The Calvary community aims to support the needs of its multi-generational disadvantaged population. Located in South Australia, this community evolved from a church congregation to a campus with education services (from birth to 12 years of age), together with a collection of critical support services and social enterprises. For over 45 years, the Calvary community has endeavoured to remain true to its mission of being a place where ‘love comes to life’. Calvary’s services are championed by the campus community and operate according to the values of inclusiveness and restoration where all are welcome. For example, Lutheran Care delivers the Outer Southern Homelessness Service from the campus and the church operates a community pantry, opportunity shop and a community shed. But more needs to be done to support the children in the community, one quarter of whom are assessed as developmentally vulnerable in their first year of school (Torrens University Public Health Information Development Unit [PHID], 2019). By designing a dedicated physical space to facilitate the development of the Calvary community hub, this project aims to reduce the negative effects that socio-economic disadvantage has on children. The community vision for this hub has wellbeing as the focus, which resonates with the shared values and mission of school, care agency, and church. A welcoming community space located at the intersection of school, church, and kindergarten will help achieve this vision, providing a physical structure to ‘wrap around’ and enable the personal services. This space has been designed, but not yet built. In this chapter we, the school’s principal and the architect who developed the design, reflect on the school’s journey toward becoming the cornerstone of the Calvary community hub.

Origins of Our Community Hub Approach

The Calvary community hub is an initiative of Calvary Lutheran Primary School, which is located next to Calvary Lutheran Church. Both the church and school are in Morphett Vale, a suburb situated within the City of Onkaparinga, 25 km south of South Australia’s capital Adelaide. The Calvary Lutheran Church was established in 1976. Calvary Lutheran Primary School was an initiative of the church congregation, opening in 1983 with 36 enrolments accommodated in two second hand transportable buildings. Permanent buildings were added in 1988. The campus grew to a single stream Reception to Year 7 school in 1992, within a H-shaped arrangement of purpose built and modular construction with cell-like rooms. For an extended period, enrolment numbers remained low due to limited resources. The appointment of a new principal in 2012 led to a holistic review of strategic focus and direction with a resultant rapid increase in student numbers; there are currently 255 students enrolled at the school. The community hub initiative also arose from the new principal appointment, after co-author Branford observed deficits in child development, engagement and learning outcomes. These deficits were attributed to complex social and emotional challenges, which the hub initiative aims to address.

Abuse and neglect can have a severe, long-lasting impact on children’s overall development, which often has the effect of reducing their capacity to concentrate and to learn. By understanding and building relationships with traumatised children, teachers can make an enormous contribution to their lives. Children who develop an attachment to their school and a love of learning will have greater resilience in the face of adversity than those who do not. (Geary, B. as quoted in Child Safety Commissioner, 2007)

Socio-Cultural Context

Most Calvary Lutheran Primary School families live in suburbs within the City of Onkaparinga. The Population Health Profile for the City of Onkaparinga paints a picture of disadvantage and mental health issues (Torrens University PHID, 2019). As the Population Health Profile outlines, the Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage indicates a score of 852 for the local population, relative to Australia’s base rate of 1000, implying a high level of disadvantage. Approximately one third of the local adult population receives government support as their main income source. Approximately 15% of the adult population has high levels of psychological distress and the number of people accessing mental health services is 27% higher than those living in metropolitan Adelaide. Children in the City of Onkaparinaga also face higher levels of psychological distress than in metropolitan Adelaide; between 2013 and 2018 there was a 43% increase in children and young people becoming clients of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Together, this disadvantage and psychological distress is culminating in one quarter of local children being assessed as developmentally vulnerable in their first year of school (Torrens University PHID, 2019). As a result of the clear disadvantage facing areas like the City of Onkaparinga, The Government of South Australia Department of Human Services (2021) announced that a new Intensive Family Support Services program to be funded for four years and delivered by seven not-for-profit organisations across the state. The intent is to address early intervention for vulnerable families on the cusp of entering the child protection system.

The Importance of Developing a Community of Learners

The Australian Curriculum identifies critical competencies—knowledge, skills, behaviours and dispositions—that educators are required to teach children (Australian Curriculum, Assessment, and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2021). These competencies include literacy, numeracy, information and communications technology capabilities, critical and creative thinking, personal and social capacity, and ethical and intercultural understanding (ACARA, 2021). It is increasingly apparent that within the Calvary community, children are becoming more advanced in these competencies than adults. This prompted Calvary Lutheran Primary School leadership to think about how to support the adults associated with the students to develop their own critical competencies. It is hoped that supporting the adults will help develop a community of learners, and in turn reduce the number of children at risk of taking on ‘the parenting role’.

