Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Expert strata, facilities & building management services

Are all Canberrans equal? Oaks Estate residents might well wonder

By Maryann Mussared - 4 November 2016 24

In the run-up to the recent ACT Election, a slightly Orwellian situation became apparent.   It seems that all Canberrans are equal, only some Canberrans are more equal than others.  There are Canberrans whose suburbs get their public land mown regularly, and those that seem not to. I was taken aback when I visited Oaks Estate last week (and yes, it is still a surprise to many that it is actually in the ACT) to find the small central Gillespie Park knee-high in grass and weeds.  It was a lovely spring day and there was no one in the park.  I was later told that it wasn’t actually snakes that are the principal problem, but rather needles discarded in the long grass.   Although the park and the adjacent public land has now been mown, and the online mowing chart now shows Oaks Estate is scheduled every four weeks during the warmer months, it is a small victory.  The residents of Oaks Estate have experienced many decades of broken promises and the inability of previous governments to do what they are voted in to do, and that is look after all the people of Canberra equally.

 

gillespie-park

Gillespie Park located on the corner of River Road and Hazel Street, Oaks Estate.

 

So for those who are new to Canberra and have never stumbled across this quaint little hamlet sheltering in a bend in the Molonglo River where it meets the Queanbeyan River, what is there and what was all the fuss about in the lead up to the recent ACT election?

To start, there are a number of very charming, old and rustic buildings that are in dire need of heritage management.  Oaks Estate is part of the region’s early colonial heritage, with many buildings dating from the middle of the 19th century, and it is located away from the rest of Canberra right on the border of NSW near Queanbeyan.

In the 1970s, a number of blocks of flats were built that are now used for public housing, and this has resulted in a much higher than average rate of public housing tenants.  These members of our community experience disadvantage for a number of reasons, but not least is that the housing provided is below standard and through no fault of their own, they are physically removed from the sort of amenity that could improve their lives.  Residents pay excessively high rates, especially considering very little is provided in exchange.  Unlike the rest of Canberra, Oaks Estate doesn’t have an ACTION bus route that would take residents direct to Civic and to the local community service in Narrabundah whose Food Bank would be of use to some of the disadvantaged and elderly residents.

 

rail-bridge-over-molonglo-river

View over the Queanbeyan River and rail-bridge built in about 1887  from Oaks Estate

So who cares about the Oaks Estate?   There is a passionate and engaged group of people who live there who want a better life for all residents.  It has become apparent that despite the best efforts of Oaks Estate Progress Association (OEPA) and the energy of people like its Vice President Hugh Griffin, enormous effort has been put into identifying the major issues and seeking assistance, but the right sort of doors remain firmly closed.  But this isn’t a community that has asked for help, been rejected and gone away quietly.   They have honestly and consistently identified what needs to be done and now the ACT Government and the various Ministers responsible need to take a long hard look at all the issues that affect this community and come up with progressive and equitable solutions.

The sorts of things that provide the ‘glue’ that keeps a community together are actually being driven from within the community.  There is a community garden which although currently under-subscribed, will become part of a greater plan to use adjacent currently vacant land to build a community orchard.  Through sheer determination, the residents have got a commitment from a few sources to get a public toilet built and this will connect with the orchard.   A more regular mow of the small park would do an enormous amount to encourage usage.  There is also an absence of activities that could bring the community together, and something as simple as a Men’s Shed would be a positive and useful activity for the many unemployed and older residents.

community-garden-oaks-estate

 

Unfortunately, the only shop is a bottle shop, although there is a small but interesting mix of commercial residents, including two nurseries, an antique conservation business and Japanese wood artist Hiroshi Yamaguchi has just moved his studio workshop into William Street.    I am sure there are people who are able to overlook some of the more obvious flaws of life in Oaks Estate and take delight in the rural setting, views of the river and wildlife.  However, Oaks Estate remains in a state of flux with people struggling with a vision that could provide transformation, and finding it difficult to move forward because of so many unresolved issues.

