Mr MATTHEW MORRIS (Charlestown) [11.23 a.m.]: As honourable members would be aware, Professor Tony Vinson's latest report on community adversity highlighted Windale as a significantly disadvantaged suburb. Whilst I have a great deal of respect for Professor Tony Vinson, I must highlight an issue regarding his research process concerning Windale. It is true that the community of Windale is host to a large amount of public housing properties. However, it is also the only suburb in New South Wales that has its own postcode; it shares that postcode with no other suburb. The combination of a single-suburb postcode and public housing will continue to show Windale as a socially disadvantaged community.
Residents of public housing should not be viewed as different, or of less value. The public housing system in and around the electorate of Charlestown is working well, with many people re-establishing themselves, gaining greater education and jobs, and ultimately moving on from the public housing sector. That is a very positive outcome, as public housing has always been about helping those in times of need. I take this opportunity to recognise the continued efforts of the Minister for Housing and the Department of Housing for their continued support in relation to not only Windale but also a number of other suburbs in my electorate.
For many years Windale has suffered from stereotyping, which the community has worked hard to eliminate. I do not support that stereotyping and I assure the House that the majority of people in Windale are no different from those in any other community. In fact, the people of Windale are down-to-earth, genuine and caring people; they do not deserve the continued ridicule levelled against them by so many. On 10 March the Newcastle Herald ran a large headline stating "Windale Tops List of Worst Suburbs". I consider such headlines to contribute greatly to the stigma placed on Windale; they are unworthy, unprofessional and simply not warranted.
That newspaper should be ashamed of its headline and I call on the editor to apologise to the community of Windale. It is clear that the editor is out of touch with the Windale community and does not recognise the implications of research based on a postcode alone. I note also that over the past three years the Premier's Department has assisted the community to help structure and implement a renewal program, to the point that the people of Windale recently formed their own community-based organisation. That group of residents will continue to have the support and assistance of the relevant departments. I place on record my continued support for that community organisation. I had pleasure in obtaining, and presenting to the community, funding of $25,000, which is the first instalment of $50,000 to be allocated over two years, to allow a range of community-based programs to be delivered to the Windale community.
The community-based programs range from literacy and numeracy courses through to parenting and job-seeking skills development. The community should be proud of its track record and commitment. However, I ask Professor Vinson to consider modifying his research methods, which reflect on Windale having its own postcode, because many disadvantaged communities are hidden in postcodes that run across a range of suburbs. The Windale community consists of good people and they should not, and do not, deserve to be singled out and treated as second-class citizens. For Windale to continue to grow and develop we must all stop degrading its people and instead recognise their needs and give them the support they need and want. Many communities across the State are in need and are not assisted by reports that do not explain the real situations or by degrading media headlines. The people of Windale are good people, and it is appropriate that we publicly acknowledge our support for them and our continued commitment to help them build and prosper. Unless the system of combining single-suburb postcodes and public housing is changed, Windale will continue to top the list of disadvantaged suburbs.
Mr BRYCE GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.28 a.m.]: I congratulate the honourable member for Charlestown on bringing to the attention of the House the difficulties facing Windale, a large Department of Housing estate with its own postcode, which is representative of matters referred to in the Vinson report. I had the pleasure of attending the fiftieth anniversary of Windale Public School with the honourable member for Charlestown. The celebrations on that day highlighted the enormous community support for this local school. However, what should be promoted are the efforts of parents and children to improve literacy and numeracy, as well as various programs involving the local university. This is a positive school community that is dedicated to improving the educational and social conditions of Windale. It should be congratulated on that, not denigrated.