Gungahlin Community Facilities Speech 2022

Today I wish to draw attention to the important role community places and spaces have within the ACT. Community places and spaces in their simplest form are buildings where people go and where things happen. But to run with the simplest understanding of what these facilities provide us is an underestimation of the value we get from them. These places and spaces are where we, as a community, come together; where we support each other; where we work together to bring about change; and where we enliven so much of our community. So when we talk about these places and spaces, what we are really talking about is how we build and support our community.

The ACT government, through the Property Group portfolio, holds a significant number of community facilities and, true to what I have just said, in the simplest form they are just buildings; but when you look at what is happening at these places, they are so much more than that. Take, for example, the Holt community facility, which is home to many things, including Roundabout Canberra. Roundabout collects preloved infant items to package into baby bundles of essential items for the families of newborns. The bundles include everything from clothing to car seats, bassinets, nappies and books. Working with local charities and services, Roundabout makes sure that families with a newborn have everything they need to support the needs and safety of the infant. It is a thriving initiative which keeps growing as more and more people seek not only to donate items but to get involved in sorting, packing and distributing the packs. If you talk to the volunteers at Roundabout, it becomes apparent pretty quickly the sense of fulfilment they receive from contributing to the initiative and the community that they have built around it.

In the Flynn community facility, you will find the NeuroMoves gym, a specialised gym that offers a holistic, innovative and evidence-based exercise and therapy service for people living with a neurological condition or physical condition. The gym provides a space where people living with a neurological disability can come and receive specialised exercise and therapy supports. Much like Roundabout, the NeuroMoves gym has also given rise to a community around it, which is evidenced by the lively conversations that happen in the kitchen after workouts.

Both of these organisations have given rise to these communities while being housed in ACT Property Group portfolio facilities. They are not the only ones. Over in Pearce at the Pearce Community Centre, there is a hive of activity. Sharing Places provides a place for people with disability to come during the day, providing participation in the community; social and civic activities; and the development of daily living and life skills. Sharing Places has even opened its own cafe, which services the community centre and provides an opportunity for participants to learn hospitality skills. In the middle of the Pearce Community Centre there is a community garden, providing a space where all users at the centre, along with people in the surrounding area, can come to grow vegetables and other plants, enjoy picnics and, again, build community.

These are just a few of the great things happening in the community buildings managed by ACT Property Group. There is also the Volunteering ACT hub in the Griffin Centre in the city, providing a space where Canberrans can get information about services, find volunteering opportunities and connect with community. The Weston Community Hub supports a range of advocacy groups that work tirelessly to support and advocate for us. I could go on and on. All of these places and spaces enable our community members to come together, to support each other and strengthen our bonds. But they are more than just a place. It is no secret that our community here in Canberra has been growing, and I often talk about my own electorate of Yerrabi and the rapid population growth and change that we have seen in recent years. To put it in perspective, I grew up in my electorate. At the start of my 40 years, only three of its suburbs existed in a region that has now well over 19,000 families—71,000 people.

We have seen growth and change in other parts of Canberra too, and in line with the population growth and change, our community has also grown and changed. It is time to take a good look at the places and spaces we provide for our community to come together so that we make sure we are providing the best support we can. For this reason, I am very glad to bring this motion today, calling for these places and spaces to be renewed and grown.

I understand that the minister has already been looking at the portfolio and undertaking an assessment of the current building stock and its condition. I applaud this work and call on him to take it further, to use this initial work to identify unmet needs and new opportunities, to go beyond asset management and start looking at what unmet or new needs we have, how we can best meet these across our city and where we need to place them, and to look at what needs we already meet and whether the facilities we are providing are still fit for purpose.

In undertaking this work, I call on the minister and ACT government to also commit to improving the quality of the facilities, growing the current land and floor space and keeping the former schools, where so many of our community hubs are located, in action. In looking to renewal and growth, I call on the minister and the ACT government to work with the community sector and community groups to shape any plan and, most importantly, to identify new and innovative ways, through demonstration projects, that we can shape the places and spaces that shape our community.

One option I would like to put on the table is a specific focus on Gungahlin and the provision of office space for community service providers. Throughout my time as the Member for Yerrabi, I have consistently heard from our community sector partners about how difficult it is for them to find office accommodation and spaces to run their programs and services that is accessible and affordable in the Gungahlin region. ACT Labor has committed to constructing a community centre in the Gungahlin town centre and the ACT government has committed funding in the most recent budget to progressing the design. I am confident that this community centre will go a long way to providing the place and space that our service providers need as they seek to support our community.

Office-based accommodation, however, provides a slightly different role, and having dedicated facilities would complement the community centre we have already committed to. Office accommodation provides community service organisations with the space they need to plan their programs and coordinate their business and regulatory obligations. As the need for services has grown with our community, so, too, should the places we provide for them. Property Group has a long history of assisting our community service partners by providing office accommodation at community rates, giving them the that certainty they need to get on with the great things that they organise. Anyone who has listened to past debates in this place will also know that there is an appetite from the Gungahlin community to see more office accommodation in this town centre, making a project to support our community sector and grow the office footprint in Gungahlin a win-win. I look forward to working with the minister and seeing what can come from renewing and growing the places and spaces where our community comes together.