Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Opinion

Canberra insurance broker
of choice since 1985

Barr’s budget: no free rides for Canberra’s poorest

By A_Cog - 8 June 2016 27

A lonely bus stop in Oaks Estate

The Barr Government’s announcement yesterday of a free City Loop bus in Civic highlights the utter contempt and disregard shown to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Canberra residents.

Oaks Estate, the government’s own ghetto, continues to have no ACTION bus whatsoever, free or not. But Civic, already saturated with ACTION bus routes providing abundant access will now benefit from a free, 5.2km City Loop bus provided 49 times a day to people over distances they could easily walk. In most cases, it will take people less time to walk CityLoop distances than to wait for the meandering bus.

Oaks Estate needs public transport far more than most areas: Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, compared to an ACT average of 7%. Functional (real) unemployment is over 40%. Since 2010 the ACT Government has concentrated a rehabilitation and reintegration program for parolees with complex mental health issues in Oaks Estate. There are currently 50 parolees dumped into remote public housing and abandoned, left to fend for themselves, and the ACT Government shows little interest in helping to rehabilitate or reintregrate them.

For the last 5 years, the ACT Government has repeatedly refused to provide an ACTION service despite the explosion in crime and drug use. Previous Transport Minister Shane Rattenbury actually said to one constituent, “a bus isn’t going to change anything, it’s not going to stop the [IV drug] needles”.

This parolee program needs to be treated far more seriously by the government.

Canberra’s failed jail has been overcrowded since opening and was 25% over capacity for years, making AMC far more violent. Inside AMC, drugs are abundant but the government refuses to take effective measures to curb drug use. The Auditor General shredded the operation of the jail last year as “ineffective”, “inadequate” and “compromise[d]”, citing the yawning chasm between the 30 hours of diversionary, drug treatment and rehabilitation programs inmates should be offered, and the 5 hours they actually get. Rehab programs matter, when 73% of AMC inmates have substance abuse issues and 69% have experienced suicidal ideation.

And now an inmate who was viciously bashed in jail last year and feared for his life has died there, in a tragedy made more so by how easily it could have been avoided had the government simply responded to the alarm bells ringing for years.

That is what parolees emerge from – an overcrowded and violent environment with drugs flowing freely and far too little education and counselling available to help inmates break the cycle.

They emerge into the parolee program in Oaks Estate, a remote suburb ringfenced by the current ACT Government’s refusal to provide public transport. Crime doubled since the program started in 2010. There is precious little access to jobs or training, to medical and support services, to cultural institutions, to family and friends. The link between social isolation and mental health is well known, as is the link between clustering disadvantaged men and crime. Simon Corbell made this last point in parliament, but it appears to have been no more than lip service.

So the government’s dogged refusal to provide an ACTION bus despite dumping scores of parolees in Oaks Estate should be seen for what it is: setting these guys up to fail, out of sight, out of mind. People coming out of prison should not be cut off from society and left to fend for themselves. How society treats them defines who we are. This budget makes clear who Andrew Barr is.

The five key things parolees need in order to break the cycle, and successfully rehabilitate and reintegrate are all secured and reinforced by ready access to public transport: education, employment, access to healthcare, transitional support services, and appropriate housing.  Ring-fencing such a high-risk high-needs cohort should never have happened, but this budget should have stopped that disaster from continuing.

Sure public transport costs money (as does a free City Loop bus), but the return is significant: reduced recidivism and improved employment and treatment outcomes. This should matter in Canberra, given the ACT has the highest rate of recidivism in Australia by a mile (table C4). And the government should be serious about reducing recidivism, given that the ACT Police have the lowest clearance rates for crime of any police force in Australia (table C7).

How tragic that another alarm bell has been ringing for years but the government remains deaf to it, preferring instead an unnecessary and expensive free bus in an area which needs it least at the expense of those who needs it most.

What’s Your opinion?


Please login to post your comments, or connect with
27 Responses to
Barr’s budget: no free rides for Canberra’s poorest
Filter
Showing only Website comments
Order
Newest to Oldest
Oldest to Newst
JC 4:44 pm 14 Jun 16

davo101 said :

devils_advocate said :

…Reality is you cannot provide a bus service to every single person in the territory. And a struggle to think of any jurisdiction in this country that can and does.

I’m not talking about a bus for “every single person” – I’m talking about a bus for the most high risk/high needs people in Canberra who the ACT Govt has deliberately dumped and concentrated in Oaks Estate far from everything they need, and who suffer endemic disadvantage, and who, in the worst cases, impose a shocking impact on the wider Canberra community through recidivism.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-man-sentenced-to-five-years-jail-over-knifepoint-robbery-burglary-20160614-gpijn2.html

Your post implicitly raises the issue of value for money. It’s a good point – but given that we’re not getting anything close to value for money from the failed jail (AMC actually worsens community safety) it’s crucial we get it from the parole program. In this instance, a bus is a crucial input to that value.

Either the ACT Govt gives Oaks Estate a bus, or, they relocate the program to the city centre (Reid and Braddon), or they doom these guys to a lifetime of crime and punishment, and disregard the suffering of each and every future victim.

The jail is a joke, and parole programs are literally the last chance to break the cycle.

Which gets back to my point above. Three people should not be dumped in oaks estate. That is the core issue not the lack of a bus service.

A_Cog 4:07 pm 14 Jun 16

devils_advocate said :

…Reality is you cannot provide a bus service to every single person in the territory. And a struggle to think of any jurisdiction in this country that can and does.

I’m not talking about a bus for “every single person” – I’m talking about a bus for the most high risk/high needs people in Canberra who the ACT Govt has deliberately dumped and concentrated in Oaks Estate far from everything they need, and who suffer endemic disadvantage, and who, in the worst cases, impose a shocking impact on the wider Canberra community through recidivism.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-man-sentenced-to-five-years-jail-over-knifepoint-robbery-burglary-20160614-gpijn2.html

Your post implicitly raises the issue of value for money. It’s a good point – but given that we’re not getting anything close to value for money from the failed jail (AMC actually worsens community safety) it’s crucial we get it from the parole program. In this instance, a bus is a crucial input to that value.

Either the ACT Govt gives Oaks Estate a bus, or, they relocate the program to the city centre (Reid and Braddon), or they doom these guys to a lifetime of crime and punishment, and disregard the suffering of each and every future victim.

The jail is a joke, and parole programs are literally the last chance to break the cycle.

JC 2:23 pm 14 Jun 16

justin heywood said :

I feel for Oaks Estate residents, definitely the forgotten few. Interestingly with a quick check, they pay on average higher annual rates ($1519 pa) than residents of Harrison, Franklin, Holt, Isabella Plains, and Ngunnawal. Surely ACTION Bus should be able to take Oak’s Estate residents to Civic Bus interchange twice each morning before 9am and again in the afternoon from 4.30pm.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-budget-2015-rates-rises-biggest-in-canberras-inner-north-20150602-ghf4vm.html

Which is half the rates those in Hall pay. Reality is you cannot provide a bus service to every single person in the territory. And a struggle to think of any jurisdiction in this country that can and does.

bj_ACT 12:00 pm 14 Jun 16

I feel for Oaks Estate residents, definitely the forgotten few. Interestingly with a quick check, they pay on average higher annual rates ($1519 pa) than residents of Harrison, Franklin, Holt, Isabella Plains, and Ngunnawal. Surely ACTION Bus should be able to take Oak’s Estate residents to Civic Bus interchange twice each morning before 9am and again in the afternoon from 4.30pm.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/act-budget-2015-rates-rises-biggest-in-canberras-inner-north-20150602-ghf4vm.html

Leon 10:24 am 12 Jun 16

According to Google (accessed via the ACTION website) if I live at the Oaks Estate and start work at 9am Monday in Civic I can get to work by:
* leaving home at 5.14 pm on Sunday
* walking 21 minutes to the Queanbeyan interchange
* catching the 5.35 pm 60 service which arrives at Canberra City at 6pm.
* finding somewhere to stay the night.

If I finish work at 5pm, I can get home by:
* catching the 5.50pm 860 service that arrives in Uriarra Rd/Crawford St at 6.21pm
* walking 8 minutes to home.

