"I founded a national environmental youth organisation when I was 14 years old, then went on to complete environmental studies at RMIT. I was involved in the environmental sustainability movement for more than 20 years and my last job before working at Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre (CNLC) was in Arnhem Land on an energy and water conservation project.

While the environment was still really close to my heart, I felt I had to move beyond education and help communities become more resilient, through community development.

That was in 2016. I am now the Community Development Manager at CNLC and involved with advocacy work to improve the lives of our migrant and refugee communities, those with a disability, or experiencing poverty, financial stress, or misfortune.

I work part-time out of our Open Door centre in the Carlton public housing estate. I founded this centre in 2019 for migrant and refugee residents to access employment services, social work and English language skills as well as being a place to socialise, participate in workshops, borrow equipment from our kitchen library, and access information.

We started offering sewing classes last year and have a lot of women who feel really happy to be part of the classes and learn together. We have a great teacher and students get to make bags, dresses, skirts – it’s great to see them happy and what they make.

I am also Chair of the Carlton Community Network, which is a collaboration of more than 50 agencies across Carlton. Among other things, the network supported the Carlton towers during the lockdowns and has organised the annual Carlton Harmony Day festival over the past 15 years."

"CNCL has been supporting people in the area for over 40 years. CNLC’s mission is to work with the people of Carlton and surrounding areas, particularly those who experience disadvantage, to connect, learn, share skills and improve participation in work and community life. As a neighbourhood house and registered training organisation we create spaces where people can feel like they belong and that services the whole community.

I’m doing advocacy work with other neighbourhood houses across Melbourne on the digital divide experienced by our communities. We’re currently working with the Federal Government to get our communities a concession on their WiFi bills as it’s such an essential service.

By partnering with University of Melbourne, we were able to hand out end of lease laptops to these communities which were really appreciated.

As our Open Door venue is based out of the Carlton towers, a lot of our work involves this community. My work includes supporting housing estate residents to feel safe. Some people live in fear of their neighbours and drug activity. We help them to be more resilient and tackle the issues involved with living with 2500 people as their neighbours.

During Covid I also initiated the concierge program with cohealth at Carlton to employ bi-lingual residents to work with the estate community with health information and support. This program was rolled out to all inner-city housing estates based on the success of employment for residents and their unique skills at relating to their community and being a conduit for important information.

Recently we’ve been supporting residents with the news that the Victorian Government will be retiring all of its public housing stock. Of course, the residents are concerned about if they will be placed near their community. It’s a real threat to the way they live.

From CNLC’s venue in Carlton North we have a community garden, chickens, compost hub, and offer a recycling hub for those hard-to-recycle things, such as paint, and CDs. Our English school is located here and has a long record of helping migrants and refugees settle in Melbourne We also run 10 community events a year, including Eid, Christmas, Reconciliation Week, International Women’s Day and Refugee Week.

As an organisation we’re known for really taking the time to listen to our community – you’re not just another number in a queue. We want to help in any way we can."

Elle Morrell with students from Open Door's sewing class.

Elle Morrell with students from Open Door's sewing class.

Find out about CNLC

To see more classes offered by CNLC and Open Door, visit the website.