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