In 1971, a group of young people in the Hobart suburb of Glenorchy identified the need for a centre that catered for young people who were disadvantaged socially, economically, educationally and culturally. Under the guidance of Jim Colville the group began planning and fundraising to establish a community centre.
It was envisioned that the centre would provide a place where young people could meet in a relaxed atmosphere and have access to counselling, referral and information, as well as opportunities for community participation and belonging.
Finding a building to house the centre proved difficult, but after a long search it was located in the old Davey Street Congregational Church in Hobart. In December 1973, Jim Colville and his group of enthusiastic young people began to renovate the building themselves.
Colony 47 opened with $4,000 generated from fundraising activities. The name Colony 47 was made up of two parts; the 47 refers directly to the building at 47 Davey Street, while Colony described the strength of a group of individuals drawing together to support those facing what often seemed to be a hostile environment.
By late 1974, the centre was open seven days a week. It provided the focal point to engaging young people. Soon, other programs were added: counselling, literacy, a toy library for people with disabilities, skills development programs for employment, support and assistance in finding accommodation.
The social and political climate of the mid-70s was such that Colony 47 was subject to hostility from the community, the police, church groups and funding bodies. On several occasions, Jim Colville came close to being charged with “running a house of ill repute” because young people “who may commit crime” were gathered in the one area.
Fortunately, Jim Colville and his team ignored the negativity and continued on with their work, assisting young people within the community.
Today, Colony 47 operates from eight sites in greater Hobart, employs over 100 people and operates services in the areas of housing support, mental health, support for individuals and families, strengthening community networks and education and employment.