The Finnish Society of Melbourne has applied to Federal Gellibrand MP Tim Watts for a grant to help build a community sauna at Altona’s Finnish Hall.

Society vice president Riina Aapa said saunas were integral to Finnish culture and had proven mental and physical health benefits.

“Every house in Finland has a sauna so all of us who were born in Finland grew up going to sauna almost every night,” she said.

“Kids in Australia have a bath every night … we’d have a sauna every night.

“There have been a lot of requests, particularly from the younger side of the Finnish community, for a sauna, so we feel like it’s high time.”

The society plans to open up the sauna to the broader community.

Ms Aapa said there were saunas in Melbourne’s east but nothing in the west.

“It’s not just Finns who go to sauna,” she said.

“The Japanese have their version and Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians all have the sauna culture.

“There’s one at the Swedish church in Toorak and there’s a Japanese bathhouse in Collingwood which has a sauna.

“But as far as we know, there isn’t one on this side of town.”

Building of the sauna is due to start in September and be completed by the end of the year. The society has applied for a $15,000 grant towards the $45,000 cost.

Mr Watts is distributing a total of $150,000 in grants of $5000-$20,000, which have to be matched at least dollar for dollar.

Half of the grant money will be allocated according to which applications receive the most online votes from the community and the rest will be allocated by a committee.