When Monique Brouwer moved to the Molonglo Valley from Cootamundra in 2017, it didn’t take long for her to see that the distinct needs of a developing community were not being addressed.
“When you have a small community like Cootamundra, everyone is working towards the same thing, but it is hard in Canberra because you do not have a shire council that is looking at everybody’s needs. We have community councils, but even then they are not the government,” she said.
“I did not feel like our values aligned well with the Weston Creek Community Council [as] they are an established area and we are a growing area. The issues and needs we have are very, very different and I thought we needed a separate voice here.
“We need transport, we need a town centre, we need a community services plan that looks at what we want to do in the next 10 years to make sure people have what they need.”
As a mum of two, Ms Brouwer has to travel all around Canberra for a variety of activities for her children. And as the community continues to grow – projecting to hit around 55,000 people by 2041 – residents want more area-specific services they can use.
Ms Brouwer, along with Ryan Hemsley, is the driving force behind breaking away from the Weston Creek Community Council and creating their own in the Molonglo Valley.
After establishing the Molonglo Valley Community Forum, which covers suburbs like Coombs, Denman Prospect, Molonglo, Whitlam and Wright, Mr Hemsley said that the key objective was to find out what people in the area were thinking about.
“You hear the obvious things like the Coombs shops failure to launch and growing issues related to traffic, but what we are keen on is drilling down and finding out what people want”, he said.
“We are a developing district, we are not an existing community, things are changing rapidly before us. This presents us with a fantastic opportunity to help shape that [with] a community group that is dedicated solely on issues specific to Molonglo.
“Weston Creek is an established community, they have priorities that relate to maintaining their amenities and quality of life, whereas in Molonglo, we have so much stuff still to come.”
Their calls have fallen on sympathetic ears, with newly elected Murrimbidgee MLA Dr Marisa Paterson voicing their concerns in the Legislative Assembly.
The motion, which the government will support, establishes a path for the Molonglo Valley Community Forum to be recognised by the ACT Government and be eligible to become a community council and apply for funding through the annual Deed of Grant process.
The $13,000 annual government grant for community councils will allow the Molonglo Valley residents to hold public meetings and develop community resources and online materials for locals, Mr Hemsley said.
Dr Paterson said it was important that the ethnic diversity of these suburbs be better represented as the suburbs continue to grow.
“It is important that the group is [recognised] to cement the community development work that has occurred to date and promote avenues for residents to connect, receive information, discuss relevant issues and advocate to the ACT Government,” she said.
“Given the unique demographic attributes of the newly established suburbs, it is imperative that the Molonglo Valley Community Council is reflective and inclusive of the diversity of the community.”
The median age for Molonglo at the last census in 2016 was 30, compared to 41 in Weston Creek. There are also five times more people over the age of 65 in Weston Creek compared to Molonglo.
Molonglo was also significantly more multicultural, with residents of Indian heritage making up almost 7 per cent of the community. In Weston Creek, the top five nationalities were all of European or Australian heritage.