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Maldon Neighbourhood Centre

Serving the community well              

The Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, long a focal part of its community, is looking forward to a secure future thanks partly to help from the Small Business Mentoring Service.

The centre has been an important part of Maldon since 1986. It provides State Government funded Adult Community and Further Education (ACFE) and hobby courses, occasional child care, a play group, workshops, community market, computer facilities and drop in lounge.

Locals enjoy activities such as language, writing and water colour painting classes, sewing, dancing, cooking, Zumba and yoga.

Manager Phillippa Schuster joined the team in late 2011 after working in the not-for-profit sector, mainly in fundraising and event management. Her academic background was in arts history and arts management.

"I was interested in being more closely involved with my community and providing a place for community and self development," she says.

Maldon Neighbourhood Centre is a terrific facility and the only one of its kind locally, making it a valuable resource for the region’s residents.


Maldon Neighbourhood Centre 


The centre has five employees including a permanent part-time co-ordinator, casual child care co-ordinator, two casual child care workers and a contracted book keeper.

It had been through a challenging period of staff and committee changes, so Phillippa needed some help with structuring the business side so the centre could deliver its services more efficiently.

The centre needed to have more comprehensive procedures and policies and to better inform committee members of their roles and responsibilities.

Phillippa discovered SBMS via the ACFE sponsorship program and was matched with Mentor René Blaszak.

The SBMS is a non-government non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.

René is a recently-retired dynamic manager with a successful history of profit improvement via sustainable cost reduction, restructuring and business development/marketing. He is particularly skilled in strategic/business planning and realistic objective setting.

Phillipa had five sessions with René over five months under the ACFE program for not for profit groups. Their contact is continuing.

René and Phillippa covered a range of topics relevant to not for profit organisations, including: 

  • Time management
  • Delegation (as opposed to abrogation)
  • A ‘resubmit’ system to manage work and time
  • Strategic planning
  • Budgeting
  • Understanding financial statements and cash flow management – forecasting and recording, profit and loss, balance sheets
  • Improved job descriptions
  • Roles of management and Boards (governance) and their boundaries and interrelationships
  • Liaising with individual Committee of Management members

René said Phillippa was keen to learn and took it all on board, which quickly bore fruit.  Since seeing René the centre has thrived. New clients are up by 20 per cent and it is taking 30 per cent more inquiries.


 Maldon Neighbourhood Centre


With demand increasing, Phillippa is looking at opening a second day of child care, which will result in more paid work for the child care co-ordinator. "We are also looking at the possibility of funding an additional administrative position," she says.

Phillippa says the community is more positive about the centre, which shows it is making progress. By tackling the source of her stress, which made her feel overwhelmed and isolated, she is also working more efficiently.

"I leave work problems at work and I spend time every day to assess the key tasks that must be completed that day," she says. "While I know this still requires some perfecting, I feel I am on the way to being a more capable and calm manager."

Phillippa says as well as understanding the theory of management, she now feels empowered to implement the theory. "I better understand my relationship with the committee and feel able to advocate to them about the implementation of better processes," she says.

Phillippa can't thank René enough for his advice, which has armed her with better business knowledge and empowered her.

"I have been thoroughly impressed with my mentor," she says. "His professionalism and knowledge were exactly what we needed at a very difficult time. I can't fault the service we have been provided with."

René said Phillippa was now well versed in all the areas they covered. “She is much happier in her role and has a completely new ‘Board’ that supports her and allows her to flourish, thereby assisting her to improve the scope/function and financial stability of MNC,” he said.

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