effective cross-agency governance arrangement

Objective 1.1 Develop a multi-disciplined leadership group

Objective 1.2 Identify engagement and reporting pathways that will maximise opportunities for success

Key priority area two: develop an understanding of the existing service sector

Objective 2.1 Develop a service mapping system

Objective 2.2 Develop an understanding of critical indicators of financial stress

Key priority three: enhance capacity of existing and future workforce

Objective 3.1 Identify capacity of existing workforce to respond to financial stress

Objective 3.2 Establish process for sustainable sector engagement and action

Key priority area four: increase community awareness with a focus on prevention

Objective 4.1 Establish social change and acceptance of the need to ask for help at the earliest stages.

The Selandra Rise Partnership

Selandra Community Place

The Need

Without a place and programs through which to connect, residents can feel socially isolated and disconnected from their community. Such a situation often negatively impacts residents’ satisfaction with their neighbourhood and their personal well-being.

Selandra Community Place (SCP) was explicitly developed to provide early amenity for the first residents of the growing Clyde North community. By proactively providing the space and good reasons for residents to meet and be actively involved in local activities, the hub is key to an engaged and healthy community from the onset.

Selandra Community Place opened in March 2012 within four months of the first resident moving in. It launched with a full calendar of classes, drop-in socials, business networking sessions, sports and fitness activities.

SCP was designed and resourced to allow residents to connect, learn and truly embrace the essence of community from the beginning. Capitalising upon its prominent and accessible position at the front corner of the Display Village, SCP also provides an opportunity for visitors and residents to connect and learn about how to save money while living more sustainably.

Selandra Community Place plays an important role in the broader objective of the Selandra Rise demonstration project. The following key outcomes guided the development:

  • to proactively engage residents by employing a place-based Community Development Officer full-time at SCP
  • to create a space to facilitate community interaction, inclusiveness, and sense of belonging
  • to encourage the community to enjoy a healthier lifestyle by taking advantage of the features of Selandra Rise, and the SCP health and fitness programs
  • to educate visitors and residents about saving money using engaging media to provide sustainability tips about how to save water, decrease energy use, minimise waste, and improve their health and wellbeing
  • to display superior design that improves energy and water efficiency using the latest technology.
The innovation

The demonstration project provided an ideal opportunity to deliver a community hub in a new and different way, much sooner than the standard model. A number of organisations rallied behind the concept including the City of Casey, Stockland, Henley Homes and the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA).

The display village offered the opportunity to have a dual purpose for the hub, that of resident community centre and visitor demonstration home. The combination of these two audiences created an ideal opportunity to collaborate not only with the developer, but also with a builder; Henley Homes who were able to demonstrate their commitment and capacity to build more sustainable homes.

The City of Casey also forged a relationship with SECCCA, who were drawn to the opportunity to provide sustainability education and programming to influence household habits and decision-making amongst both audiences.

The Selandra Rise Partnership

The Selandra Rise partnership is a partnership between industry, government and the private sector with the objective of improving the design standards of suburbs and improving health and wellbeing outcomes in new communities.

The partners are:

  • Stockland
  • City of Casey
  • The Metropolitan Planning Authority (previously the Growth Areas Authority)
  • The Planning Institute of Australia
  • Vic-Health/RMIT (undertaking evaluation)

The values of Selandra Rise partnership are:

  • Openness. Collaboratively sharing of information
  • Teamwork. Sharing the workload and playing a role in the outcomes
  • Leadership. Delivering a blueprint and educating along the way
  • Commitment. To improved community health and wellbeing outcomes
  • Innovation. Testing new ideas that make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the community.

The Partnership has been critical in focusing on shared objectives and outcomes. The shared agenda and the creation of shared ownership has been central to the successful delivery of the Selandra Community Place demonstration project. Importantly, the community has been involved in co-creating Selandra Rise, with partners empowering residents to shape and inform how the project is delivered.

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