So, as a reminder, there were four major concerns identified and discussed publicly prior to the election:

  • The first was a request for an ACTION bus to connect the community directly to the centre of Canberra.
  • The second issue concerned the preservation of the heritage of Oaks Estate. In a city sadly depleted of early buildings, I was perplexed when I discovered the issues the Heritage Council has had with finalising the heritage precinct nomination, especially as three expert reports have recommended strong heritage protection for the village.  The 2013 Heritage Assessment is quite clear in its recommendations and ongoing uncertainty regarding heritage listing will deter people who may be interested in restoring the old homes of Oaks Estate
  • The third issue is the high percentage of public housing tenants, housed in below standard studio and one-bedroom flats that provide low levels of comfort and poor outcomes in terms of amenity and insulation. This housing should be immediately included in the Public Housing Renewal Program and updated as in other Canberra suburbs.
  • The fourth and final issue is road and pedestrian safety. On my recent visits, I experienced heavy and fast moving traffic along Railway Street and an official survey has provided a figure of over 4,000 cars a day.  The adjacent streets such as Hazel Street and McEwan Avenue also experience quite a lot of traffic and installation of traffic calming devices would make life a lot safer for both drivers and pedestrians and assist in retaining the village atmosphere

antique-conservation

And so to the future, and we must remember this is a community that is motivated and wants to move forward.   It would be reassuring to imagine there will be some positive changes soon:  provision of an adequate ACTION bus services to connect Oaks Estate with the rest of Canberra;  a heritage plan will be approved that nuts out the needs of the people who love their old homes to allow them to sympathetically restore and extend; a complete audit made of the public housing to improve the quality of accommodation whilst also reducing the quantity to, at the very least, match the Canberra average; and Roads ACT takes a good look at what is needed to make the roads safe for children, the elderly, pets, visitors following the heritage trail  and local motorists.

We have just started a new term of government.  If someone who has the power to implement change is brave enough to just acknowledge that something needs to be done, it will be a start.    The system has broken down and to an outsider it looks like this is a community that is living on a knife edge.  What needs to happen to make the rest of Canberra start to take an interest in this level of inequality and the all too obvious potential for tragedy?

What’s Your opinion?


Post a comment
Please login to post your comments, or connect with
24 Responses to
Are all Canberrans equal? Oaks Estate residents might well wonder
1
JC 11:08 am
04 Nov 16
#

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of. With bus fares subsidised by the ACT government to levels that are on par with Action fares. Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

But if you are worried about equality I assume you will be doing articles on Uriarra Village and Tharwa that have no such service.

And shops yeah it has a grog shop and nothing else, clearly that is what the market wants. Shops are not government services.

2
chewy14 12:07 pm
04 Nov 16
#

“Are All Canberrans Equal”

Well, clearly not as the recent election and spending decisions have plainly identified. The government is more than willing to engage in massive cross subsidisation across various areas of Canberra to suit their own needs.

The question you should really be asking is to what level should all Canberrans subsidise areas that require far higher amounts of spending for service provision per person? And should people in remote areas expect the same level of service provision as central city areas?

3
Blen_Carmichael 1:27 pm
04 Nov 16
#

“So for those who are new to Canberra and have never stumbled across this quaint little hamlet…”

I take it you’re a real estate agent?

4
Chris Mordd Richards 5:21 pm
04 Nov 16
#

JC said :

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of. With bus fares subsidised by the ACT government to levels that are on par with Action fares. Seems like a reasonable compromise to me.

But if you are worried about equality I assume you will be doing articles on Uriarra Village and Tharwa that have no such service.

And shops yeah it has a grog shop and nothing else, clearly that is what the market wants. Shops are not government services.

Oaks Estate is a dumping ground for those who find it the most difficult to gain employment or even receive centrelink benefits. Those exiting the jail program who end up in Oaks Estate, some of whom cannot get centrelink for various reasons, rely on support services for food, bus tickets to get to medical and other appointments etc…

BUT… the ACT support agencies cannot give them tickets for the NSW bus service, they have ACTION bus tickets provided by the ACT Government. Nor can they give them money for the bus. The support service in Queanbeyan have the bus tickets for the Q bus, but they are not meant to give them to Oaks Estate residents as they are not NSW residents.

On top of all this, having to travel into Q first then take the long bus from there into Canberra adds 45-75 minutes or more to the travel time each way all up.

Pointing to the Q service and saying they don’t need an ACTION service is no different to on Q&A last monday night when they defended not restoring the rail link to the regional Victorian town all because they had a great airport there. A more expensive, less convenient option for people on low incomes, just like the Q bus servicing Oaks Estate.

