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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9737

Mr MELHAM (Banks) (11:37): I rise to speak on the motion appearing in my name on the Notice Paper of 23 August 2011, which acknowledges the contribution of community groups in my electorate and generally the role those groups play in all communities. The people behind our community organisations are those who see the things that need to be changed and the things that need to be fixed and who, without fanfare, just do it. These are the individuals and groups in our communities who work together to achieve the most remarkable things, very often doing it on a tight budget. The initiative and ingenuity of community organisations to make every cent work for themselves is well known.

In recent years we have experienced a global economic crisis. Again, community organisations were on the front line to meet the challenge of the rising demand for emergency relief services. Those organisations saw the human toll of economic downturn and the changing profile of people asking for help: families under pressure to make mortgage payments and older people whose retirement savings had plummeted in value because other nations had fallen into recession. Thousands of Australians participate in the vibrant not-for-profit sector across our communities. Not-for-profit community organisations provide valuable opportunities for social and economic participation and are vital for the development of healthy and integrated communities. Community centres are where people go for many reasons. It could be for material support or to learn a skill or to speak about a problem in a language other than English or to get some support when times are tough or simply to have a chat with someone who cares. Our community organisations are in the front line and reflect their community's needs and aspirations. For that reason alone, they have their fingers on the pulse of the communities in which they operate.

I have in the past spoken in this place specifically about the Pole Depot, on 17 November 2010, and the Riverwood Community Centre, on 8 August 2007. I have since acknowledged the remarkable contribution they make to the communities they serve. Today I wish to acknowledge the work of the management committee at Pole Depot, who make an outstanding contribution in support of the centre manager, Kim Buhagiar. They are Lesley Pullen, Catherine Swankie, Robin Bevan, William Osmo, Norm Sandstrom, Greg Kent, Bruce Terlecki, Karen Mack, James Kelly, and Marcus Ho. Similarly, I wish to acknowledge the management committee of Riverwood Community Centre, who support the manager, Pauline Gallagher. They are Pam Child, Margaret Horder, Annie Organ, Frank Chaaban, Janeen Horne, Beverley Dangers, Madge Underwood, Robert Nittolo, Cheryl Field, John Boland, Neale Owen, Hanna Diab, and Fayyaz Laghari. I know these people and know of their personal commitment to the organisations they serve. I know many of them are active in other spheres in the community. They donate more than just their time; they contribute their expertise to the smooth running of the organisation.

The detail of the work of the Chinese Australian Services Society, CASS, has become known to me recently, with the change of the boundaries in my electorate. While the main office is in Kogarah, in the federal seat of Barton—and well known to my colleague the Attorney-General—its work extends into Hurstville, now part of the seat of Banks. CASS describes itself as a community advancement cooperative society and non-profit charitable organisation servicing more than 2,000 migrant families weekly. CASS was founded in 1981, with its main service objective being to provide a wide range of welfare services to the community, assisting migrants to settle and integrate into the Australian society. Through the provision of multicultural interaction and activities, it fosters better understanding and the building of friendly relationships among the different communities. It also promotes the understanding of Chinese culture and develops children's interest in arts and culture.

CASS focuses its activities in areas such as child care; health, ageing and disability; migrant settlement; education and training; and personal development and counselling. A few months ago I attended the opening, by Minister Butler, of its latest venture, a new aged-care facility in Hurstville. I caught up with the chairperson, Dr Leng Tan, and the two vice chairs, Mr Peng Baim and Mr Dominic Sin. Not surprisingly, and as with the members of other organisations, these men are active in the broader community.

Since its inception, CASS has played two roles concurrently. On the one hand, it is a community services provider and, on the other hand, it is a general communal association, organising cultural, social and recreational activities, so as to foster the exchanges of people in the community. CASS sees the two roles as complementary. A community services provider requires the support and assistance of a large number of volunteers and grassroots people to enable it to do its work well. Through social and recreational activities, volunteers and grassroots people can become tied together to form a cohesive force to assist the community services provider to deliver its services. In this, CASS is reflective of all other community organisations.

Mortdale Community Services, MCS, has been assisting its community since 1971, when it was established as Georges River Community Services. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible services to people of all ages in the local community. MCS provides services for people residing in the St George area, in particular the Hurstville City Council area and neighbouring suburbs, depending on the type of program. Some of its services include visiting, shopping and sitting with an older person; helping with social activities for the aged; fundraising; occasional child care; adult leisure learning; and English tuition. The management committee is headed up by Marie Hudson, who works with the other committee members, Kevin Reid, Joan Vaughan, Keith Pasley, Alice Lehane, Heather Johnson and Reg Walker, to deliver the MCS services.

Padstow Community Centre is an agency set up as a charity under the umbrella of Padstow Baptist Church. It offers a range of services to the immediate community: emergency relief; counselling services in the areas of employment, finance, child and family; welfare services for the aged and underprivileged in the community; and a community bargain centre. The community centre is in the process of moving to its new premises, under the guidance of Shirley Wendt and Grant Heslop. The focus of the centre is expressed through its mission of 'Serving the community through acts of compassion, mercy and support'.

The Community Services Alliance is an umbrella organisation in the process of becoming an incorporated body for Pole Dept, Kogarah Community Services and St George Community Services. The General Manager of St George Community Services is Christine Spackman. Its services include home maintenance and modifications; multicultural domestic assistance; a meals delivery service; bus and home shopping and social outings; a stroke support group; dementia day care; and social support. It should go without saying that the Salvation Army, with a Chinese corps at Hurstville and a corps at Narwee, is very active in the community. The Salvos continue the tradition of providing for the needy and those in need of support through difficult times. St Vincent de Paul operates its services locally—at Riverwood, Mortdale, Hurstville and Bankstown. Uniting Care operates locally in Hurstville, Peakhurst, Beverly Hills and Oatley, through Lifeline, aged care services and providing support for children, young people and families.

All these organisations have been assisted by the government, and that includes governments of all persuasions. I suspect that this is truly an area of genuine bipartisanship. This government has recognised that we do have a patchwork economy. For that reason, it has gone to great lengths to make sure that the most vulnerable in our community receive the support they need. The government does that with emergency relief, with financial counselling and with money management schemes such as the No Interest Loan Scheme, or NILS, and the Saver Plus scheme that are both currently operating. No interest loans help people on low incomes make household purchases—to meet unexpected costs such as buying a new washing machine. The popular program is delivered nationally by local community organisations in partnership with Good Shepherd Youth and Family Services and NAB.

Under the government's Family Support Program, the recent announcement by Minister Macklin outlined support to community organisations which will share in more than one billion dollars over the next three years to support local families. A range of family and children's services will share in $588 million, and a further $453 million dollars will support family law services.

These community organisations in my electorate are the glue that hold our communities together. Without them and without the many thousands of hours of volunteer support that is given, our communities would be the worse for it. It is incumbent on government to assist these organisations in a real way, and my notice of motion is about acknowledging and recognising the invaluable contribution of these community organisations, their staff and the volunteers. The determination of these people to ensure that those who are in difficulty or who need support is vital to the social health of our communities. Their advocacy is legend and their commitment is endless. The defining feature of these organisations is that they focus on delivery of a myriad of services to the community in which they are embedded. The operational success of our community organisations is driven by the community that they serve.

I am formally moving this motion as it appears in my name to recognise the outstanding contribution of these community organisations and to ensure that the House confirms its ongoing commitment to assisting these organisations in achieving their goals. It is one of those areas in which, as I said, there is bipartisan support. Everyone in the parliament, I think, supports the sentiment of the motion that is before us.