Haven Mooroopna has enabled Billy to return to Country and family after years of living in Melbourne with only ad hoc support. 

Billy (pictured) is one of four people of First Nations heritage who have moved into The Haven Foundation’s new residence in Mooroopna (near Shepparton).  

The 16 unit residence provides people who have significant mental ill-health with long-term high quality social housing and 24/7 support from on-site Mind Australia staff. Residents learn life skills, like confidence and connection with others, to help build a healthy lifestyle.  

Greater Shepparton has Victoria’s highest population of First Nations Australians outside of Melbourne and First Nations Australians have significantly higher rates of mental health concerns than the general Australian population, so it was important to Mind that local First Nations people would recognise Haven Mooroopna as a viable option for their mental health recovery. 

Before construction, Mind’s Reconciliation Action Plan Manager Justine Moss and other Mind staff met with Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative and other local community groups, to tell them about the new residence and discuss how they could work together. 

Mind engaged Rumba Ripples, the social enterprise arm of the Rumbalara Football Netball Club, to build the fencing around the estate and the yarning circle that is at the heart of the site’s design. Local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recruited and trained by Rumba Ripples were also contracted to provide ongoing site maintenance. The contract helped build a connection and familiarity between the residence and local First Nations people – one of the residents first heard about Haven Mooroopna through one of the maintenance team. 

The arrangement has contributed to the target in Mind’s Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan to source three per cent of its procurement from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses within the next five years. 

Mind has been proactive in encouraging referrals for First Nations residents for Haven Mooroopna. 

“We couldn’t just sit on our hands and accept it if we didn’t get any referrals of people from local First Nations communities,” Mind Occupancy Management Lead, Louise Radywonik, said.  

Ms Radywonik said developing trust in the community was all-important. 

“Are we trustworthy as an organisation? That’s what anyone is going to want to know before they or another member of their family or community feel safe moving in.” 

She and Haven Mooroopna’s Service Manager Trudy Fuller encouraged site tours by families. They knew that for First Nations people the family circle involved in the decision to move in is often much larger, so they engaged with community as broadly as possible. 

Since opening in mid-2022, Haven Mooroopna has cemented that trust with local First Nations communities. Ms Fuller said community groups are now coming to Mind asking if they have a vacancy for someone.  

All staff receive cultural awareness training and Ms Fuller works hard to ensure that residents’ relationships remain in place with First Nations representatives in other services that are supporting them. 

Ms Fuller said Haven Mooroopna has also been recognised as a place that supports residents’ connection to culture. 

“Our First Nations residents are really proud of their culture and we encourage them to celebrate it and share it with all of us. People know that now about the service and it has been hugely beneficial.” 

Mind and The Haven Foundation are undertaking similar community engagement for upcoming new Haven Foundation residences including Drouin, Ballarat and Bendigo, Mind’s Executive Director of Housing Strategy Mark Heeney said. 

We want to ensure people in regional Victoria who need this kind of long-term residential mental health and wellbeing support know that it is here. Stable, well supported, and affordable housing is the foundation for building a life of independence, stability, and positive mental health. 

We especially want First Nations people and community to know that a Haven Foundation residence can be a suitable option.”

Haven Mooroopna was funded by Homes Victoria as part of the $5.3 billion Big Housing Build and delivered in partnership with Mind Australia and The Haven Foundation. 

More information 

Get more information on existing and upcoming Haven residences here

Mind is holding information seminars about upcoming Haven residences in Ballarat West (3 February) Drouin (9 February) and Bendigo (16 February). Email Mind Connect or call 1300 286 463 for details. 

To register your interest in a Haven residence or for general information about Mind services, contact us via Mind Connect or phone: 1300 286 463.  

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