KOOLOORA COMMUNITY CENTRE
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
(Maroubra) [12.33 p.m.]: I could just walk around to the other side of the table and deliver the predictable speech. Somebody from the Minister's office will come down and say, "Oh, the member for Maroubra has done nothing for 16 years." Yes, yes, yes. Now that we have that out of the way, I want to talk some sense. I move:
That this House:
(1) commends the work done by the Kooloora Community Centre at Malabar and the contribution its services provides to the surrounding community;
(2) notes in particular the hard work done by co-ordinator, Julie Spies, president Gillian Collinson, and thanks them for their efforts;
(3) notes the appreciation of the local community for the services they provide including the vegetable co-op, seniors gentle exercises, playgroup for kids from low socio-economic families and support services to the large social housing estate located near the centre; and
(4) supports the centre in its application for further funding from the Department of Community Services and calls on the department to provide enough funding for a second full time community worker.
People who find themselves in this place like to think that their electorates are not just a conglomeration of people who happen to live in certain geographical locations but are places that have a sense of community. Each of our electorates has identifiable communities that are bound together by common interests. Often we find in urban electorates, such as Maroubra, that the challenges accompanying modern city life—we are all busy and increasingly time poor with demands of family and work—remove our considerations of neighbouring communities. Many studies underpin this approach and show that particularly in cities and urban areas people are less inclined to know their neighbours as well as they used to know them, or to be close to a number of people in their street or unit block.
Organisations have good people, usually volunteers or underpaid workers. Certainly that is the case with Julie Spies from the Kooloora Community Centre. Such organisations do their best to keep us glued together. Kooloora Community Centre resides at Malabar in the public housing estate in Bilga Crescent. I am fortunate to represent a coastal Sydney electorate that has much going for it: five golf courses, a national park eight kilometres as the crow flies from the city and a second to be declared. I digress to place on the record my appreciation to the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, who joined me, Senator Matthew Thistlethwaite and Peter Garrett, the Federal member for Kingsford Smith, to accept a handover of Malabar Headland to the State Government to be promulgated as a national park. My electorate of Maroubra also has great clubs, great pubs and good sporting organisations.
Mr Guy Zangari:
A good member.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY:
The member for Fairfield interjects, but humility prevents me from responding. Property prices in our area are massive. In estates such as South Coogee houses that look from high down on Maroubra Beach can go for $5 million. The common misconception is that we are all pretty well off in Maroubra. However, my electorate has the third- or fourth-highest number of public housing tenants in the State per electorate. Those people struggle. I spend much of my time working and visiting people in those housing estates. But that is not enough. Money is tight and the work of the Kooloora Community Centre in the Malabar housing estate defies logic. It keeps producing goods on a shoestring budget. The centre has one coordinator—Julie Spies. I do not think she has given herself a pay rise for years.
When the Kooloora Community Centre budget is challenged, Julie cuts a day from her weekly roster and takes the hit. She should not have to do that; she will kill herself if she continues. I do not want anything to happen to her. I want her to continue and to get some assistance. I support the Kooloora Community Centre's application for further funding for its programs, such as the vegetable co-op that sells vegetables at cost to local residents who could not afford them otherwise. The centre provides programs for gentle exercises for everyone and playgroups for kids to give mums and dads an hour or two of respite. Maroubra has many single mothers who are struggling. The Kooloora Community Centre really cares about people.
Kooloora Community Centre is the glue that binds that group together in Malabar. I have done what I can to help over the years and will continue to do so. I called on more help from Family and Community Services and from Ministers gone by, sometimes with some success and sometimes with limited success. My approach will not change with a change of Government. I will keep calling for increased resources for Kooloora because if it was not for groups like Kooloora and people like Julie Spies and the Colinsons our society and my community at Malabar would be far worse places.