What Evolved and Why

The wrap-around community hub program being established at Calvary Lutheran Primary School called ‘Family Zone’ is a work in progress. This process has been described by co-author, Principal Branford, as akin to ‘fixing the plane whilst it is flying’. Over the past 8 years, Principal Branford has fostered a prevailing attitude focused on identifying and addressing the needs of the students and their families. The development of Family Zone at Calvary has been inspired by another Family Zone child and parenting program developed by Lutheran Care and delivered over the last decade at Ingle Farm Primary School. Ingle Farm is a suburb north of Adelaide located within the City of Salisbury, which is of similar disadvantage to the City of Onkaparinga. The team at Family Zone Ingle Farm operated by Lutheran Care have contributed a wealth of knowledge and encouragement regarding direction, advice, mentoring, funding, and program opportunities. At Ingle Farm, the Lutheran Care family and relationship services team is the conduit to access counselling services, parenting workshops and education programs, Additionally, the team facilitates placements of those undertaking post-graduate studies in social work, to develop their skills through informal relationship building conversations with parents. Salisbury Communities for Children have brought together a diverse group of agencies and developed a place-based approach to support families, inspiring the creation of something similar based at Calvary Lutheran Primary School (Brettig, 2020).

One of the first steps that Calvary Lutheran Primary School has taken to develop their own Family Zone is to create a new staff role of ‘Family Zone Connector’. The role of ‘connector’ is to partner with the learning and teaching team to and engage community and families through their school relationship. The school has a strong culture of ‘servant leadership’ which is values based and evidenced by constant, stable and caring support. Servant leadership theory argues that effective leaders are servants of their people (Fryar, 2001). Over time, this commitment to leading through servitude has built a reputation within the local community that Calvary is a ‘safe place’ to learn and grow. Therefore, the school is the ideal location for building community hub facilities because the school can leverage parental and care giver willingness to support children.

Lutheran Education South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia (LESNW) are enthusiastically supportive of the establishment and evolution of Family Zone at Calvary. LESNW view this community hub as a pilot project. The lessons from this pilot will provide a framework that could be adopted by other schools within the Lutheran Education system which are also located within disadvantaged communities. The program is working in collaboration with the church which is a home base for school chapel and gatherings. This home base offers a breakfast club, distribution of food hampers, and Thursday community lunches that include take home meals for families. Church facilities are the location for the delivery of seminars such as domestic violence awareness and host professional sharing and debriefing sessions to enhance family health and wellbeing.

The Calvary Community Hub hopes to similarly bring together diverse groups of people and services. The existing services offered by the City of Onkaparinga council are suited to achieving this goal. The council offers a range of initiatives focused on community development, including forums that bring together diverse organisations on topics such as low income, networking links, community updates and support services. These forums, instigated by local Council, have developed partnerships between community members under the Healthy Cities Onkaparinga program (Healthy Cities Onkaparinga, 2021). Foodbank SA provides the schools breakfast program, vouchers for families in need and food hampers. The Food Embassy connects community members through food and is keen to partner with community members to deliver educational cooking programs that focus on nutrition and creating balanced meals for families in need. The Food Embassy will complement the students’ garden currently being implemented by the Year 4 educator and students.

Further, an after-school hours home-work club, and a program called ‘Move and Groove’ for parents with pre-school children, are both currently being developed, as is a series of Q&A sessions at parent and caregiver information sessions on topics such as superannuation. ‘Carpark conversations’ is a recent initiative created in conjunction with the local council’s community development team and a Flinders University social work student on placement. ‘Carpark conversations’ aims to get Calvary community members talking to one another, in turn promoting community building and developing networks of people helping people. Parents are sharing their aspirations for a connected and engaged community. A list of parents’ and carers’ contacts and skills has been created, which can be shared to support the educator and the families of the students. The combination of these council and school services with the community’s willingness paves the way for the Calvary Community Hub to succeed.

An Eco-System of Partnerships

The five pillars that underpin the strategic intent at Calvary Lutheran School are learning, wellbeing, high quality teaching, and an eco-system of partnerships and stewardship. Stewardship is about the effective operation of the school to ensure its longevity for learners making it a safe investment for families. The development of networks and linkages is about establishing partnerships. The objective of this community hub is to build capacity and create a positive social impact within the school community. After all, strong communities are founded on healthy childhood development and children have the inherent capacity to bring people together (Brettig, 2020).

Integrated Service Model

There is a need for clear synergy between the aims of the school and the community it serves (Black et al., 2010). This synergy is reflected in the integrated service model, which enhances family wellbeing by providing access to needs-based support programs, professional services, and volunteer assistance. The integrated service model has been successfully implemented by Family Zone at Ingle Farm, where it continues to evolve to suit the profile and needs of the local community (Goodenough & Wilson, 2020). Programs are designed to facilitate the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development of children from birth to 12 years of age in a familiar environment. The aim is for parents to feel at home as they meet with others who are going through similar experiences. Building trust and rapport and supporting families and communities to develop a sense of belonging is a key focus of the integrated service model. The importance of belonging is echoed by Lutheran Care (2021):

From the day we are born, we yearn to belong. Belong to family. Belong to friends. Belong to community. With the support of those around us, we have the strength to discover who we are, where we fit in, and how we can realise our full potential. Beyond working to have a lasting, positive impact on people’s lives, we are determined to build hope, understanding and drive long term systematic change.

