24 May 2012

Adjournment debate – Whitehorse Community Resource Centre

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Mr SYMON (Deakin) (16:45): On Monday, 2 April this year I attended the official opening of the Whitehorse Community Resource Centre redevelopment not only in my own capacity as the member for Deakin but also representing the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government. The opening was, of course, attended by you, Madam Deputy Speaker; people from Whitehorse council, including Councillor Mark Lane, the current mayor, Councillor Robert Chong and Councillor Ben Stennett; Mr Seamus Van Der Westhuizen, from Colonial First State Global Asset Management, the group that contributed to the project, and Mr Leo Sargent from Tenant Management Group, also known to some people through the Nunawading U3A.

This project was announced on 15 December 2010. I took the opportunity at that time to take a tour of the facilities, which are now in fact in Chisholm, on its border with Deakin. Like so many facilities in that area of Melbourne, it was well built and well used, but had passed its prime and needed re-doing. That was particularly true of the Whitehorse Community Resource Centre. So when I returned on 2 April this year, I was very impressed to see the newly refitted building, the home of many groups of local volunteer organisations. I could see first-hand how well they have settled into the new premises. Because the premises are used by volunteers and community organisations, they need to be good and they need to be something that people do not have to spend a lot of their time patching up just to get by and operate day to day. What they have now is certainly good.

Without the volunteers in our society, many people would not be able to cope or exist as they do now. So often, volunteers are unseen. It is for good reason that, every year in Australia, we set aside a week to celebrate volunteers who donate their time, energy and expertise to others. It is equally important that our volunteers are supported with great facilities. The Whitehorse Community Resource Centre redevelopment is the home to 14 volunteer groups who, individually and together, help to build a strong local community. The newly refitted offices, conference, training and computer rooms, as well as the new reception, kitchenette and breakout area look fantastic. They are well designed and functional and are far better to work in than what was there previously. The refit of this building also incorporates space for outside community and volunteer organisations, groups that may need to use an office for only a few hours a week. There is capacity for that kind of casual use, which is great to see. As a former electrician who worked on-site for just on 20 years, I was very pleased to see that energy efficient lighting and movement sensors have been installed to save money on energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and help the environment.

The more than $1.1 billion Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program has funded significant local infrastructure, such as the Whitehorse Community Resource Centre, right across Australia. This program was introduced in early 2009 as a part of the federal Labor government’s response to the global financial crisis that hit Australia in late 2008. Many thousands of jobs around the country have been supported through the building of great community facilities like these. Through programs such as this, the Australian government acted decisively, working with local communities to support jobs when it was needed most—in the short term—and to build and improve local infrastructure for the long term. That was particularly important for the suburbs in the electorate that I represent, where much of the infrastructure was old and falling apart. While many other countries across the globe, at that time and currently, spent money bailing out privately-owned banks especially in Europe, Australia, through programs such as the RLCIP, invested money in local community infrastructure. This provided new jobs and kept people employed in the short term whilst providing lasting and much-needed local facilities for our community for the long term.

The Whitehorse Community Resource Centre redevelopment is a great example of local government identifying community needs and of how well the federal government and Whitehorse City Council have worked together to meet these needs. The federal government invested $204,000 in this project through round 3 of the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, in partnership with Whitehorse City Council. There was also a very generous contribution of $391,000 made by Colonial First State Global Asset Management, bringing the total to $643,000 all up. That is money well spent and well invested for volunteer and community organisations in our community in the suburb of Forest Hill.

Madam Deputy Speaker, the building works were completed on 29 August 2011 and the centre is now fully operational, as you and I have seen. I am told that 26 jobs were created during the design and construction phase and six new jobs have been created now. (Time expired)

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