One of the things that people who make public policy have to grapple with is the social cost of programs like this one that run on a shoestring. You can keep putting police on the street but a couple of hundred thousand dollars more in each electorate for community centres like this would help young people to grow up and stay out of trouble. It protects families from falling apart and becoming social problems. The programs and centres actually save money. It is a false economy not to fund them. I know the Government will treat the motion in a bipartisan manner and I thank members for listening this morning.
Mr BART BASSETT
(Londonderry) [12.41 p.m.]: There will, of course, be bipartisan support for this motion. These types of community facilities and people working in this area are invaluable. We all know that if we invest in these areas of community support there is a flow-on benefit down the track for our society. Hopefully people will be assisted early on and they will not venture into other less beneficial areas of our community where police may have to become involved. The Government supports this motion 100 per cent. We know the hours that community services put in at community facilities in which all levels of Government are involved. The community appreciates knowing these facilities exist. But, except for those who need them, many people in our community—a great percentage of the population—do not know such facilities are out there. The people who need such services should know that they are available.
Werrington County Children's Centre in Werrington County in my electorate is funded by the Department of Family and Community Services and operates out of a community centre provided by Penrith City Council. The Nepean Adolescent and Family Services program is funded also by the Department of Family and Community Services. These programs highlight what we are talking about in the Chamber today. Nepean Adolescent and Family Services is a youth homelessness centre that recognises significant issues throughout the local government areas of Penrith, Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. It assists with a range of significant issues affecting young people's lives such as domestic violence, sexual assault, alcohol and other drug abuse issues, education difficulties, gang violence and crime—all the things we hear about in our community every day in the media. Organisations like this are helping to guide our youth and to help families stay together. It is enormously beneficial.
The Richmond Community Services Inc. and Neighbourhood Centre, also in my electorate, provides community development and support, anti-bullying strategies and assistance for parents dealing with difficult kids. The centre has Friday night activities and offers family support for mums and dads who need respite from a lot of kids. They can have "time out" at the centre. A neighbourhood aide provides social home visiting services, which is essential to a lot of people who need assistance in their own home and who want to talk about their issues. In many cases these people need guidance about where to get other support. That is why community centres and the services they provide are so important: community centres can guide people in the right direction. When you are under pressure you are not thinking clearly and stress often results in not knowing where to turn. Those services provide assistance and guide people in the right direction so that they do not end up having difficulties in other areas of their life.
We talk a lot about mental illness. When people find themselves in great difficulty and without support their own health ends up suffering and that flows on to the rest of the family. It is important to assist early on with community services like the one's mentioned here this morning. The North Richmond community centre operates at the northern end of my electorate providing facilities to a residential component. They offer after-school care, a place called the Fun Factory where younger kids can come, youth development, community development and books that parents cannot afford to buy. There is a book borrowing service. It is not a library but it is acting as an outreach library at North Richmond.
The Hawkesbury Community Outreach Service Inc. operates out of the Kurrajong community centre. It provides community services for the north-west districts and mountain regions in the Hawkesbury for people geographically isolated. One organisation that has provided enormous benefit in our community is called Living IN CommunitieS Inc. [LINCS]. It provides services across a number of State electorates and operates out of Glossodia, which is on the boundary of the Hawkesbury electorate and my electorate. It is a volunteer scheme that responds to mothers and young families suffering depression or not coping as a result of social isolation and a lack of personal and family support. I attended its annual general meeting. Carolyn Byers has been involved with Living IN CommunitieS Inc. for a very long time. As the member for Maroubra said, these individuals continue giving and we can never thank them enough for their contributions.
No Government of any persuasion can provide the same sort of dedicated care and support provided by workers in community organisations. They have a passion for what they do. It is not a job and it is not about getting something done and ticking the boxes for the funding: These people are committed. I thank the member for Maroubra for bringing this motion to the House. I believe that members on both sides of the House, when it comes to community services that receive funding from local, State and Federal governments, will be in there fighting for their communities to get more funding. We know there is only so much money to go around—no matter what Government is in power that will be the case. It is important to highlight and look for ways to support these organisations that make a better community for all, make families a happier unit and, as the member for Maroubra said, save money in the long run because other Government departments do not have to get involved.
