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Funding for young mums, swim and dance lessons?

The Settlement Neighbourhood Centre in Redfern is set to expand its community programs after receiving a $100,000 donation from Queensland mining magnate, Peter Bond. The Linc Energy CEO made the donation after spending ten days in Redfern as part of Channel Nine’s reality TV series, The Secret Millionaire reports Flint Duxfield in the South Sydney Herald of December 2009.

Chairperson of the Settlement management committee, Joel Pringle, said the Centre was extremely grateful for the support provided by Mr Bond. “Something like this makes a huge difference to a neighbourhood centre like the Settlement which is traditionally quite underfunded,” he said.

Mr Bond, whose estimated wealth is over half a billion dollars, said he initially planned to donate $50,000 up front and provide more funding in following years. But after spending time at the Settlement, he realised the importance of providing the funding without any conditions.

“The feedback was that they don’t get a lot of money without strings attached to it. I was going to try to control it, but I thought what if these people aren’t here in the years to come? Let’s give them the most we can right now.”

Mr Bond said he was inspired to donate the money after witnessing the dedication of local people at organisations like the Settlement and the Shop, which he visited whilst filming the show.

“If you’d asked me before I went there what I expected to find in the community, I probably would have given a stereotypical answer about drug and alcohol problems. But after spending ten days working with people like those at the Settlement, I walked away filled with hope and optimism because here are people working hard to break the cycle of difficulties that the community faces.”

According to Manager, Vicky Winters, the Settlement is Australia’s oldest neighbourhood centre, providing cultural, health and educational services for the local community for over 100 years. It runs on an annual budget of around $300,000 with which it assists around 80 young people and adults each week through a drop-in centre, after school care and other community programs.

Exactly how the funds will be spent is yet to be decided. Ms Withers said there are a number of options on the table and proposals are still being accepted from community members about how the money should be used.

“We’re thinking about starting a young mums’ group to get young mums into a space where they can interact publicly with their children. We’re also hoping to use it for some new initiatives for the kids like a swimming program or dance lessons,” she said.

Ms Winters said there was also the option of buying a community bus. “That would allow us to transport more people to events like Karate competitions which some of the kids take part in and also to do more spontaneous work like picking up local youth and taking them swimming.”

Roxanne Briggs of Canterbury has been visiting the Settlement for over 17 years. She has four children aged 6 to 14 who regularly visit the Settlement and take part in its activities. “The kids love the Settlement, especially the homework centre. It’s because it’s so warm and friendly. I don’t know what the community would do if it wasn’t here,” she said.

While the Settlement is grateful for the money provided by Mr Bond, Ms Winters says more funding is needed to finance much needed building upgrades.

The Settlement has applied for $300,000 through the State Government’s Community Building Partnership scheme to fund the upgrade. Residents of the Marrickville electorate were invited to vote for the Settlement’s proposal alongside 13 other community projects through a ballot system organised by the Member for Marickville, Carmel Tebbutt.

Ms Withers said the Settlement had made it through to the second round of the selection process for the grant and was hoping to receive at least part of the funding requested when the recipients are announced in early December.      

If the Settlement doesn’t receive the funding it needs, it may be able to look to Peter Bond to provide additional assistance. Mr Bond said he was planning on visiting the Settlement again before Christmas and hinted that there could be further funding available for the Centre.

“I might go back and give them additional money if need be,” he said.

Photo: Ali Blogg - Caption: Vicky Winters

Source: South Sydney Herald December 2009