Labor Member for Canberra Alicia Payne has started a petition calling on the Federal Government to save the Centrelink office in Braddon.
Alarm bells began ringing in May about the future of the Braddon Service Centre when Ms Payne saw a Facebook ad saying the building on Lonsdale Street was for lease.
Ms Payne then wrote to the Morrison Government asking about the future of face-to-face Centrelink services in the electorate of Canberra.
The reply from Government Services Minister Senator Linda Reynolds confirmed that the lease was ending on 28 February 2022 and that the Government was “considering its face-to-face service offer for North Canberra”.
Senator Reynolds said the way people did their business with Centrelink had changed significantly due to the uptake of digital services such as MyGov and Express Plus mobile apps and self-telephone services.
As a result, fewer people needed to attend an actual service centre.
“Should there be any proposed change to the service arrangements in the Braddon area, the Agency has well-established community engagement practices that will ensure the community and your office is kept informed,” Senator Reynolds said.
But Ms Payne said it was unbelievable that the Morrison Government was contemplating closing the service centre when it had proven essential for the community when COVID-19 first impacted the economy.
“During the pandemic, we saw long lines down Lonsdale Street as record numbers of Canberrans accessed Centrelink payments,” she said.
Ms Payne said there had yet to be any community consultation regarding the potential closure, despite ads for the Centrelink building being public since May.
“Students in Turner accessing Youth Allowance and retirees in Narrabundah accessing the Aged Pension should not have to travel to Belconnen or Woden to get assistance to access the support they need. You could hardly afford the extra bus fare on $43.50 a day,” Ms Payne said.
She said the Braddon Centrelink was a vital service for Canberrans living in the Inner North and Inner South and was the only shopfront in the entire Canberra electorate.
Despite their key role during the economic downturn, ‘expensive’ service centres are being closed across the country in favour of online and telephone services.