Mr GUY ZANGARI
(Fairfield) [12.48 p.m.]: I support the member for Maroubra and the motion in support of Kooloora Community Centre. The first part of the motion commends the work done by the centre in Malabar and in particular its contribution to the community and surrounding communities. All members in this place would have similar community centres in their electorates that provide prevention programs. As the member for Londonderry said, these community organisations pick up the pieces where other organisations might not be able to and by doing so take the burden away from other departments. I worked in pastoral care in the Fairfield region during my time as a teacher and I understand how community centres help people with prevention programs and also provide family support.
At times of family breakdown, it is difficult to know which group to turn to for help. The Kooloora Community Centre would be that organisation in Malabar. In the electorate of Fairfield I think of a lady called Pam Batkin and the wonderful services that she provides at the Woodville Community Service Centre to help people in their time of need. I note that Fairfield has a large number of non-English-speaking groups, and when family problems or issues arise there is a sense of pride that people have a number of places they can turn to. These community centres provide the safety net and support to help those on the margins. Paragraph (2) of the motion notes the work done by Coordinator Julie Spies and President Gillian Collinson, and thanks them for their efforts.
I know the member for Maroubra thanked Julie Spies and Gillian Collinson for their tireless work, particularly in the Maroubra electorate and surrounding areas. Paragraph (3) of the motion notes the appreciation of the local community for the services they provide, including the vegetable cooperative, the seniors gentle exercises, playgroup for kids from low socio-economic families, and support services to the large social housing estate located near the Kooloora Community Centre. I think of Fairfield and the variety of programs provided to deal with drug rehabilitation, courses and supports for those who have issues with drug, alcohol and other substances abuse. These programs and services are the vital link in ensuring that people keep on the mend and do not end up visiting local police as a result of contemplated or actual indiscretions.
Paragraph (4) of the motion supports the Kooloora Community Centre in its application for further funding from the Department of Community Services and calls on the department to provide enough funding for a second full-time community worker. I am sure the member for Maroubra is wholehearted about this; there are many unsung heroes when it comes to community service centres, and a second full-time community worker would relieve the burden not only on those manning the centre full time but also on the volunteers. Pam Batkin and the volunteers at the Woodville Community Service Centre, in my electorate, are some of those unsung heroes. I am sure all members, on both sides of the House, know of people in their electorates who work tirelessly for the underprivileged and those on the outer margins of their community. I support the motion.
Mr CHRIS SPENCE
(The Entrance) [12.52 p.m.]: I also support this motion. The Kooloora Community Centre, located in the electorate of the member for Maroubra, is but one of many community centres across New South Wales; indeed there are many in my electorate. There are rare occasions on which I would agree with the member for Maroubra, but today is one of those occasions. During his speech the member spoke about a number of things in his electorate, many of which we have in common. I too represent a coastal electorate; it also has a wide range of property values—although probably none around the $5 million mark.
However, some properties in coastal areas of The Entrance electorate would be valued at well in excess of $1 million, while property in other areas would be worth about $200,000. The Entrance electorate has a large stock of public housing; in fact, it has the largest stock of public housing of all Central Coast electorates. The Entrance has a number of services that cater for the needs of low socio-economic areas. Unfortunately, the Central Coast has the largest number of sexual assaults in New South Wales and we are regularly ranked either one or two for alcohol-related domestic violence—two statistics that we are not proud of. The member for Maroubra mentioned also that community centres are the glue that bind together many of our communities. I could not agree more with that sentiment.
