Centres fear service cuts
Pilbara community and neighbourhood centre staff have expressed concern the local services they offer could be severely diminished if a set of proposed State Government changes to their sector are implemented in coming months.
The Department of Local Government and Communities met with WA community centre representatives, including some from the Pilbara, in Perth last week over a proposal WA community centre peak body Linkwest claims will cut about $6.5 million from sector funding across the State.
Under the changes, community centres would have their services divided into two categories; one for individual and family services and one for communities and their management put out to a competitive tendering process which external agencies could apply for.
Pilbara community centres expected to be affected are the Shire of Ashburton’s Nintirri Centre and Karingal Neighbourhood Centre, the Karratha Family Centre and Yaandina Family Centre and the Newman Neighbourhood Centre.
Nintirri Centre chief executive James Jarvis said while the centre was large enough to survive if the cuts came in, its ability to deliver programs would be affected.
“(Our centre) has been operating since the early 90s, so you’re looking at risking more than 20 years of brand and reputation and belonging in the community,” he said.
“I’ve heard it said to me Nintirri is the heart of Tom Price.
“Wellbeing is the health of the community. You start taking those things away, you’re starting to impact the health of the community.”
Mr Jarvis said fostering community connections and preventing social issues from flaring up was very important in mining towns dominated by young families without other family connections.
Karratha Family Centre coordinator Bess Flanigan said staff and clients at the smaller centre were very concerned about the proposed changes and how they might be affected. “We’ve got upwards of 40 or 50 families who are here on a regular basis and we do school readiness, playgroups . . . cybersafety workshops and protective behaviour workshops,” she said.
“We would either have to start charging more for programs or start charging for programs we don’t charge for, or close the doors.”
Linkwest is lobbying for the Government to re-consider the proposed cuts, calling them the most severe in its 40-year history.
Linkwest chief executive Jane Chilcott said if implemented, the changes threatened to reduce the important preventative and grassroots community care the centres offered.