12 December 2022

Plan to use community clubs as heat, smoke refuges comes under fire

| Lottie Twyford
Join the conversation
Firefighters undertake a prescribed hazard reduction burn in Canberra

A plan to use community clubs as refuges during extreme heat and smoke events has met opposition. Photo: ESA.

Community clubs would be used as refuges during extreme heat and smoke events under new laws proposed by the Territory government.

The plan has already attracted criticism from Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson who questioned the appropriateness of these spaces, given people would still be able to access alcohol and gaming machines.

Dr Paterson, who prior to entering politics was a researcher and gambling harm advocate, said it was problematic from a harm-minimisation perspective.

READ ALSO Can Canberra be a global destination? New strategy says we already have what it takes

“What concerns me about this bill is that it will be encouraging people to enter an environment during times of potential great mental and health stress – an environment predominately designed around the sale of alcohol and gambling products,” she said in a statement.

“Further, the people who would be most likely to access a club as a ‘smoke and heat refuge’ are potentially the most vulnerable in our community, those who do not have cooling or good ventilation in their homes.”

Dr Paterson also questioned whether the plan would discriminate against people who participated in a self-exclusion scheme or who were prevented from attending clubs for religious or cultural reasons.

The ACT Council of Social Service has previously echoed similar concerns.

The Labor backbencher is considering amendments to the bill, despite the proposed law having already passed through a Labor-Greens cabinet.

Shane Rattenbury MLA.

Minister for Gaming Shane Rattenbury says clubs will not be the only places people can go during a smoke or extreme health event. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

In introducing the new laws to the ACT Legislative Assembly, Gaming Minister Shane Rattenbury said Canberrans could expect to face more extreme weather events.

Specifically addressing some of the concerns aired by Dr Paterson, Mr Rattenbury noted clubs would be required to keep an area separate from gaming machines and an open bar.

He said the clubs would form only one element of the refuge program, expected to be in place by December 2023.

READ ALSO Liberals ditch light rail to Woden, promise ‘comprehensive’ transport strategy before 2024 election

Other options include libraries, child and family centres, and community centres.

“The ACT Government has chosen to include clubs as refuges because they are spread out across the territory and therefore can offer good access and ready respite to many community members,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“Many of these club venues provide our community with access to ventilation and air-cooling systems that many people just don’t have in their own homes.”

Clubs will be designated as a refuge by a ministerial declaration after they have been assessed for their suitability.

Once a declaration is in place, clubs will be able to claim some expenses as community purpose contributions under the Gaming Machine Act.

ClubsACT CEO Craig Shannon

ClubsACT CEO Craig Shannon welcomes the government’s proposed legislation. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

ClubsACT CEO Craig Shannon said the reality was community clubs already served as refuges during smoke and bushfires.

“We welcome the government’s announcement but it’s largely just codifying a function that our members were already providing,” he said.

“When we had those smoke problems in 2019/20 clubs were providing those refuges. This is just putting some structure around it from a government point of view.”

Mr Shannon said clubs had always been dedicated to providing support to the community in emergencies.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

These clubs have had it too good for too long. Their unscrupulous behaviour has enabled them to circumvent laws and prey on vulnerable citizens. Their business cases are designed around misery, preying on the vulnerable and raking in money from grog and gambling addiction. Clubs claim they are community minded, there for the common good and care for their citizens, providing support in emergencies. Don’t fall for it folks !! Laws around Clubs providing refuge in emergencies will now be legislated. These new laws will provide strict caveats to protect citizens against their predatory behaviour.

Go in hard Dr Marisa Paterson!!

Jack D said “Clubs claim they are community minded, there for the common good and care for their citizens, providing support in emergencies. Don’t fall for it folks !!”

So I’m guessing you’re putting your hand up to have unfortunate victims of smoke and fire stay at your house then?

I doubt that in an emergency that the evil pokies and alcohol would be available in the clubs who are assisting victims of natural disasters. As usual you’re complaining about something that hasn’t even happened.

Have a safe Christmas mate.

Tom Worthington5:06 pm 13 Dec 22

Obviously while being used as official emergency refuge, a club would have to shut down gambling and service of alcohol. Another factor to consider is that the clubs would need a backup power supply, in case fires cut then mains, as well as an independent supply of water, and satellite telecommunications. The cost of those would start at around $50,000.

What compensation do the clubs get for providing a function to the ACT? or are they required to do so for free?

Is the state just going to take whatever it wants from free citizens and groups?

I didn’t read the article either.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.