Yet people continue to go oh but it’s fine, they got a half-shitty option so they have no right to complain. Meanwhile if the rest of us had an arrangement like this we would be calling our local member every day. I challenge all of you to go spend a few days living in Oaks Estate with little to no money to spend while you are there and then tell me it is still ok.

I am sure we can find some residents there who would be happy to put some stuck up rich Canberran’s on their couch for a few nights to help educate them on what life in Oaks Estate is really like.

So sick of all the apologist hand-wringing as to why it’s perfectly fine for the ACT to have a ghetto in our backyard while the rest of the city is far better off resource and amenity wise. Time for the people who have never lived with virtually nothing to survive off, or who have never even spent more than 15 mins tops if that in Oaks Estate, to shut up and listen to the people who know and what they are telling you.

5
Maryann Mussared 8:32 pm
04 Nov 16
#

Blen_Carmichael said :

“So for those who are new to Canberra and have never stumbled across this quaint little hamlet…”

I take it you’re a real estate agent?

I do admit it is a good time of year to walk around Oaks Estate and everything is green with the good spring rain. I enjoyed watching a kookaburra flying from a verandah across the border in NSW to collect meat, and back to a hole in a tree in William Street to feed its young. There are a lot of well-maintained small 19th century cottages recently painted and some of the later fibro houses have pretty gardens. A good definition of a hamlet is one that doesn’t have any retail amenities. I lived in a hamlet in England that claimed the centre of life for the village was the operating phone box (1980s!), and someone (unpaid) regularly cleaned up the cigarette butts and changed the flowers in a vase in said box. It was a good 20 minute uphill walk to the nearest pub and village store, but worth it.

6
gazket 9:06 pm
04 Nov 16
#

The Labor Greens want to trade Oaks Estate for Ginninderra Falls .

7
wildturkeycanoe 7:01 am
05 Nov 16
#

Sports ovals and reserves everywhere in Canberra get to the same level of growth when it rains like it has done so for the last season, so inevitably it will take a while for the mowing crew to get done. Why should Oakes Estate be a high priority over other areas of Canberra?
JC has said all the other things I would have pointed out, well done. By the way, used syringes are not unique to Gillespie Park. What would you have done about it? Lock it up overnight to prevent users from shooting up there, have a ranger patrol it every morning, evict the drug using scum from the town? Is this really a problem about government services or a social issue that needs to be addressed worldwide?
As for the heritage assessment, the Great Barrier Reef is much more popular and valued than Oakes Estate and even it cannot be protected from the future. With all the bleaching of corals and inevitable dredging that goes hand in hand with the proposed Coal mine Adani is so desperate to build and the Queensland government seems happy to sell to them at the right price, the world heritage status means absolutely nothing when economic benefits outweigh the natural world.
I am slightly confused as to your concerns over the heritage listing. Would you rather Oakes Estate is protected, making renovations of the run down buildings much more expensive, reducing the values of houses due to the restrictions placed upon them? Or is demolishing the the old buildings and constructing modern, energy efficient habitats to the benefit of the disadvantaged residents more to your liking? If the heritage council decided tomorrow that yes, Oakes Estate is to be protected for posterity, nobody would be able to install modern heating and cooling, the insulation in the old homes would make climate control very energy inefficient and expensive. The rules regarding modifications and such would make it hard for people to consider moving there and inevitably it will remain a run down old dump, devaluing the land whilst rates increase to pay for the extra services the current residents are crying out for.
As for the pedestrian issue, there is an off road footpath along the length of Railway Street. What is the big deal? If cars are speeding along there, then call the police to book them. It isn’t a requirement that those annoying and noisy speed bumps need to be put on every suburban street that has high volumes of traffic. I also wonder why there are so many vehicle movements on a street that services a “hamlet” with less than 300 people, most of whom are apparently disadvantaged and don’t drive. This doesn’t gel with the theory that Oakes Estate needs more public transport. You cannot argue for both cases, they are in contradiction with each other.

