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You are here: Home / Our Community / Local Human Services NGO Updates / Looking for Premises in Redfern Waterloo - the South Sydney Community Aid experience

Looking for Premises in Redfern Waterloo - the South Sydney Community Aid experience

The sale of the Redfern Public School saw tenants such as South Sydney Community Aid have to look for alternative accommodation in the area. Following they have documented their experience. Their story highlights the problems facing smaller NGO’s delivering human services in Redfern Waterloo in finding and being able to get funding support for suitable accommodation to deliver their services.

Looking for Premises in Redfern Waterloo - the South Sydney Community Aid experience

The process of finding alternative accommodation was an exhausting process; the Board of Directors sent so many letters to different government departments trying to get assistance for the relocation into an appropriate accommodation.

Many of the letters the Board wrote were to Ministers and Government department heads and they were not responded to.

We sent two requests to Frank Sartor for help with no written reply.

The Department of Housing representative informed me that they have a lot of commercial property in the area however they want commercial rent for it. In one of our very first meetings with Robert Domm from the Redfern Waterloo Authority we requested to move into the Department of Housings old Street Team building. That was the property I was told by Department of Housing representatives that they wanted market rent for.

I never received a reply to a more than eight page letter sent to John Becker outlining the agencies role in our community and the need for affordable rental accommodation.

The Benevolent Society a very big NGO who we were advised at one meeting had enough money to buy a building in the area were allocated the old Street Team building a collaboration between the Redfern Waterloo Authority and the Department of Housing as the Benevolent Society can afford to pay the big commercial market rents wanted for their commercial properties by the Department of Housing.

There was no good will or any assistance for our community organisation being offered by the Department of Housing towards South Sydney Community Aid multicultural Neighbourhood Centre.

I was appalled many times over the past six months at individual government departments.

Everyone in the community welfare sector knows that NGO's do not get money allocated in their budgets to pay market rent. The reason for this is that all government departments own 'public property'. Public property is not owned by an individual in a government organisation. It's owned by us the public. We entrust this property to their care, so that they will provide accommodation at peppercorn rental for community based welfare organisations.

We do not entrust this property to them so they can feather their departments financial nests.

We are going through what I call the 'Dark Ages' in relation to government departments and their responsibility to provide for the community welfare sector.

I meet Reba Meagher the Minister for the Department of Community Services at the recent NCOSS conference she asked me to put in writing to her what we needed and promised to see if DOCS could provide us with more funding to cover rent.

I met the Deputy Director General of DOCS Gul Yilmaz at the Neighbourhood Centre forum in March she said she'd look into the budget to see if they could give us some more money to cover the cost of private rental accommodation.

The Board of Directors met with Robbie McGuiness the Director of Partnerships and Planning for Metro Central, he advised them he could look to see if he had some spare money in his budget so we could pay market rent.

I was advised by phone after numerous calls to Robbie, that he was sending a briefing note to the Minister to say he had not been able to find money in his budget to help South Sydney Community Aid with private rental accommodation.

Therefore if we are unable to get extra funding from our funding bodies to pay private market rental and we are no longer being provided with 'public property' to deliver our community welfare services from by government agencies with us paying a small amount of token rent. Community welfare organisations will die and the community is going to suffer from a lack of community welfare service provision.

This information was a great blow to us, as by this time we had secured an arrangement with a new community partner and a rather big NGO Wesley Uniting Employment, they were happy to move into a private rental accommodation with us that we had secured just around the corner. After many months of negotiations with the Landlord and the Real Estate agent about the Renwick St property, Wesley Uniting Employment were offering to pay half of all the costs involved with setting up in new premises, neither the Department of Community Services or the Redfern Waterloo Authority would commit to financial assistance to top up our funding for the next three years so that we'd be able to secure this arrangement.

Wesley Uniting Employment were very disappointed when I advised them that we were unable to move forward with them.

At the recent NCOSS conference were told by DoCs that we had to start thinking laterally and that big charitable NGO's and smaller NGO's should work collaboratively together to meet the needs of the community. As I've just explained we did think laterally and we did find a fantastic and independent solution to our accommodation crisis. Government departments including our funding body DOCs needed to support this initiative and they didn't. So where does this leave us?

Where does this leave the community? What impact will this have over time including the destabilisation of NGO community welfare agencies as we get run into the ground? Why is this happening under the governance of a state run Labor government? Why has the Minister for Redfern, Waterloo The Hon Frank Earnest Sartor not assisted South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre with appropriate Neighbourhood Centre accommodation as was requested by the Board of Directors many months ago? Why has the Minister shown such disrespect to the community by not responding to our correspondence?

The Department of Education and Training continue to offer us accommodation at the School of Intensive English Language on Cleveland St., but were unable to assist us with accommodation in our area. The Board of Directors of South Sydney Community Aid advised them and the Redfern Waterloo Authority very early on that this accommodation was unsuitable. It's too far from our client base with no disability access up four flights of stairs.

We would also have been competing with Surry Hills Neighbourhood Centre for direct service delivery in the Strawberry Hills area. Government departments keep rabbiting on about not duplicating service delivery in areas, however they were obviously encouraging this by supporting the move into the School of Intensive English Language. We would no longer have been within the boundaries of the Redfern, Waterloo Consortium of which we are members.

South Sydney Leagues Club Board of Directors assisted us with the offer of interim accommodation downstairs at the Club we were very grateful for their offer of interim accommodation. We were relieved that there was goodwill towards our community from the Club. George Piggins Director and Chuck Driscoll the CEO were very concerned about the idea of a local Neighbourhood Centre having nowhere to operate from and what impact that would have on this community.

We were also offered a welcoming respite from the anxiety of our depressing accommodation crisis, when the absolutely wonderful Helen Cambell from Redfern Legal Centre contacted the Board of Directors to advise them that Redfern Legal Centre's Board of Directors would welcome South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre to co-locate upstairs at Redfern Town Hall if we were able to secure permission from the Council of the City of Sydney.

We received excellent and ongoing consultation and support from CEO Faye Williams of the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development.

During the past months we had written to Clover the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney for accommodation assistance. We wrote letters to the Deputy Lord Mayor Verity Firth and Councillor Marcelle Hoff , A/CEO Monica Barone requesting help with appropriate Neighbourhood Centre accommodation in our area.

The Board of Directors of South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre were relentless in their pursuit of a solution for our accommodation crisis.

We were invited by the Council of the City of Sydney to apply for accommodation under their Accommodation Grants Program. We were thrilled that we were being considered for assistance in the first round of applications for existing tenants.

The Board of Directors wrote to Clover at her Bligh office and received promising responses from her the only politician that we had asked for help who responded to our requests. She demanded a response from the Minister for Redfern, Waterloo the Hon Frank Sartor about our accommodation crisis.

Negotiations between South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre, the Redfern Waterloo Authority and the Council of the City of Sydney finally came to fruition.

We have been offered interim accommodation by the Council of the City of Sydney at the Alexandria Town Hall for the next six months we will be open for the community at 73 Garden St, Alexandria on the 1st June 2006.

If there is a link between government and the community welfare sector and providing services for disadvanted people in our community. It's quite clear that the local government the Council of the City of Sydney is committed to assisting in this respect for our community.

The Board of Directors and staff of South Sydney Community Aid Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre would like to thank Clover, Verity, Marcelle and Monica. They'd also like to thank Nette Griggs from the Redfern Waterloo Authority for her persistence in assisting to get us out of the accommodation crisis that the sale of the school had put us in.

Jan Leach