29 November 2018

Recently I was disturbed to learn that scores of community organisations were to be stripped of federal funding from the Financial Wellbeing and Capability Activity program emergency relief stream. One of the organisations affected by this decision is the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre and Community Aid Service Inc, which services my electorate.

Riverstone is an area of Greenway that is going through tremendous change—once a rural area but now home to so many new people, with huge growth in housing estates, but with significant pockets of great socioeconomic disadvantage. The determinations made to cut the funding were both callous and reckless, particularly given that emergency relief funding supports the most vulnerable in our community. Some of the residents of Riverstone who have benefited from this have very challenging circumstances.

The existing funding arrangements had ensured that the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre and Community Aid Service was well equipped to provide material support to those in need with such things as food hampers, clothes and utilities vouchers in times of crisis. But the centre also views intergenerational inequality as a significant long-term issue and believes that long-term strategies are essential to address the challenges facing those households. Accordingly, emergency relief funding administered by the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre and Community Aid Service is also dedicated to providing a range of services beyond material support, including financial counselling, no-interest loans, family support programs, drug and alcohol counselling, family violence support and mental health services.

The centre is the only service provider of its kind in the Riverstone area and delivers these significant services with a small funding pool. It is readily available for local residents, many of whom experience serious mobility issues or simply cannot afford to travel considerable distances for support. I pay tribute to all their staff and volunteers. This government's bungling of the approval process for emergency relief placed all of these important initiatives at risk. It did so recklessly in the lead up to Christmas. The last-minute backflip to extend the funding by a year by the newly appointed minister, Paul Fletcher, lays bare this government's totally dysfunctional state. So I'm pleased to see that the Riverstone centre is now going to be in receipt of federal funding extended into 2019, but the question remains whether organisations like the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre and Community Aid Service will be required to submit to a competitive process at the end of 2019, despite the fact that the funding sought in 2018 was for a longer tender. Community groups like Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre and Community Aid Service deserve certainty. They do not deserve to be subjected to any further reckless and callous decisions of this government, which are clearly a result of its dysfunction and mismanagement.