8
miz 7:36 am
05 Nov 16
#

Yes Oaks Estate is probably the worst example of unequal access to services (though it’s definitely not alone – I recall the ACT Govt unbelievably trying to relocate some of gorgeous old traditional street lights from Narrabundah to the Kingston Foreshore a few years ago). There is nowhere in the ACT is so ‘remote’ that poorer municipal services are acceptable.
I know I’ve said it before but an audit of where our rates go is sorely needed. Rates, like any tax, are for the good of the community as a whole and maintaining good services makes people proud of their locale, instead of ashamed or embarrassed. I am pretty ashamed and embarrassed by how Canberra looks to my visiting friends these days, and it is galling to think we pay such high rates with such poor evidence of any value for money.

9
joingler 11:27 am
05 Nov 16
#

If the Labor government keep claiming that a bus service to OAks Estate is unviable, that’s fine. They should just make sure that any person reliant on bus services (the majority of the Oaks Estate population) live somewhere else in the ACT where there are services that meet the needs of these people.

If the Labor government want to put a large number of vulnerable people in Oaks Estate, that is fine as well. They should also provide services that meet the needs of these people in Oaks Estate.

Labor need to decide quickly whether to give the residents of Oaks Estate the services they need or to start moving some of the most needy people in the territory to other parts of Canberra with those services.

The response Barr gave on Oaks Estate before the election was a long list of tokenistic actions that did nothing for the people of the suburb

http://the-riotact.com/barr-responds-on-oaks-estate/186184

10
A_Cog 12:20 pm
05 Nov 16
#

JC said :

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of. With bus fares subsidised by the ACT government to levels that are on par with Action fares…

So wrong. The Q-City bus takes residents to Queanbeyan, not Woden or Civic, AND it only comes a few times a day, AND the times are not useful for jobs/training/services, AND there’s only 1 bus home, at 415pm (so you’d have to leave Woden or Civic at 313pm to get to QBN to get back home)…

As for your reference to Tharwa and Uriarra, those suburbs are not 55% public housing with real (functional) unemployment rates of ~50%, with rates of no car ownership 4 times the ACT average, and extreme concentrations of disadvantage due to concentrating disability clients, etc.

I can trot out factual stats all day, and it reminds me of the great ‘Cab Driver’ joke by Stewart Lee… “well, you can prove anything with facts, I prefer to rely on instinct and blind prejudice…”

11
Masquara 4:41 pm
05 Nov 16
#

No possibility of swinging a single vote in Oak’s Estate, right?

12
dungfungus 9:50 am
07 Nov 16
#

joingler said :

If the Labor government keep claiming that a bus service to OAks Estate is unviable, that’s fine. They should just make sure that any person reliant on bus services (the majority of the Oaks Estate population) live somewhere else in the ACT where there are services that meet the needs of these people.

If the Labor government want to put a large number of vulnerable people in Oaks Estate, that is fine as well. They should also provide services that meet the needs of these people in Oaks Estate.

Labor need to decide quickly whether to give the residents of Oaks Estate the services they need or to start moving some of the most needy people in the territory to other parts of Canberra with those services.

The response Barr gave on Oaks Estate before the election was a long list of tokenistic actions that did nothing for the people of the suburb

http://the-riotact.com/barr-responds-on-oaks-estate/186184

Very few of the services that ACTION provide are “viable”, so why should Oaks Estate miss out?

If the question of viability is raised, why is Transport Canberra proceeding with the light rail which will require annual subsidies of more that half of what we are already paying ACTION yet ACTION does all of Canberra (except Oaks Estate).

13
Leon Arundell 9:28 am
11 Nov 16
#

JC said :

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of…

Google Maps recently told me that If I wanted to get to Civic by 9am on a Monday from the Oaks Estate, I would have to leave on Sunday.

14
dungfungus 10:20 am
11 Nov 16
#

Leon Arundell said :

JC said :

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of…

Google Maps recently told me that If I wanted to get to Civic by 9am on a Monday from the Oaks Estate, I would have to leave on Sunday.

And that’s the Express service!

15
JC 2:05 pm
11 Nov 16
#

Leon Arundell said :

JC said :

The Action bus issue is really a non issue. Oaks Estate is serviced by Q City buses to both Woden and Civic with frequencies most Canberra suburbs could only dream of…

Google Maps recently told me that If I wanted to get to Civic by 9am on a Monday from the Oaks Estate, I would have to leave on Sunday.

Bus 838 leaves oaks estate at 7:54 and connects with the 8:05 bus to Civic which arrives at 8:42.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2017 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

Search across the site