Established in 1982, and originally called Learning Centre Link, Linkwest’s aim is to strengthen and to help establish Community, Neighbourhood and Learning Centres in Western Australia.
The emergence of Learning Centres in WA
Historically, several Learning Centres emerged in the suburbs of Perth following the visit in August 1977 by Gwen Wesson, Lecturer in Urban Education at La Trobe University, Victoria. Gwen spoke of the real and often neglected educational needs of women. She had investigated these needs as experienced by women in suburban Melbourne and discovered many of them would appreciate the opportunity of furthering their education, although they were reluctant or unable to do so in a formal setting.
Learning Centres in Western Australia evolved as community-based learning exchanges, which provide alternative educational and creative opportunities in comfortable and informal surroundings. Costs were, and still are, kept to a minimum by sharing the workload. In the relaxed atmosphere of the Centre, learning follows from the sharing of experiences and skills rather than the imparting of knowledge in a conventional class situation. Childcare is an integral part of Learning Centres, enabling parents to participate fully in Centre activities. Children also develop and benefit by socialising.
Community Development Centre – the first step in bringing Centres together
In February 1978, a workshop at which participants from local Learning Centres were able to review and share their efforts was held at the Community Development Centre. Many of these first Centres flourished, and are a fine example of what dedication and perseverance can accomplish. They are a tribute to those women who established and maintained them and continue to be the benchmark for new Centres today.
Learning Centre Link is born
The Community Development Centre continued acting as a link between the increasing number of new Centres and the established ones until its closure in June 1982. Almost immediately, mainly through the continued inspiration of a small nucleus of determined women, the organisation Learning Centre Link was established.
Several members from a number of Learning Centres saw the worth of such an association to further coordinate the aims and philosophy of the Learning Centre movement in Western Australia.
In 1988, some funding was granted from the Department for Community Services to continue the process. In 1989, additional funding from TAFE was obtained. This dual funding recognises the nexus between the ‘education’ and ‘community’ functions of Learning Centres and of their State Association.
Linkwest now successfully negotiates continued funding from the Department of Training and Workforce Development and the Department for Communities.
A new name, but a consistent focus
As of 1st January 2011, Learning Centre Link became Linkwest. The name change – and the introduction of a new logo and corporate ‘look’ – was the culmination of a rebranding project designed to more closely align the organisation with the needs of its members. Today, Linkwest continues to act as an effective liaison between individual Centres and agencies and the public in general. Its focus remains on assisting member Centres to achieve their full potential and to promote the establishment of new Centres across Western Australia.
Linkwest is a member of the Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association (ANHCA) and participates actively on the national scene.
Since June 2008, Dr Carmen Lawrence has been the Linkwest patron.