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LAHC stops funding for Waterloo Community Positions

LAHC has verbally advised Counterpoint Community Services that it will not extend the funding for the Waterloo Community Development, Aboriginal Liaison and bi-lingual educators (Russian and Chinese) past the end of June 2020.

Community organisations, early in the master planning process, negotiated these independent tenant support positions with FACS/LAHC. The positions were initially delivered through Counterpoint Community Services and Inner Sydney Voice with the Waterloo Public Housing Action Group under the general umbrella of the Groundswell agencies. 

In large LAHC redevelopment projects, community development positions are common and continue through the full construction and post construction life of the community. In Waterloo where LAHC funded the positions for the Master Planning process the funding will now stop, even though agencies have argued the positions are required long term as for other existing major LAHC communities. By tying the positions to the master planning LAHC does not need to continue to fund them after the master plan consultation. Since LAHC produced its preferred plan, the agencies have fought to gain funding extensions.

LAHC has not undertaken the promised consultations about human services and community facilities. It has also not consulted the community about the changes made in the new Waterloo South plan and presumably, it also does not plan to consult on its revised plans for the redevelopment of the existing Waterloo towers in Waterloo North and Central.

LAHC now has its Options testing consultation report to meet its planning requirements and with formal consultation on the rezoning being undertaken by Council, LAHC feels there is no longer a need to fund these positions.

The situation is compounded by the LAHC / FACS split last year. Before the split, roles that had both a people and redevelopment component were funded by FACS without having to negotiate who was responsible for what between different departments.

FACS has historically funded community development activities in Redfern and Waterloo in part through the UNSW Community Development Project (CDP) and for a long-time through the Redfern and Waterloo Housing Communities Project (HCP). The UNSW CDP was defunded leaving activities like the community gardens to administer themselves. HCP was never replaced when the Tenant Participation Resources Service (TPRS) was restructured into the state-wide Mission Australia run Tenant Participation and Community Engagement (TPCE). Since the TPCE restructure, not only were the place based HCP activities lost, but according to many tenants a lot of the NAB and tenant support functions have gone backwards from when they were supported by local organisations.

The Waterloo redevelopment positions helped to cover some holes left by the defunding of community development positions, however since the separation, LAHC is retreating into a planning only cluster and insisting it is the FACS successor, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) cluster that should handle all dealings with tenants.

The promised Waterloo Human Service Plan is caught between the two Departments and now the Community Development roles look also to be a victim of the split and LAHC’s retreat from the people part of housing.

REDWatch is of the view that, as with the Waterloo human services plan, LAHC and DCJ need to sit down and work out which is taking responsibility for ongoing community development activities in Waterloo. Nothing should be left to just fall between the FACS split cracks. Ideally, there would be a transition plan from the old FACS structure to the new separated LAHC / DCJ roles but we are not sure, given the discontinuation of the earlier community development projects and what has happened with TPCE, that DCJ sees a need for, or value in, local community development activity in its largest public housing estate. LAHC may see the value in it, but not see it as something LAHC should pay for.

The community has two weeks before we lose staff, like Adam, Pam, Denise and Mila. The Waterloo Redevelopment Group will lose its secretarial and tenant support. LAHC defunded the Capacity Building position last December. These workers have built up relationships and trust within the community. A solution urgently needs to be found!

As a post script: DCJ and LAHC need to be clear that we are talking about two different roles for Waterloo; there is what is needed for community development and there is what is needed to deliver a Human Services Plan. They are not the same even though there is some overlap!

This item ran in the 16 June 2020 REDWatch Email Update