Page 174 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 9 February 2022
need, particularly in the Gungahlin district. It is clear that we must not rely on the market and private landlords letting at market rates. Rent continues to rise faster than funding, and our mutual goals of social inclusion and justice are not for sale.
That being said, many opportunities already exist. The Greens have long advocated for improving the community use of schools, with more accessible and affordable arrangements across the board. Also, community clubs often have underused facilities that could be made more available, facilitating social integration and cross-sector partnerships.
Now is the time to cast a critical eye over our existing buildings, and to think of creative and innovative ways in which the government can support the community sector to sustainably occupy those spaces. Commercial areas often have vacancies that are close to public transport and where people live and work, offering excellent opportunities for government to facilitate subsidised tenancies.
Programs around the world have demonstrated the possibilities for enlivening central hubs with judicious government intervention and incentives for privately owned buildings, such as covering public liability insurance, supporting social enterprises and offering tax relief.
New suburbs appear to present a particular challenge, with community facilities apparently a low priority in the development hierarchy. This results in long delays and under-serviced communities, adversely affecting the building of social cohesion and social networks in recently developed areas. This particularly affects newcomers to Canberra, including refugees and migrants, and those from non-English-speaking backgrounds, who also happen to make up a significant proportion of the population in these suburbs.
Some steps are being taken to remedy this in Gungahlin, where I am waiting for news that the new community multipurpose centre has been built, as promised under the parliamentary and governing agreement. These new buildings can also provide an essential service as refuges for Canberra citizens during heat and smoke events, which will become more frequent with climate change.
Also, as I mentioned before, there is no reason to wait until a new building is complete to offer opportunities to community organisations. There may be such opportunities in existing buildings that have vacant areas. One example is Gunners Place, the interim youth space that is jointly run by the multicultural youth hub and Northside Community Service, in the Gungahlin town centre, demonstrating how existing spaces can be used, either as an interim or permanent solution to community needs.
I particularly appreciate Ms Orr including the need to engage with community services as an essential part of addressing the difficulties they have in finding suitable accommodation. I firmly believe that the community sector has expertise and valuable insights to offer and should be included as active partners in public policy development processes, including planning for unmet and future accommodation needs.