In parliament on Thursday 31 March, Labor, LNP and Greens MPs praised neighbourhood and community centres for their work in Loneliness and Social Isolation.
Stephen Bennett MP, Burnett LNP, said:
“I want to discuss the Laidley Community Centre, which is one of 140 neighbourhood and community centres around Queensland responding to loneliness and social isolation in our community. Neighbourhood centres are place based social infrastructure that foster connection, belonging, participation and inclusion. Neighbourhood centres welcome everyone regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion, age or social status and by their very nature build connections between individuals and organisations, particularly those who are isolated, vulnerable or disenfranchised.
Alana Wahl, the manager of the Laidley Community Centre, really impressed with her presentation. This centre supports the Queensland Families and Communities Association’s submission, the peak body of neighbourhood centres. Overwhelmingly there was a consistent message of trying to increase investment to get more workers into neighbourhood centres, as well as to help cover overhead costs; strength based awareness campaigns emphasising the role of these centres, creating increased awareness of centres as hubs of socially isolated individuals; and enhancing neighbourhood centres’ digital and physical infrastructure to connect isolated communities and individuals using hybrid online and in-person methods. The association also talked about the reporting frameworks, which were something that I found really interesting.
I want to give a shout-out to all of those neighbourhood centres that we visited. They are such a passionate bunch of people doing amazing work and they are a resource. The Queensland government has put some extra capacity in those organisations already out of one of the recommendations, and funding is the best thing we could give towards these community-led, place based solutions in our communities. I also want to give a shout-out for the neighbourhood centre at Agnes Water. It has been trying to get a more permanent stature and its funding has increased as well, and we would love to see a purpose-built facility for that community.
The committee heard submissions that for over 25 years neighbourhood centres have been providing homelessness services here in Brisbane and they know firsthand how homelessness, health, inequality, poverty, intergenerational trauma and interpersonal violence and abuse from partners are disconnecting people from services and family. We know that this disconnection forces individuals and families into homelessness, creates barriers to employment and on it goes. I again give a big shout-out to our neighbourhood centres and all committee members.
As I said at the beginning, my time on this inquiry in particular was a most rewarding time and I am glad that this House has shone a light on this issue. I was a bit sceptical to start with, but as time went on we met wonderful Queenslanders doing amazing work and that goes to show the role we can play in making sure that our communities are a better place. Let us ensure that our neighbourhood centres are resourced to do the work that they do. Thanks to the secretariat and everyone involved. I look forward to making social isolation and loneliness a thing of the past in Queensland.
Michael Berkman, Greens MP for Maiwar, said:
“While I am speaking of the need for increased investment, I want to turn to the central role that neighbourhood and community centres occupied in this inquiry. Perhaps the only thing more apparent than the need to increase funding for neighbourhood and community centres was the absolutely pivotal role that they play in supporting their local communities. We had the privilege of visiting and hearing from staff and volunteers at more neighbourhood and community centres than I could possibly recall in the time I have available. It was really extraordinary to see the amount of, for example, food support that they offered through OzHarvest, the variety of activities and supports that were on offer for young and old and the diversity of these centres that was driven by the needs of those communities that they serve. We are going to see some really interesting numbers come out soon, I understand, from Neighbourhood Centres Queensland, formerly the QFCA, when they release their sector impact report. In closing, I would like to drive home the point that what we need now is a firm commitment to dramatically increase funding for these community hubs. We really do not need another review.”
Robert Skelton, Labor MP for Nicklin, said:
“Through site visits to some of the 127 community centres around the state, we saw the fantastic work of social workers, social work students, link workers, volunteers and students on work placements in tackling this issue. To support the important work of neighbourhood and community centres, the committee recommends the establishment of a network of frontline professionals involved in preventing and responding to social isolation and loneliness. It also recommends that the Queensland government explore more opportunities to place work students in neighbourhood and community centres across Queensland to build the capacity of workers while nurturing university partnerships.”
“To ensure neighbourhood and community centres have the resources they need, the committee recommends the government review the funding model for neighbourhood centres across Queensland, including a consideration of measures to help stabilise the workforce, retain corporate knowledge and help ensure centres are best positioned to meet the emerging needs of their communities. I thank Chris Mundy from Neighbourhood Centres Queensland for providing my office with a bit more information.”
Leanne Enoch, Labor MP for Algester, said:
“We are fortunate that we had and continue to have services and supports that encourage and increase social and community connections. At the forefront of this is our network of more than 125 Queensland government funded neighbourhood and community centres. The COVID-19 pandemic further demonstrated the value of these centres that are the backbone of their local communities. Many of the neighbourhood and community centres adapted and embraced technology throughout the COVID-19 pandemic so they could continue service delivery and support their local communities. That is why the Palaszczuk government has supported each of Queensland’s funded neighbourhood and community centres with an additional $20,000, to help respond to increased demand for services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently working with neighbourhood and community centres and their peak body, Neighbourhood Centres Queensland, to make these centres even stronger and more responsive to their local communities.”
“I was also pleased recently to announce that the Palaszczuk government has delivered on its commitment to employ neighbourhood and Care Army connect workers in 15 communities across the state. They will build on the legacy of the Care Army by linking volunteers with organisations, including neighbourhood and community centres, in their local areas, helping Queenslanders be more engaged and connected with their communities. I am proud that the Palaszczuk government has provided $1.7 million towards this important initiative and partnered with Volunteering Queensland to deliver it.”
“We have also been supporting our frontline housing and homelessness services to work directly with people to help develop tenancy and support connections. The Queensland Housing and Homelessness Action Plan includes a commitment to stronger, safer and more inclusive communities across our state. Action 10 commits to building social inclusion and participation by leveraging community infrastructure, including neighbourhood and community centres, to provide access to support services, make art more accessible in the community and provide spaces for creation of art and social activities.“
Lance McCallum, Labor MP for Bundamba, said:
“I want to make special mention of our neighbourhood and community centres and give a particular shout-out to my local neighbourhood centres: Goodna Neighbourhood House and community centres in Riverview and Redbank Plains. I also mention the magnificent work undertaken by the African Youth Support Council at Redbank Plains. They all provide places of connection and places of community, where people can come together. We have so many other groups that provide these valuable spaces. I commend this report to the House. I thank the committee, particularly the chair, for what is an excellent report.”
Published: 1 April, 2022