Similar aspirations and values guided the vision for the Calvary community hub.

Antecedent Community Hub Designs

Community Hubs Australia has established 92 community hubs, several of which are based around schools (Community Hubs, 2021). Lutheran Care are a delivery partner for this program in South Australia, along with 10 other participating schools in both the public and Catholic sector. Community Hubs Australia use an evidence-based model targeting communities with high migrant and refugee populations and socio-economic disadvantage with a focus on community engagement, improving English competency, early years education, and offering vocational pathways (Community Hubs, 2021). The community hub at Calvary has been inspired by the mission, values and methodology developed by ‘Our Place’ in Victoria. In partnership with the Government of Victoria Department of Education and Training, ‘Our Place’ has expanded from a pilot project in 2012 at Doveton College to now operating in ten schools (Our Place, 2020). At the heart of this visionary Schools as Community Hubs program is community and working with local organisations and individuals to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of children and families. The ‘Our Place’ team describe themselves as ‘the glue’ that supports children and their families to succeed (Our Place, 2020).

The Government of South Australia Department of Education and Childhood Development (SADECD) is actively promoting Schools as Community Hubs in schools and preschools for facilities to be shared across communities. Their objective is to enhance wellbeing outcomes for children and young people and to build connections and opportunities for lifelong learning in communities. Community goals include active participation, safety, health, education, belonging, play and leisure. The feedback from hubs already operating lists the key elements underpinning success. These include leadership that is committed to initiating and driving the hub’s vision, respecting cultural differences, facilitating community connections, creating a welcoming space, effective communication, and collaboration (SADECD, 2017). Building a positive culture is assisted by assigning a ‘hub champion’ and coordinator, having structured activities with clear purpose within a dedicated space. This culture is sustainable when everyone involved is open to sharing information, knowledge, and resources (SADECD, 2017).

Social Misconceptions

Social misconceptions need to be addressed to facilitate student and family aspiration and agency. Calvary is keen to spread the message that people are not defined by their postcode, and that failure in life is not inevitable. The ‘REACH for success’ initiative at Calvary Lutheran Primary School identifies the core values held by the learning community and strives to develop students’ self-belief and confidence. The acronym ‘REACH’ in the school motto stands for relationships, engagement, achievement, ‘Christ-centred’ and holistic learning. It arose from a professional learning project through the Association of Independent Schools SA with a focus on developing and leading an effective school wide pedagogy for learning and teaching. This was informed by research on teacher leadership being a transformative process that can drive school and community reform (Crowther et al., 2009).

Community Vision

The vision for developing a Calvary community hub is to enhance the existing co-located services by co-creating a common vision and purpose which can be achieved with collaboration and cooperation. Currently this exists as a network encompassing the school, care agency and church settings. Our intention is to develop this network by creating a welcoming physical space at the front of the campus once design concepts are realised and funding becomes available. Research on the benefits of co-located school-community partnerships suggests children and families benefit from improved connections and better access to services (Sanjeevan et al., 2012). However, there are multiple challenges when it comes to collaboration, sharing, management, support, and funding, challenges such as access to services, shame, fear and transport to name a few. A successful community hub involves all parties appreciating the need to share their funding and resources.

The work undertaken to date for the Calvary community hub initiative incorporates the basic ingredients for a tailored place-based approach using strategies successfully implemented by others. Common issues when developing a community hub include facilitating consultation, the establishment of a committed leadership team, ensuring genuine collaboration within the partnership, responding to local needs, undertaking regular monitoring, and providing adequate resources. The general conclusion is that it will take time for tangible results to appear (Our Place, 2020; SADECD, 2017; Sanjeevan et al., 2012). A change in leadership for the church has led to the community hub vision being embraced by campus leaders of the co-located facilities. There has been a positive shift in the conversation towards a culture of sharing and the recognition that there would be mutual benefit in building the physical infrastructure to support Calvary community hub.

Shifting the Culture

In 2013, Calvary Lutheran Primary School had an 11-stage master plan developed, which mapped the opportunities for progressive transformation of the built form to create distinct junior, middle, and senior primary learning communities. The learning environments were holistically reworked in 2016 for the junior primary cohort and in 2018 for the middle primary cohort. These environments provide a range of settings that are readily adapted to suit active and reflective activities, encouraging collaboration through connectivity and ease of access indoors and outdoors. The central feature of each learning community is a welcoming space that encourages family connection and community fellowship. The work of artisans is integrated into the architecture with purpose designed graphics and built-in features including a reading tree, outdoor enhancements and street art arising from an artist-in-residence program that involved all the student cohort. The latter has placed the REACH theme on the street frontage to signify the importance of this aspirational message.

