A Brief History of Wombat
Wombat Housing and Support Services has a rich history in the provision of housing related support services throughout Melbourne’s inner-west since the early 1980’s.
The current day Wombat was formed by an amalgamation of two similar housing and support services in 1998. Both services were small and each had substantial links to their local communities.
The Early Years
One of the services that merged to become Wombat was Lanigiro Housing Group established in Yarraville. The name “Lanigiro” came from the house in Williamstown Road which was the group’s first support property (Lanigiro is original spelt backwards!) Lanigiro was supported by the Westgate Baptist Community and was assisted in its early years by a local businessman, Frank Dewar, who provided a substantial portfolio of properties for the group to use. This enabled Lanigiro to establish a support program and successfully apply for funding for support workers via the SAAP program.
In 1995 Lanigiro moved to a property it purchased in Moore St, Footscray (The Old Dairy) as the organisation identified the area as having greater need. The building also served as an office for the West River Rooming House Group. At the time of amalgamation Lanigiro had 3 family support workers and owned a block of 7 townhouses in Newport which had been funded by the Office of Housing.
The other organisation pre-amalgamation service was Wombat Accommodation Services which grew out of the local communities of Kensington, Flemington and North Melbourne. Wombat was one of the first youth housing programs in the inner metro area and also managed a rooming house for men in Ascot Vale and was in the process of developing a purpose built property for women in Kensington. Wombat provided emergency housing and Bond Assistance to adults and families through the EH/HISP program as well as auspicing the Regional Housing Networker position.
Wombat was well known in Flemington and Kensington and was based in an office above the Church Hall at the top of Macaulay Rd. Wombat was managed by a committee made up of local community members and business people. At the time of amalgamation Wombat had 4.5 staff.
Both organisations conducted extensive consultations with their memberships prior to amalgamating. This included a number of joint meetings of the committees. After passing Special Resolutions the amalgamation was approved in 1998 and Wombat/Lanigiro Housing & Support Services Inc was born.
For the next couple of years the organisation operated from two sites however it became apparent that to truly become one entity it was preferable to have one office. After much exploration a premises was located at the old Melrose Hotel in North Melbourne. The property was able to accommodate all existing staff as well as providing space for future growth.
After moving to North Melbourne in 2001 Wombat/Lanigiro was able to reach an agreement with the OoH to use the old Moore St office site in Footscray for the construction of another purpose built rooming house for women that Wombat would later manage.
For some time the organisation grappled with its name. After much consideration it was decided to drop the “Lanigiro” from the name for a number of reasons: the length of the name, the difficulty of its pronunciation and the obscurity of its derivation. In 2002 the membership approved the name change to Wombat.
Program and Service Swings and Roundabouts
Secure in its new premises Wombat grew and evolved reflecting changing government and departmental priorities. Highlights included:
- The Rooming House Program expanded taking on properties in Footscray and Sunshine;
- A Youth Justice pilot program commenced and expanded to become an established program that has since been replicated across the state;
- A pilot program supporting young people Leaving Care was established and has since expanded;
- The Regional Network expanded to 2 staff with the DHS amalgamation of the North & West regions. (The network has since devolved to one worker covering the West after the creation of DHHS divisions which once again split the North & West areas!);
- In 2005 Wombat successfully tendered for the SHASP program in partnership with HomeGround Services (now Launch Housing) and the Salvation Army Social Housing Service (SASHS) - this included managing the OoH community facilities and providing tenant participation services across the North & West Region;
- With the introduction of housing registration in 2007 the Wombat board decided to specialise in providing support. As a consequence a partnership was forged with Women’s Housing Limited whereby WHL now manage the properties;
- In 2009 Wombat successfully bid for the establishment of a new youth housing service in the City of Maribyrnong focusing on people from culturally & linguistically diverse backgrounds (the Maribyrnong Youth Accommodation Program);
- In 2010 Wombat again joined forces with HomeGround & SASHS to provide the Support for Families At Risk of Homelessness Program (SFaR).
Current Day Wombat
Wombat is still based at the Melrose Hotel and delivering housing related support services on an outreach basis across Melbourne’s inner west.
Wombat’s Board has identified the development of partnerships as a key plank in its Strategic Plan and we continue to work closely with a number of organisations to provide the highest quality services possible. Our current partners include: