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Independents come to rescue of Oaks Estate ‘ghetto’

By Charlotte Harper - 5 October 2016 10

Independent and minor party candidates for Kurrajong joined forces on policies for Oaks Estate.

Oaks Estate resident and community leader Hugh Griffin has pulled off a coup for his home suburb, persuading every independent or minor party candidate running in the seat of Kurrajong to sign up to an unprecedented agreement to give a leg up to the poorest part of Canberra’s wealthiest electorate.

heritage house, Oaks Estate

Mr Griffin has long lobbied to raise awareness of the disadvantage and neglect in the suburb, campaigning on issues such as the lack of an ACTION bus to the suburb (which is often mistakenly thought of as part of Queanbeyan rather than the capital); a lack of road safety infrastructure; and a failure to protect historic sites.

Read Chief Minister Andrew Barr’s response to criticisms of the Government in relation to Oaks Estate here.

The Oaks Estate Progress Association vice-president had just about given up on the major parties and Greens on this issue, but has this week unexpectedly found support from Sustainable Australia, the Animal Justice Party (Jeff Isaacs), Like Canberra, the Liberal Democrat Party, Canberra Community Voters and independents Graeme Strachan, Peter Robinson and Marea Fatseas.

McEwan Avenue, Oaks Estate

“It’s unprecedented to have agreement from all independent candidates from across the
political spectrum, and it shows just how appalling is the government neglect of Oaks
Estate,” Mr Griffin says.

“When I briefed each candidate on the social and economic disadvantage of Oaks Estate, and talked about the complete abandonment by Government, they were pretty shocked.”

The Oaks Estate Progress Association is the oldest resident group in the ACT. Mr Griffin says it was formed in 1926 to lobby the government to provide basic services that other suburbs took for granted: running water, sewage, vaccinations for school children, electricity, basic infrastructure, and buses.

White warehouse, Oaks Estate

“Over 90 years later, we are still waiting for a bus that takes us to our own city centre, not pushes us in the opposite direction to Queanbeyan,” Mr Griffin says.

“Despite generations of lobbying, the government continues to deny a proper bus service,
roads and pedestrian safety improvements, or even basic infrastructure upgrades that other
suburbs take for granted.

“Additionally, the heritage precinct nomination has been unresolved for 15 years, leaving many of Canberra’s oldest heritage assets without protection.”

Mr Griffin says the Government has increased public housing to 55% of households, and abandoned 50 vulnerable men with complex mental health and drug problems, many of whom have recently left jail.

“They have left them with no public transport and nothing to do, and in older flats they refuse to fix up to a healthy standard. They’ve set these guys up to fail, and we completely blame the ACT Government for creating this situation. It is so unfair.”

Oaks Estate has the highest rates of public housing and unemployment and the lowest median wages of all Canberra suburbs, but has
seen rates rises of 300% in the past decade, according to a media statement about the independents agreement.

“This is Barr’s electorate. This is Rattenbury’s electorate. But they’ve ignored and damaged
their own constituents. We call on Labor, Liberal and the Greens to provide the poorest and
most disadvantaged community in Canberra with the same level of services they give to all
other suburbs,” Mr Griffin says.

The independent candidates for Kurrajong say that if elected, they will work on behalf of their constituents in the Oaks Estate community to ensure the following items are addressed:

1. Provide an ACTION bus connecting the community directly to Canberra.
2. Ensure the Heritage Council finalises the heritage precinct nomination in
line with three expert reports which have recommended strong heritage
protection to this village which predates the establishment of Canberra.
3. Include the 40-year?old public housing flats in the Public Housing Renewal
Program, which is updating public housing in all other Canberra suburbs.
4. Improve road and pedestrian safety.

“The independent candidates for Kurrajong are appalled at the generations of
neglect this community has suffered, and each candidate makes a commitment
to end the disadvantage once and for all,” they say in their statement.

The below is an unedited version of the remainder of the media statement outlining the policies.

Policy details

None of these policy commitments increase existing government expenditure, as they are all
funded from recurrent agency funding.

What Oaks Estate needs isn’t much. Oaks Estate just need the same levels of services as
everywhere else.

ACTION Buses

We will direct ACTION to include Oaks Estate in the bus network. Despite such extraordinary
levels of poverty and disadvantage, the ACT Government refuses to provide an ACTION bus.

This community certainly needs it since the government located a program for over 50
institutionalised men suffering drug and mental health issues beginning in December 2009.
Frank Brassil, the previous president of the St Vincent de Paul Society ? which runs that
program ? personally raised the need for an ACTION bus with then?Transport Minister Shane
Rattenbury. Shane’s response? “A bus isn’t going to change anything, it’s not going to stop
the [IV drug] needles.” That is the exact quote of what Shane Rattenbury said.

Rattenbury is wrong. Public transport changes everything. And government could provide an
ACTION route if it wished. In 2014-15, ACTION received $95.99m in Community Service
Obligation funding (p159, TAMS 2014-15 Annual Report). There is no other community the
ACT Government is more obliged to service than Oaks Estate – the government’s own ghetto.

Heritage

We will direct the ACT Heritage Council to immediately finalise the heritage precinct
nomination which the Council has held off from resolving for 15 years, despite receiving
multiple expert reports recommending full heritage protections.

Some families have lived in Oaks Estate for 4 or 5 or 6 generations. Heritage and people’s
sense of place is almost sacred. The lack of clarity around the precinct nomination – which
includes over 100 buildings and objects – has kept this community in limbo. Heritage is being
damaged and destroyed, and this must stop.

Public Housing

We will direct the Public Housing Renewal Taskforce to include flats in Oaks Estate in its
works program.

Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, compared to an ACT average of 7%. These +40 year?old
flats are in dire need of renovation and maintenance. Elsewhere across Canberra, the Public
Housing Renewal Taskforce is upgrading housing to improve social inclusion and equality ?
but not in Oaks Estate.

The government must get serious about supporting the most vulnerable people in our
community. Including Oaks Estate in the PHRT’s program of works is a good start.

Roads and Pedestrian Safety
We will direct RoadsACT to immediately install suburb?wide traffic calming to curb all
dangerous driving, including hooning. This includes pedestrian and cycling safety
infrastructure, as there are currently no pedestrian crossings, despite the suburb having the
highest non-car ownership rates in the entire ACT.

Pictured at top are Sarah O’Brien (representing Jeff Isaacs of the Animal Justice Party, for whom she is a candidate in Brindabella), Marea Fatseas (independent), Maryann Mussared (Like Canberra), Graeme Strachan (independent), Oliver Tye (Sustainable Australia), Mike Hettinger and Lucinda Spier (Canberra Community Voters) and Peter Robinson (independent).

What’s Your opinion?


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10 Responses to
Independents come to rescue of Oaks Estate ‘ghetto’
1
MareaFatseas 11:02 am
05 Oct 16
#

Oakes Estate is the poorest and most disadvantaged community in Canberra, and can’t even gain Government support for an ACTION bus. Yet ACT politicians receive an annual car allowance of $25,500 and annual taxi-hire allowance of $2,500. If elected I will not accept these allowances, and will catch the bus or drive and pay for use of my own car ( a 1998 Toyota Starlet that is still going strong). That includes not availing myself of a free car park at the Assembly, another perk that current politicians enjoy. Marea Fatseas, Independent for Kurrajong.

2
Maryann Mussared 2:32 pm
05 Oct 16
#

It was great to see so many ACT Independent and small party candidates, for the seat of Kurrajong, including the Like Canberra Party, join forces and support Hugh Griffin, Vice-President of the Oaks Estate Progress Estate. They met Hugh at the Legislative Assembly to discuss ways of gaining recognition for the long neglected Oaks Estate and its disadvantaged residents. It was a true show of bi-partisan support which I was proud to be part of. I can’t understand why ACTION doesn’t have some smaller buses that can run on less busy routes. Providing a peak hour service so people can get to work in Canberra is an absolute necessity and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

3
WilliamBourke 4:39 pm
05 Oct 16
#

“The Oaks Estate Progress Association vice-president had just about given up on the major parties and Greens on this issue, but has this week unexpectedly found support from Sustainable Australia…” etc.

Well done all. Wouldn’t it be great to get a crossbench in the ACT to break up the major party oligopoly!

4
Mordd / Chris Richar 3:29 am
06 Oct 16
#

Hugh Griffin has my 150% support, and I congratulate the candidates who have signed onto this already, it is fantastic to see independent candidates showing such leadership and unity on this important and neglected issue.

As a Greens member, I am waiting also for the Greens to announce a specific policy around Oaks Estate and commit to supporting this initiative now in particular. If it were up to me personally (and it’s obviously not) I would mandate a 20% quota of seats for Independent, non-party affiliated candidates only in the Assembly, or 5 out of the 25, 1 in each electorate.

I personally believe this would vastly improve democracy and good outcomes for Canberra if this were the case, regardless of the independent candidates individual beliefs or background, whoever can get the highest vote out of all the independents in their electorate each election gets a seat anyway. It would certainly encourage more independents to stand every election.

Anyway, back on point, I hope this now forces all the major parties to commit to either this initiative specifically or something very much like it, well done again to the candidates who signed already.

5
rommeldog56 7:31 am
06 Oct 16
#

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Hugh Griffin has my 150% support, and I congratulate the candidates who have signed onto this already, it is fantastic to see independent candidates showing such leadership and unity on this important and neglected issue.

As a Greens member, I am waiting also for the Greens to announce a specific policy around Oaks Estate and commit to supporting this initiative now in particular. If it were up to me personally (and it’s obviously not) I would mandate a 20% quota of seats for Independent, non-party affiliated candidates only in the Assembly, or 5 out of the 25, 1 in each electorate.

Anyway, back on point, I hope this now forces all the major parties to commit to either this initiative specifically or something very much like it, well done again to the candidates who signed already.

As a Greens member, do you recall that as TAMS Minister, the Greens member of the ACT Labor Gov’t, Shane Rattenburry, admitted a while back that he didnt even know that Oakes Estate was part of the ACT ! It was reported here on RiotAct.

Why does it take an election for the major parties (Labor/Liberal – I don’t regard Greens as a “major party” in the ACT – they just happen to have the balance of power at present and have sold out their ideals to be part of the ACT Labor Govt) to recognise Oakes Estate – and so many other issues for that matter.

If Oakes Estate is as poorly serviced as claimed, then it must be in large part, a fault of ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t who have had 15+ years to recognise that and go some way to correcting the issues. Its not a credit to them to make promises about it now – in an election year.

6
wildturkeycanoe 7:32 am
06 Oct 16
#

“They have left them with no public transport and nothing to do, and in older flats they refuse to fix up to a healthy standard. They’ve set these guys up to fail, and we completely blame the ACT Government for creating this situation.”
Having nothing to do is not the fault of the government. It’s just like having kids at home on the school holidays. You have two legs, go for a walk. Get some exercise instead of lounging on the sofa and complaining all day. With a cheap/free pushbike they could ride wherever they feel like going.
This comment was in reference to the 50 odd men with drug problems and jail time. Is it the fault of the government that the men got into drugs? Is it the community’s fault that they ended up in jail and ruined their lives? No. They need to man up and take some responsibility for themselves. Even people on the dole who have done nothing wrong in particular to get into their predicament are being asked to step up and do something instead of sitting at home on their play stations so why should ex-cons be any different.
If they ended up out there because they did a crime and spent time in jail, tough titties, you reap what you sow. Why is it up to the community to provide them with fun activities to keep them occupied. If the conditions are so bad, why don’t they do something constructive and tidy it up themselves? If the flats are only 40 years old, a splash of paint, removing a bit of mold in the wet areas and such isn’t exactly rocket science and to do a bit of cleaning and simple maintenance would also look better on their resume than lazing about idly complaining that they are owed something from life. As tenants, it is their responsibility to look after their home and keep it suitable for human habitation. This attitude of letting society take care of it all is why they ended up out there in the first place.

“Public transport changes everything”. Really? So they can get to the Canberra Centre instead of walking to Queanbeyan’s main street which has pretty much the same range of stores? There is already a bus service that leaves from Queanbeyan and goes to Canberra, if only the residents were willing to walk 2km to the stop. If they can’t handle that, there are even routes that go through Oaks Estate that take them to Queanbeyan [$1.20 for concession card holders], from where they can go to Canberra. An Action bus is not going to change the lifestyle of the people in Oaks Estate, only they themselves can change it and I hope it turns around from this sense of entitlement, to one of using what they already have to its full benefit.
Is the real issue here about a lack of an Action services or about getting more attention and free stuff, just because they feel “stuck” in their public housing hole? Life doesn’t owe you anything, you just have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.

7
bj_ACT 9:42 am
06 Oct 16
#

So Shane Rattenbury only recently discovered Oakes Estate is part of the ACT. Can someone please inform him that Tuggeranong is not part of Cooma and NSW.

That might explain why he hasn’t pushed the Government for a targeted effort to improve Tuggeranong public Education performance or Employment opportunities. Despite those two areas going backwards at a rate of knots since he came into ACT parliament. He has focused heavily on improvements to areas where he lives or owns investment property and he only pays lip service to helping the needy and poor in Belconnen and Tuggeranong.

8
A_Cog 12:55 pm
06 Oct 16
#

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

…As a Greens member, I am waiting also for the Greens to announce a specific policy around Oaks Estate and commit to supporting this initiative now in particular.

Keep waiting mate. Rattenbury is a central part of the problem. As a Molonglo/Kurrajong MLAs, he is invisible to this community. As Transport Minister, he personally refused to provide an ACTION bus, even when the Vinnies President pleaded for one.

Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, unemployment close to 50%, and the lowest incomes by a mile. What sort of a Green thinks public transport won’t help the poorest and most vulnerable community in Canberra?

The Greens heritage policy includes gifting $500,000 to private business owners to tart up the Sydney and Melbourne buildings in the city, but no specifics for the 14-year unresolved heritage precinct nomination for Oaks Estate.

Greens public housing policy ignores the suburb with a public housing rate 8 times the ACT average (54% vs 7%).

Greens transport policy ignores the suburb with the lowest rate of car ownership, highest rates of poverty and unemployment, and greatest need.

Rattenbury has personally neglected us as badly as the ALP and Libs.

9
wildturkeycanoe 7:12 am
08 Oct 16
#

“despite the suburb having the highest non-car ownership rates in the entire ACT.”
I don’t know where you get your stats from, but the latest I could find from the ABS showed quite a substantial percentage of vehicle ownership and a street view glance at Oaks Estate reveals a vehicle of some description in almost every front yard of the village. There was one that had a dozen cars parked in the yard, enough to start a dealership or wrecking yard.
The only statistical data I could find was from 2011, but even then the percentage of registered vehicle ownership was reasonably high, over 80%. Hardly a crisis IMO.

A_Cog said :

Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, unemployment close to 50%, and the lowest incomes by a mile.

Source? All the data I can find shows much better employment figures and incomes. At least up until some five years ago according to ABS and census data. Where did you get these startling facts? So far the beat up about Oaks Estate is a bunch of hear say and repeated quoting of other people but very little evidence to back it up.

10
A_Cog 10:02 am
08 Oct 16
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

“despite the suburb having the highest non-car ownership rates in the entire ACT.”
I don’t know where you get your stats from, but the latest I could find from the ABS showed quite a substantial percentage of vehicle ownership and a street view glance at Oaks Estate reveals a vehicle of some description in almost every front yard of the village. There was one that had a dozen cars parked in the yard, enough to start a dealership or wrecking yard.
The only statistical data I could find was from 2011, but even then the percentage of registered vehicle ownership was reasonably high, over 80%. Hardly a crisis IMO.

A_Cog said :

Oaks Estate is 54% public housing, unemployment close to 50%, and the lowest incomes by a mile.

Source? All the data I can find shows much better employment figures and incomes. At least up until some five years ago according to ABS and census data. Where did you get these startling facts? So far the beat up about Oaks Estate is a bunch of hear say and repeated quoting of other people but very little evidence to back it up.

FOI data plus census data. 144 households total, 78 owned by ACT Housing. Unemployment was 37.5% in 2011 when public housing vacancy was 30%. Now vacancy is zero and service providers confirm joblessness. ABS and Uniting Church confirm OE incomes are HALF the next poorest suburb of Charnwood.

But hey, continue to rely on token skepticism to justify denying the neediest everything.

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