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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 551

Senator XENOPHON (7:02 PM) —I rise to speak tonight on the Parks Community Centre and the Black Hill Pony Club in my home state of South Australia. Both of these organisations are community based, not-for-profit groups dedicated to providing people in their area with somewhere to come together over a shared interest. Both of these organisations’ futures are now in doubt, thanks to the South Australian government.

In both cases, the Rann government has decided to sell off the group’s land to be developed into housing. In the case of the Parks Community Centre, that will mean depriving the local community of the only aquatic centre in Adelaide’s western suburbs with both indoor and outdoor pools; a gym, including two full-size courts that are used for regular sporting competitions; the home grounds and playing fields for over 50 sports groups and clubs; a library, which caters for English classes, basic computer skills classes, a wide range of foreign language services and children’s story time sessions; two theatres, one seating 157 people and the other 232 people; additional facilities housing health and parents’ and children’s services; and valuable community services for new settlers in Australia, including refugees.

It will not, however, deprive the community of the Hells Angels headquarters, literally across the street. South Australian Premier Mike Rann promised back in 2002 that his government would demolish bikie fortresses as part of his campaign against outlaw motorcycle gangs—and I commend the Premier for his campaign against outlaw motorcycle gangs. Even earlier, as opposition leader back in 1996, he spoke out against the then Liberal government’s plans to close the Parks centre. He said that closing the centre would be:

… a fundamental assault by the Liberal Government on the western suburbs.

Now, Premier Rann’s government has announced it will go so far as to provide $10 million to replace state government funded health and community services currently based at the Parks, but will not do anything to replace the other facilities. It is my understanding that six schools in the area are also targeted for closure due to the development of a super school campus. This will obviously mean the loss of those schools’ facilities in addition to the Parks centre.

Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson, whose municipality covers the Parks, has campaigned tirelessly for his community on this issue. He has serious concerns about the effect this closure will have on the community, particularly on young people in the area. With the western suburbs being one of the most culturally diverse areas of Adelaide, Mayor Johanson is worried about an increase in interracial violence, given that young people will not have the common ground of sport and other activities to come together. The Parks has provided such a valuable role, particularly for new settlers and groups of culturally diverse backgrounds, and that is a good thing. Mayor Johanson is also concerned that this area’s low socioeconomic status may mean that a new community funded centre is not an option, and that residents may not be able to afford to travel to other facilities.

Across the other side of town, in the foothills, the Black Hill Pony Club is facing a similar situation to the Parks. The state government has decided to sell the Magill Youth Training Centre and the adjacent land used by the club for housing. This is apparently to fund a new youth training centre at Cavan.

Black Hill Pony Club has been on this site for over 30 years. Originally a dump for everything from old cars to bricks from the nearby kiln, pony club volunteers have rehabilitated the site, including improving the water catchment area it also covers. Through fundraising and hard work, the club has turned this wasteland into an area boasting riding and agistment facilities for the club’s 200-plus members, as well as disabled riders. Black Hill’s most recent investment was in a new jumping arena worth $20,000—all funded through club volunteers.

But Black Hill does not fit the stereotype of a wealthy club with lavish grounds and facilities. Like most SA pony clubs, it has been built by community volunteers wielding hammers and paint brushes. Members who can afford to also make contributions to the club so that other children in the area, who would otherwise not be able to afford to ride, can come back to Black Hill and make use of the club’s resources.

Black Hill now has until the end of November this year to find new premises, which will most likely be at least an hour’s drive away. For members who keep their horses on the pony club premises, it means either finding somewhere else to agist, or selling their horses. The club expects it will lose many members if it has to relocate to somewhere in the Adelaide Hills, where it will also be in direct competition with many other pony clubs.

The pony club movement offers children and teenagers a friendly, social environment where they—and their families—can learn how to ride and care for their horses. Pony club competitions cover all disciplines and skill levels, and many Olympic medallists got their first taste of winning while dressed in their club colours—including South Australian gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer and silver medallist Megan Jones. Equally, many riders who want the experience without the pressure have found a place at their local club. If Black Hill is forced to move, it will leave the eastern foothills without a club at all.

I would like to acknowledge the work of the member for Sturt and the state member for Morialta in relation to this. Both members have dedicated time and resources to assisting the club. This has included circulating a petition which, I understand, was signed by over 3½ thousand people within four weeks.

Of course, the irony in both of these situations is that the Rann government is one of the most vocal when it comes to running campaigns about youth and community fitness. Currently, the state government runs multiple campaigns and programs aimed at improving the health of South Australians. These include the Eat Well Be Active and Be Active campaigns, both of which are aimed at young people. In fact, the Office for Recreation and Sport website proudly boasts the tagline: ‘Building active, healthy communities.’

The recent state budget included a total of nearly $37 million to run the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing. It also included an additional $20 million over the next four years to increase the Office for Recreation and Sports grants program. The budget papers state: ‘The community has benefited through the provision of high-quality recreation and sport opportunities appropriate and accessible for all South Australians.’ But look a bit closer and you will find that the number of state active recreation and sport facilities developed or maintained has remained at 25 since the 2007-08 financial year when it rose, by one, from 24.

Back in 2003, the state government formed the Ministerial Physical Activity Forum, which led to the establishment of the Physical Activity Council. The council was responsible for creating the state physical activity strategy, which formed the basis of the Be Active campaign. The strategy covers the years 2004 to 2008. I can find no information to indicate that the strategy has been updated or that a new one has been written. One of the 2004 strategy goals is to:

Ensure all relevant government policy, planning and legislation enhances opportunities for physical activity participation.

The strategy also outlines specific goals to be met for supportive environments:

Promote excellence in the location, design, construction, management and use of facilities and public spaces that encourage participation in intentional and incidental physical activity.

How does forcing these two facilities to close fit into this strategy? How does selling the land out from under local clubs and community facilities help to build active, healthy communities? And can the Premier explain why his government has spent tens of millions of dollars on encouraging South Australians to be active and is now taking away their means to do so with the closure of these two facilities? Or maybe the government no longer sees this as a priority, given that it has not updated its physical activity strategy.

There is more to being healthy than just the physical side, although obviously this plays an important part. Being healthy means being mentally as well as physically fit, and that means being engaged, making new friends, learning new things and being involved in activities—both physical and mental—that are important to you. Kurt Vonnegut, the author, once said:

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

When the South Australian government plans to close these facilities and sell the land for development, it does not just take away a place to exercise; it takes away places where people come together as friends, teams and communities with common goals and interests. It takes away places where people learn new skills and share their knowledge. And it takes away places where kids from all backgrounds can have a chance to shine.

If we want kids and adults to be healthy in every way, we need to support grassroots organisations like these. We cannot underestimate their importance. I want to make it clear that we do need more affordable housing in South Australia. But the state government needs to make sure this does not come at the expense of local communities, our lifestyle and our environment. I urge the South Australian government to reconsider its plans for the Parks Community Centre and the Black Hill Pony Club. If it does not, it risks being the government that does exactly the opposite of what it claims and creating inactive, unhealthy communities.