The member for Londonderry noted that many in our communities do not know what help they can get from these community centres. I do everything I can to advertise them and make sure people know these community centres exist. For example, The Entrance electorate has the Gosford-Narara Community Centre, the Niagara Park Community Centre, the Bateau Bay Community Centre and The Entrance Neighbourhood Community Centre. I attended the recent opening of an extension to The Entrance Men's Shed. Men's sheds do great work for our communities, and they will always have my ongoing recognition and my support for the work they do. Recently I attended a meeting at the Wyoming Community Centre, which is managed by Kathy Sokk. I have met with Kathy on a numbers of occasions. Kathy is passionate about the Wyoming Community Centre. She is passionate about the people who live in the North Gosford and Wyong areas, and does an excellent job in managing the centre and advocating at every opportunity to increase the number of services available to the community and to improve the centre itself.
Some of the activities organised by the Wyoming Community Centre include community markets on the second Sunday of each month; a blokes' breakfast on the last Sunday of the month; a mental health support group for carers on the fourth Thursday of each month; the Wyoming weight loss challenge group's weekly meetings on Thursdays; Tai Chi classes, yoga and zumba classes; a Wyoming and North Gosford residents association meeting on the first Wednesday of each month at 7.00 p.m.; and the Wyoming action meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at 10.00 a.m. I will conclude with a quote from the Central Coast Neighbourhood and Community Centres forum. To my mind, this sums up the hard work that these centres do:
Mr MICHAEL DALEY
Neighbourhood and Community Centres have a wider social research, planning and development role. Centres identify new and unmet social needs. They advocate for services or resources to inform, support and empower disadvantaged people. They play a vital role in community education about issues affecting their local community, and disadvantaged groups in particular.
(Maroubra) [12.56 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Londonderry, the member for The Entrance and the member for Fairfield for contributing to the debate, and thank them for their anticipated support for the motion. I note the universal understanding and appreciation of members of this place for the work done by not only volunteers but those in community centres. Sometimes they provide a lifeline for people who are very strung out. The Community Building Partnerships program of this Parliament is now in its third year. I think I speak for all 93 members of this place in saying that this program is hugely popular and successful.
One of the reasons for the success of the program and its popularity amongst members of Parliament is that at the heart of its conception was an appreciation and understanding that very few people in any electorate of this State have the comprehensive understanding of all community groups, and individuals within them, that members of Parliament have. Without lecturing anybody, I would say that one thing that members should be vigilant about is that in the tender processes small community centres in regional areas sometimes lose resources to larger groups, even though those larger organisations do not provide the best services for the people of the local community. That is because of a tendency in government departments, and certainly within the Department of Community Services to favour larger organisations. I am not going to criticise the people of the Department of Community Services; they do a difficult job.
The bigger the organisation, the more advantage it has when it comes to the tendering process. That is because tendering involves commitment of a lot of resources and many hours of work by the staff of those organisations. Groups like the Kooloora Community Centre cannot compete with other larger groups from outside the Maroubra electorate; they do not have a dedicated officer who can spend anywhere near as much time as the larger, regional groups to put tenders together. I mentioned direct to the Minister responsible for the Department of Community Services that I think Department of Community Services should have a look at its tendering processes and include as one of the tender steps consultation with members of Parliament.
For example, if four or five groups tender for an early intervention service in an electorate, who knows better than the local member of Parliament the value of each of those groups comparatively across his or her own community? In my view, the Department of Community Services should, as part of the process, communicate with the local member of Parliament and get the member's two bob's worth about which group would be best placed to provide the service. I hope the Minister takes my suggestion on board. For example, Kooloora Community Centre had a great program called Breakaway, which was an early intervention program for families in the area who needed help. It was assessed by officers of the department as a terrific program.
A tender process was conducted and that process led to the awarding of early intervention services at Malabar to a group that was nowhere near the Maroubra electorate—it was located two or three electorates away. I do not criticise the department but if they had asked me I would have told them that Kooloora is on the ground, is in the houses and knows the people intimately and it should not be taken away. It was taken away and Kooloora suffers. I am sure there are similar examples. I make two suggestions to members: First, they should be vigilant about the tendering process, not only in the Department of Community Services but in other areas. Second, they should urge Ministers and departments to inject members of Parliament into these roles because, often, we know our electorates better than anyone. I thank members for their contributions to debate on the motion.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.