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Millennium House: Celebrating Multiculturalism in the West

Profile of Rebecca Bridges
Written by Rebecca BridgesPosted on the 3/3/2020

It’s 1963 and an old house lies dormant on a large block of land in Footscray. A group of Polish migrants purchase the block with dreams of building a local hub for their community.

“After years of community fundraising and countless hours of volunteer labour, a community centre building was completed on the site and named Millennium House,” Elizabeth Drozd explains.

Drozd is the Chief Executive Officer of Australian Multicultural Community Services (AMCS), an organisation that has played a crucial role in Melbourne’s west for more than 35 years, supported by 185 volunteers who, Drozd says, “ generously give up their time to do their part in improving the lives of seniors.”

Throughout the 1960s, Melbourne’s west saw a wave of European migration, mostly people from Italy, Greece, Malta, Poland, the former Republic of Yugoslavia and Germany.

“Many thousands of members of the Polish community as well as other ethnic groups have used Millennium House’s facilities and have fond memories of significant life events being celebrated there,” Drozd says, adding that it has also been home to community meetings, cultural celebrations and even a language school.

AMCS has been a pillar of the local community, providing in-home care to ageing seniors from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds while Millennium House has been the backdrop for many community support programs, services and activities that address the social, cultural, recreational and educational needs of CALD communities.

“In August 2017, Millennium House donated the centre to AMCS, a result of long-established trust and respect that developed between Millennium House members and AMCS over many years,” Drozd explains.

After 60 years of dedicated community service, Drozd says the centre is “now in need of repurposing and modernising.”

“This community strengthening project will be the first example of how an ethno-specific centre can enter the next stage in its lifecycle.”

An artist’s impression of the new Millennium House. Image: AMCS

In 2020, the population in Footscray remains one of the most ethnically diverse in Victoria, with 40 per cent of residents born outside Australia in 135 different countries and more than 80 languages spoken.

Footscray and its surrounding suburbs are home to a truly ‘intercultural’ community, a place where nationalities, languages and beliefs are multifarious.

“Over the past eight years, the Maribyrnong municipality has grown from approximately 75,000 residents to over 93,000,” Drozd says.

“It is not unexpected or surprising then that accessible and affordable community use space, to support the newly arriving residents and their ethnic groups, is in short supply.”

The facility has been a familiar “gathering place” for numerous ethnic groups “not just the local Polish community members. Vietnamese and African communities have become regular users over many years,” Drozd says.

“Millennium House will celebrate the cultural richness and diversity of the community by supporting people of all backgrounds and ages with inviting, accessible and safe facilities that will accommodate community activities and serve as a base to develop individual and family growth; community spirit and relationships.”

You can support the vision of a modern and vibrant Millennium House with a contribution to the renovation costs of this multicultural mecca.