The history of
Fusion Mornington Peninsula

In the late 1970s, a group of young adults led by David Coyle, launched Arrows drop-in centre for young people on Main Street, Mornington.

The team were just starting out in life and had little money; their commitment to caring for the needs of young people compelled them to invest what they had. Sitting around a table, they each wrote on a piece of paper what they could contribute for that year’s rent. Miraculously these pledges equalled the amount of rent required for the year.

After the drop-in centre was opened, the team volunteered: playing pool, serving fruit toast and forming relationships with local young people.

The relationship between Fusion and locals on the Mornington Peninsula grew until they became a united team, running the drop-in centre, monthly daytrips, schools work programs and community events. Many were full time volunteers, while others were teachers, business owners and artists.

Around this time, the Mornington Peninsula Shire was given possession of the ex-army Barracks, Balcombe in Mt Martha, a large building, with sixteen bedrooms, a large communal kitchen, a lounge and dining hall. The Shire approached Fusion volunteers and asked if they would like to live there. In return, the volunteers would maintain the property and grounds for a short period. The neighbouring land was to be sold off for residential lots and the building would eventually be knocked down to make way for houses on the site.

By this time the team had grown and so had the strategy. We were running daytrips, camps and programs in local schools to support holistic wellbeing. Things were about to get even more complex.

Responding to

n 1985, two young people experiencing homelessness were sleeping in a dumpster in Melbourne. The boys awoke as they were being tipped into a compactor unit truck. Their screams were heard around Melbourne. The driver was only able to pull one boy to safety, the other died under the rubbish. They were 15 years old.

This tragedy rocked the Fusion team. Knowing that young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness would often visit the drop-in centre, the team were aware that these boys could well have been among the young people they were working with.

What are we going
to do about it?

Amongst the team were performing artists, who would perform in schools and at community events to raise discussion around issues impacting young people. This local team of volunteers took to the streets of Melbourne. Realising that most people think a homeless person is someone male, in their 40s, an alcoholic and gambler, the team performed social awareness acts and gave out tiny dolls – written on each doll was a question…. “I’m a young homeless person – What will you do with me?”

People did not want to be confronted with this reality. Fortunately, the media got on board, featuring the story on the six o-clock news, in newspapers, and on the radio.

Fusion team members wrote “White Papers” on the issues and took them to Parliament; one on Youth Homelessness and one on “Familylessness”.

“Familylessness” was a term coined to capture the experience of a person who has no community or family around them. The emptiness that is within someone when they have no belonging, the void that effects how someone sees themselves and their perceived worth.

Perhaps no coincidence, it was during this time of action that funding initiatives grew for accommodation and support of young people experiencing homelessness.

The team wanted
to do more

Approaching local Council, they asked for permission to use the Balcombe ex-army barracks as a Community Placement Accommodation service for homeless young people in the area. The proposal was innovative; team and their families, would live alongside the young people, sharing life together.

They would offer practical support and help young people to learn life-skills such as: cooking; how to maintain a household; budgeting; and time management. Most importantly, they would create a home, where young people could take time to heal, and discover their worth and potential.

The Shire loved the proposal and entered into a partnership with Fusion, making it possible for local people to provide a home for thousands of young people experiencing homelessness, enabling them to re-write their stories.

This service has now existed for over thirty years because of the dedication and commitment of local people. It exists because of locals who are willing to invest in their belief that, “when we care and come together, hope is possible for everyone.”

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