The education approach at Calvary has been informed by the Berry Street Education Model (BSEM; Berry Street, 2021). The Berry Street Education Model provides pedagogical strategies that incorporate trauma informed positive education. The objective is to increase the engagement of students in reference to self-regulation, relationships, well-being, growth and academic achievement. A pilot evaluation of the Berry Street Education Model in mainstream schools demonstrated the model can benefit student wellbeing, achievement, behaviour, and engagement (Stokes & Turnbull, 2016). Shifting the culture of the school relies on parental engagement to embed the change. There has been a shift in needs for the students to the point where 50% of the cohort was placed on individual learning plans. The learning practices and the structure of the learning day has now shifted to support a range of individual learning styles.

Building Capacity

Developing a culture of supporting others to build their own capacity is a strategy that will sustain the Calvary community hub. We learn and grow together and then share this growth with others. Students and families who have engaged in this manner become the next wave of volunteers. There are several examples of this deeply rooted connection and support extending beyond the primary school setting when families move to other schools. This has occurred because the trusting and safe relationships that develop are enduring.

Distributed Leadership

Through involvement with the Association of Independent Schools SA, Calvary Lutheran Primary School’s leadership team identified students’ sense of agency as the main driver for change. The foundations and enablers of agency were linked to the implementation of the Calvary Learner Map. The current hypothesis—that the development of metacognition enables students to self-regulate their learning—is being tested with feedback about abilities to set goals, reflection on student narratives and conversations with students about their current reality. The instructive writings about creating cultures of thinking (Ritchhart, 2015) and about innovation in education (Leadbetter, 2012) have been influencing and shaping the case for change. Student agency drives decision making at Calvary and this translates to the wider community. The objective is for students to emerge from their schooling experiences as purposeful, reflective, responsible young people, investing in themselves actively to achieve goals they devise and endorse to shape the future for the better (Leadbetter, 2012). This has inspired the development of collaborative and collective agency for the wider community. Holding the narrative of ‘growing deep’ has also been instructive. Lutheran Schools and early childhood services value the richness and diversity of the wider community and other education sectors. Positive and strategic partnerships are developed when relationships are built upon support, trust, and reconciliation (Lutheran Education Australia, 2016).

The Design Concept

The physical environment can play a key role in enhancing user-friendly service delivery by creating settings that are comfortable, safe, and attractive. The architectural design concepts for creating a centralized physical facility for Calvary Community Hub were prepared in 2020 in collaboration with Calvary Lutheran Primary School Principal and the Family Zone Connector. The design places the inclusive space where families gather and connect at the heart of the campus, with a focus on accessibility and making people feel welcome. This will embody the core design principles outlined by Weeks (2004): accessibility, presentation, location, a welcoming entry, provision of information, cultural diversity, wellbeing, safety, user participation spaces and co-location of interrelated services. The modest addition will connect the reception and administration with consulting and multi-use gathering spaces and a kitchen. The design concept will be tested and iterated with stakeholder input. It will create a space for the community within a restful garden setting that is scaled and formed to embrace the user and uplift the human spirit (Branford & Moeck, 2020).

Funding Approach

The main challenge to making the design concept a reality is funding. The independent school sector relies on the Australian Government for part-funding of building projects through the Block Grant Authority (administered by the Association of Independent Schools South Australia). The allocation of capital to each state is based on the state’s population. The available funds are allocated based on demonstrated need and the school’s socio-economic status score, which reflects the extent to which those who attend the school are disadvantaged. The value of projects competing for the capital funds is often twice to three times greater than what is available, and there are strict guidelines around exclusive educational use. Accordingly, there is a need to seek a funding partner for the development of spaces for community use. Lutheran Education SA, NT and WA are keen to use the journey towards a community hub at Calvary Lutheran Primary School as a pilot to develop a framework for other school communities in the independent sector. The current strategy being explored is to make a case for philanthropic financial support by demonstrating and quantifying the measurable social impact and educational, health and wellbeing benefits. Lutheran Care have expressed interest in evaluating the effectiveness of the program and measuring the social impact of the long-standing community hub program, Family Zone at Ingle Farm. Methods used by other sectors and agencies addressing the needs of the disadvantaged has the potential to inform a viable funding approach for this project.


A key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is to focus on the local. This has challenged us to reframe the traditional sense of mission from overseas initiatives to those within our local communities. Calvary community hub is one such initiative. The increased cooperation between campus leaders is encouraging. It is hoped that a philanthropic connection can be found and fostered to fund building a welcoming community space. This space will allow the Calvary community hub to thrive, gain momentum, and continue having positive social impact.