Our Patron – Merle Mitchell
We are honored to have widely renowned change maker Merle Mitchell as our Patron at South East Community Links. As a lifelong advocate for fairness, community engagement and diversity, Merle has become a well known advocate in our community and beyond.
Merle was born in Dandenong in 1934 and has lived in the municipality for most of her life. She trained as a kindergarten teacher and settled in the developing Sandown Park area with her husband Eric in 1961.
The limited services for the community prompted Merle to become an active lobbyist. She helped to plan kindergarten facilities across the City of Springvale and to establish the Sandown Park Primary School.
Merle was a steering committee member for the establishment of the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau (SCAAB). Later she became the first Director, leading the organisation as it developed innovative and responsive services for the growing community. She remained committed to SCAAB for more than 45 year and continues to support South East Community Links following the merge.
Merle also played a vital role in establishing Springvale Neighbourhood House, the Family Mediation Centre and Springvale Monash Legal Service. Never one to shy away from advocating to politicians and policy makers, Merle has shaped state and federal social welfare policies through roles with the Victorian and Australian Social Service Councils. Merle continues her advocacy work in her role on the CGD Positive Ageing Committee.
In recent years Merle has convened the Spirit of Enterprise Project. With the assistance of hundreds of community people, the History of the Enterprise Migrant Hostel and the role it and the 30,000 migrants and refugees who lived there from 1970 to 1992,and those who came later, had in shaping the city has been documented. The impact of this project led the Department of Immigration to name it a Project of National Significance. It has brought significant recognition to the contributions and strength of migrant and refugee communities who have settled in this area and Australia.
With a determination that grows stronger with years, Merle is a Member of the Order of Australia, City of Greater Dandenong Living Treasure and the proud Patron of South East Community Links.