Gungahlin is facing a desperate shortage of community spaces as services are overwhelmed by demand in the growing northern district.
The area’s community organisations have banded together to make a joint budget submission to the ACT Government, urging it to speed up delivery of the promised community centre and provide more funding for their stretched services.
The joint submission from Northside Community Service, Barnardos Australia, Canberra PCYC and the Gungahlin Community Council says the area, with its high youth population and diverse cultural backgrounds, was facing acute demand for safe and supporting places; case management services; youth outreach services, programs and facilities; and support for new Canberra residents.
Its priority was the construction of a large community centre to house service organisations and community groups, which was an election promise and listed in the Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement.
The submission calls for consultation and planning for the Gungahlin community centre to be funded as a priority in the 2021-22 financial year to address the substantial gap between the availability of facilities and the demand for services.
The organisations also support constructing a large multicultural events venue at Exhibition Park, also listed in the agreement, for cultural performances and to be available for hire for large private functions, such as weddings.
But it says more funding is needed to provide immediate services to the Gungahlin community to eliminate duplication, siloing, and costs associated with regional travel.
The submission calls for short-term funding for programs to support young people and their families in the 2021-22 financial year, including early intervention initiatives.
It also calls for a clear government strategy for delivering community services at the district, group and local levels across Gungahlin.
GCC president Peter Elford said there was a chronic shortage of space for community organisations overrun by demand.
He said there was an immediate need for more spaces, and the government needed to provide some stop-gap facilities before a community centre could be built.
“Even if they broke ground on the community centre tomorrow, it would be a couple of years before it would be built. What do we do in the meantime?” he asked.
Mr Elford said the government says school buildings could be used, but they were already overcommitted with long waiting lists.
“In a lot of cases, schools are not fit for purpose, particularly for a lot of the recreational activities,” he said.
Mr Elford said that as well as the young population and multicultural communities, many former public housing residents in the city had been resettled in Gungahlin, but the services had not followed, increasing the pressures on existing groups.
He said the community groups had decided they should come together to create a single louder voice to get the attention of government.