Queenscliffe Neighbourhood House gets chatty with new program

March 8, 2024 BY

Chatty Café volunteer Marguerite Hussey (left) and Queenscliff Neighbourhood House manager Elisa Allen. Photo: ELLIE CLARINGBOLD

A NEW initiative launched this month at Queenscliffe and District Neighbourhood House (QNH) is attempting to spread happiness in the community with a chat.

The Chatty Café initiative aims to create a space for community members to talk while they enjoy a cuppa, in a relaxed and inclusive environment, whether it be for a couple minutes or a couple of hours.

The program has found great success in building friendships and connections in communities across the globe, including locally in towns such as Leopold and Winchelsea.

QNH manager Elisa Allen said the scheme was trialled at the house over a two-month period last year before it was adopted as an ongoing program.

“We saw that there was a need for people who felt isolated and lonely, especially after COVID,” she said.

“Lots of people have moved here and they need to make friends and we thought this was probably a good [place to start].”

She hopes the community will embrace the initiative and experience the positive effects of conversation.

“Maybe their day is brightened, maybe they’ll make a friend.

“Social engagement, that’s what we want.”

Point Lonsdale resident Marguerite Hussey is one of QNH’s two volunteers, with a third expected to join the Chatty Café program in the coming months.

They will help to facilitate conversation and welcome community members to the program.

“I just thought, ‘Let’s have a go and see if I can bring light to someone else’s life’,” Ms Hussey said.

She said social connections between Queenscliff-based community members were also impacted by the high rate of holiday homes in the town.

“There are people who have lived here for a long time who probably don’t have a neighbour because they’ve probably gone back to where they live, and they’ll only see them every so often.

“I suppose as you get older, you tend to stay in more and it’s very hard for someone to walk through a door and just come and say hello.

“But, as soon as they come through this door, they’ve got people to talk to straight away.”

The free program is open to all members of the community, regardless of whether they are members of QNH, and those interested in enjoying some company but not yet confident enough to join in the conversation, are also invited to join.

A community grant of $1,800 from the Borough of Queenscliffe has helped make the initiative possible, allowing QNH to purchase the equipment and supplies needed and access useful resources directly from Chatty Café Australia, a registered charity.

“Council appreciates the efforts the Queenscliffe and District Neighbourhood House go to in ensuring they provide initiatives to connect our community through social, recreational and support activities,” a borough spokesperson said.

“The Chatty Café is the embodiment of these endeavours, providing the community with a setting to enable social interactions by coming together to chat.”

The Chatty Café will run at QNH, 3 Tobin Drive, Queenscliff, on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month between 10.30am-12 noon.

For more information, head to qnhouse.com.au