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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 826

Mr HAYES (7:20 PM) —Last year the Liberal and Independent councillors in the Liverpool City Council made a decision to close down or relocate public libraries in Miller, Green Valley, Moorebank and Casula. I am happy to inform members of the House that those very same councillors have now backflipped and have used the first council meeting of the year to reverse their plan. It took months of campaigning by local residents, with the support of Labor councillors and the state member for Liverpool, Mr Paul Lynch, for the individuals in question to realise that they simply cannot take away such valuable resources from the community. What particularly ignited the local residents to fight was the fact that their views and needs were not being taken into account as there was no community consultation prior to the original decision being taken.

The result of this ballot is a true victory for local people, a triumph for common sense and, importantly, a demonstration of what a community can do through commitment and conviction. The message from local residents was clear from the very beginning: libraries are so important to local residents that they are worth fighting for.

Most of us think of a library as a quiet and peaceful environment in which to study, conduct research or attend various classes and workshops. But for some people a library is a place to have access to resources, particularly computer technology that is necessary to complete school work and other tasks such as accessing online job applications. The fact is that some parents do not have the financial capacity to provide their kids with the resources to give them the best opportunity to learn and so their best chance for the future. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many parents in some of the less privileged areas of Western Sydney.

Local libraries by their very nature are particularly significant to students, most importantly those in their final years of schooling. Allowing each student the best possible opportunity to reach their potential is a social responsibility. In some cases, providing resources in public areas such as libraries is simply essential. In areas with high levels of community housing, where most people have limited access to personal space for study, the local library takes on an even more significance. Clearly, local libraries are an invaluable space for individuals to study, to undertake tutoring and to complete work tasks in a quiet and peaceful environment with fewer distractions.

The battle to keep libraries in the Liverpool area open brought to light a number of stories from individuals whose views were clearly not taken into account by the councillors who made the decision in the first place. One particular story was highlighted by a letter from a 10-year-old girl, Zeinab Afiouni, who wrote to a colleague of mine, the Mayor of Liverpool City Council, Wendy Waller, pleading for her library not to be closed as she said it was ‘her favourite place in the world’. She said reading was her favourite activity, and closing the library would make her very ‘sad and angry’. And that was a fact for a lot of young people.

I commend the Labor councillors of Liverpool City Council and the state member, Mr Paul Lynch, for standing up for their community and assisting local residents to win a battle that was all about their kids’ future. However, I strongly believe it should not have taken many months of community backlash, media pressure and, I might add, the onset of a state election campaign to overturn the closing of local libraries. Such an anti-community initiative should never, ever have been contemplated in the first place. It was taking away something of such value to the community, particularly a community that in many instances has not been dealt the best hand in life. Local libraries are significant for everyone from preschoolers through to senior citizens. To take them away goes against common sense and any commitment to advancing the real needs of local communities. I am extremely proud of local members for what they have been able to achieve and I am extremely proud of my community for standing up for what they regard as significance community values.