Ross House is a five-storey community-owned and managed heritage building in Flinders Lane, Melbourne. It is a unique project as it is the only community owned and managed non-profit resource in Australia.
Ross House exists to resource small community groups throughout Victoria. Self-management of the building by these groups is an important part of the Ross House philosophy. The members of the Association are the ones that sit on the Committee of Management. When one considers that these individuals represent some of the most marginalised people in Australia, the importance of this model is better understood.
Ross House provides affordable and central access to office space, resources and meeting spaces as well as networks and shared experiences; allowing organisations to realise their potential. These services are offered to self-help and small community groups committed to social justice and environmental sustainability.
Ross House is a place for community groups to grow, connect and evolve.
Tenancy at Ross House is open to small, independent, not for profit groups working towards a socially just and sustainable society. Criteria considered during tenancy application includes how the organisation:supports the need to remove disadvantage
believes in advocacy, information sharing and co-operative methods
is committed to self-help
encourages participation in shared decision making
supports the aims of Ross House
is not for profit, non-government, and not a religious body or political party
is small with less than 10 full-time staff
Ross House also accepts tenancy inquiries from small for profit businesses that are working towards the aims of community development and a sustainable society. These for profit businesses will only be considered when there are no not for profit groups waiting for tenancy. Since its inception Ross House has nurtured over 300 organisations and is currently home to over 50 groups. The types of groups operating within Ross House include environmental organisations, social activist groups, self-advocacy groups, disability groups, and multi-cultural groups.
Past tenants have included:The Wilderness Society
The International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA)
The Melbourne branch of The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)
Ross House is community managed by the Ross House Association. The Ross House Association is made up of members (tenants and non tenants) and is governed via a collaborative approach.
Strategic decisions are made by The Committee which is made up of tenant members and non-tenant members. The Committee requisites demand that at least three of the elected committee members come from organisations made up of people that undergo some form of disadvantage or discrimination.
Ross House membership is open to small, independent, non-profit organisations working towards social justice and environmental sustainability.
Members have the opportunity to contribute to the further development of the Ross House project by voting at the Annual General Meeting, being part of the Committee, or being on a sub-committee.
Individuals working towards the same aims as Ross House are also encouraged to become a supporter of the organisation.
In 1980 a seminar for self-help groups led to the formation of the Collective of Self Help Groups. The seminar, organised by Jenny Florence, then working for the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) drew attention to the recurrent need for independent community and advocacy groups to have reliable and central access to vital resources such as affordable office and meeting space and office equipment.
Around the same time as the seminar, the R.E. Ross Trust approached VCOSS with a major donation, looking to invest in a project that would provide sustainable support for community groups in Victoria.
This need and this resource merged, and the community driven Ross House project was born: the purchase of a building to provide resources for self-help and community groups in Melbourne.
The Ross House model was inspired by two international examples of community managed buildings in Poland Street, London and Meringhof in Berlin, both of which now no longer exist.
It opened in 1987.
Ross House, formerly known as Royston House, is heritage-listed in Victoria and with the National Trust.
Ross House is the remaining section of a six-storey brick warehouse which extended from Flinders Street to Flinders Lane and which was built in 1898–1900 for Melbourne importers Sargood (who also owned Rippon Lea Estate), Butler, Nichol and Ewen. The rest of the building was destroyed by the great fire of November in 1897.
Architects Sulman and Power of Sydney designed the brick building in a form of the Romanesque style with giant brick arcades, metal oriel windows and surmounting parapet colonnade.
Ross House is architecturally significant. It is an example of a transitional and unusual design that takes from the American Romanesque style developed by Henry Hobson Richardson in America. The massive size of the plinth, the huge Romanesque brick arches and the overhanging cornice is contrasted by the delicacy of the metal oriel windows and the caryatides.
Ross House also shows early design responses to the need for fire prevention in multi-storey buildings, such as the sprinkler system and fireproof doors. The recessing of the oriel windows was a fire-prevention measure adopted from England.
Ross House is historically significant as evidence of the large commercial warehouses that once occupied the city around Princes Bridge, Flinders Street and Flinders Lane at the turn of the twentieth century.