HiddenDragon 6:36 pm 10 Jun 16

This is what was said, in the official press release, when the Alexander Maconochie Centre was opened, less than eight years ago –

[ http://info.cmcd.act.gov.au/archived-media-releases/mediac26c.html?v=7402&s=177 ]

New Alexander Maconochie Centre officially opened

Released 11/09/2008

Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and Attorney General Simon Corbell today officially opened the ACT’s new Alexander Maconochie Centre in Hume – the first Australian prison built according to human rights principles.

The $131 million purpose-built AMC will accommodate male, female, remand and sentenced prisoners from low to high security classifications, and can house up to 300 inmates.

“The opening of the Alexander Maconochie Centre is a milestone for the ACT justice system, which now leads the country in corrections management,” Mr Stanhope said.

“For the first time in Australia, we have a prison that is fully human rights compliant. The AMC has been designed, built and will be operated under human rights legislation, based on the ACT Human Rights Act 2007 and human rights principles.

“Opening the ACT’s first prison means we can now take responsibility for our prisoners, ending the practice of sending prisoners to NSW facilities, away from their families and community.”

Attorney General Simon Corbell said the ACT’s first prison represents an important step towards the rehabilitation of offenders in our justice system.

“This is the first real opportunity that the ACT has had to directly influence rehabilitative and therapeutic outcomes for our sentenced prisoners,” Mr Corbell said.

“The AMC will ensure better rehabilitation prospects for ACT prisoners, operating under the ‘healthy prison concept’, which emphasises the importance of providing an environment that is safe, where prisoners are treated with respect and are encouraged to improve and be rehabilitated.

“The ACT Labor Government recognises the importance of family contact in prisoner rehabilitation, and with prisoners now remaining in the ACT it will be possible for families to arrange visits every day of the week except Mondays.

“Sending our prisoners interstate to serve the sentences imposed by our courts has not been conducive to good correctional outcomes. It has also been expensive for the Government, costing around $10 million a year. The ACT Labor Government firmly believes this money is better circulating in the ACT as a positive boost to the local economy.

“The $131 million AMC construction project has already been a significant boost to the local economy and local contractors. Over 80 companies have been engaged in the construction of the prison, with over 2750 workers and over 850,000 man-hours involved. Approximately 20 more businesses are engaged in delivering furniture and fit-out.

“The AMC is one of the largest capital works projects ever undertaken by the ACT Government and has been delivered on budget.”

JC 1:08 pm 10 Jun 16

madelini said :

Roksteddy said :

dungfungus said :

QCity Transit (formerly Deanes) operates daily bus services from Bungendore to Queanbeayn/Civic return. They are not allowed to operate on routes within the ACT (yet) so they wouldn’t be operating a service from Oaks Estate.

They can operate routes within the ACT. What they cannot do is pick-up passengers in the ACT and drop them off in the ACT. So CBR bound the cannot pickup passengers on the ACT side of the border and QBN bound cannot drop off until on the NSW side.

Two further points, Oaks Estate is not far from Uriarra road, so nothing stopping people walking over the border to get a bus from there. And besides, except for the purpose of making cheap political shots, done does anyone seriously think the demographics of Oak Estate will be regular bus users?

I work in addiction treatment, and the lack of public transport is a real barrier for the people living in Oaks Estate accessing the treatment services they need in the ACT. The Deans buses are operated by a private, for profit company and are significantly more expensive than ACTION buses, and they don’t accept the ACTION bus tickets that we sometimes provide for people in treatment to encourage attendance. They frequency of buses also doesn’t seem to meet the needs of that local community.

Residents of Oaks Estate are also excluded from accessing public run treatment services in Queanbeyan because they are ACT residents not NSW residents, so they do not have the option of going to Queanbeyan for treatment.

Property owner in Oaks Estate pay rates to the ACT government, surely the residents are entitled to a similar level of service as other areas in the ACT.

What about residents of Tharwa, Hall (who have one of the highest rates in the ACT) or Uriarra, should they have a bus too? What about the ‘rural’ properties along Majura and Sutton Roads?

Really as mentioned above, whilst public transport may well be an issue and an impediment to those living in Oaks Estate, surely the bigger issue is why are we ‘sending’ people who need so much help to government housing in Oak Estate in the first place? Fix that and the transport issue becomes a non issue.

Related Articles

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Top
Copyright © 2018 Riot ACT Holdings Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
www.the-riotact.com | www.b2bmagazine.com.au | www.thisiscanberra.com

Search across the site