Neighbourhood partner builds capacity in Kensington

Bumper crops and bags of community spirit typify the close-knit community of Kensington, where Melanie Del Monaco is the passionate neighbourhood partner.

Melanie developed a keen interest in how people can be empowered to shape decision-making that impacts their lives through her studies in politics, cultural studies and community development.

Her career has spanned the university, transport and local government sectors, where she has worked alongside communities to foster diverse participation, sustainable behaviour and community connectivity.

‘I love working closely with community, which allows us to respond quickly and create changes that have a positive impact on people’s lives,’ Melanie said.

‘Local governments have such a wide remit, so the day-to-day work is really varied, from climate action and waste to arts and road safety.

‘Above all, it’s about helping to create more connected, vibrant and sustainable neighbourhoods.’

About our neighbourhood model

We’re working to better understand and respond to community needs in a highly localised way through a new neighbourhood model.

Led by passionate neighbourhood partners, the model aims to ‘connect the dots’ between the City of Melbourne, residents and businesses, to empower local people, build community capacity and guide city projects.

To find out more and have your say on what matters to you in your local area, visit Participate Melbourne.

Melanie has spent more than three years working with the Kensington community.

The suburb is a highly diverse neighbourhood that includes small heritage cottages, public housing, newer townhouses in Kensington Banks, industry and commercial operations, and parts of the Macaulay urban renewal area.

‘There’s a great vibe in Kensington because – even though you’re in the heart of the city – it has a unique village feel, and a highly active and connected community,’ Melanie said.

‘While it may be known for its iconic leafy streets, it was also home to the Newmarket Saleyards, which were one of world’s biggest livestock markets until 1987.

‘The first Good Karma Network was established in Kensington, the train station has its own fairy garden courtesy of the local stationeers group, and it features more than seven community gardens and compost hubs.’

‘The local TreeProject even helps grow more than 100,000 indigenous trees from seed every year.

‘Kensington also has a fabulous range of cafes, unique shopping strips and restaurants offering some of Melbourne’s best East African, Egyptian falafel and Mexican street food.’

Colour in Kensington

For the young or the young at heart. Download the printable colouring pages of JJ Holland play space, Kensington Town Hall and Kensington Station and share your creation with the hashtag #ParticipateKensington.

An important part of the role of a neighbourhood partner is to build connections between local people, organisations and council to build community capacity and create positive change.

Melanie said COVID-19 saw fruitful connections begin to build in Kensington, and drove home the importance of community, responsiveness and resilience amid adversity.

‘When lockdowns hit, there was a sharp drop in supplies of fresh food relied on for essential food support programs for vulnerable local people. In response, more than 300 kilos of fresh food were grown locally in Kensington and distributed to people experiencing disadvantage.’

‘The project was a collaboration between The Venny, Living Learning Australia, Kensington Stockyard Food Garden, Kensington Community Garden, Kensington YMCA, Unison Housing, and Kensington Neighbourhood House, with support from the City of Melbourne.

‘There are also compost and repair hubs that have saved tonnes of food waste and broken items from landfill, and the Flyer of Hope that helped Kensington residents learn about more than 30 support services during lockdowns.

‘These are all great example of how local people can work together quickly and collaboratively to support one another.’

With so many green thumbs in Kensington, and so many community gardens, it’s no wonder the environment is a topic of particular interest to the community.

‘We’ve been busy working through 700 pieces of feedback to develop a neighbourhood plan for Kensington with 26 priorities,’ Melanie said.

‘The areas of focus include open space, revitalisation of the Moonee Ponds Creek and surrounds, creating safer spaces for walking and cycling, social inclusion and diversity, housing affordability, more opportunities for community connection, enhancing cultural understanding, and recognition of Traditional Owners.

‘The neighbourhood partner model is great because it allows us to have dedicated people to look after each patch to develop better neighbourhood connections and insights and ensure we really understand and support these priorities.

‘I’m really excited about this work, this new community vision for Kensington, and what we can achieve together.’

Melanie is currently in discussions to help establish a community bike repair hub pilot, and supporting community members to form a reconciliation action group.

She’s keen to hear more community ideas and feedback.

Head to Participate Kensington to keep in touch, get involved and help make Kensington the best it can be.

Visit Meet Your Neighbourhood Partners to hear from partners for other local suburbs.

A group of people smiling on a city street

Neighbourhood partners outside Melbourne Town Hall