In the lead up to the 2023 NSW state election, LCSA and the NSW Council for Social Service (NCOSS) held a series of Local Candidate Roundtables, hosted by Neighbourhood and Community Centres.
The six roundtable meetings aimed to shine a light on the critical role that Neighbourhood & Community Centres play in supporting local communities and the need for the NSW Government to properly resource them through dedicated core funding. The basis for this argument and the starting point for each of the discussions held with the candidates came from LCSA’s Policy Platform.
Participating Electorates & Local Organisations
The Local Candidate Roundtables were held in the following NSW electorates:
- Tweed – Hosted by Pottsville Beach Neighbourhood Centre (28 February)
- Ballina – Hosted by Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre (1 March)
- Lismore – Hosted by Northern Rivers Community Gateway (1 March)
- Penrith – Hosted by Nepean Community & Neighbourhood Services (6 March)
- The Entrance and Wyong – Hosted by Yerin Eleanor Aboriginal Health Services (8 March)
- Bankstown and Canterbury – Hosted by Canterbury City Community Centre (9 March)
Candidates had the opportunity to hear from the Centre Manager, volunteers and community members about the incredible work, aspirations and ongoing needs of each host organisation. Anthony Brown (Acting EO of LCSA) and Joanna Quilty (CEO of NCOSS), highlighted the response to recent natural disasters as one of many reasons to advocate for the recognition of Neighbourhood & Community Centres as essential social infrastructure and called on candidates to commit to supporting a new stream of core funding so organisations don’t have to rely on program-based funding to try and cover staffing and operational costs.
Response from Candidates
Most of the candidates who participated in the roundtable discussions acknowledged the challenges and difficulties that local community-led organisations face, with the growing demand for support coming through their doors due to increased cost of living, the current housing crisis and the impact of multiple natural disasters and the COVID pandemic.
To coincide with the Local Candidate Roundtables, joint letters from LCSA & NCOSS were sent to the relevant Ministers from the two major parties, however both Natasha Maclaren Jones, Minister for Families and Communities and the Minister for Disability Services (LP) and Kate Washington, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services, and Shadow Minister for Disability Inclusion (ALP) - were reluctant to commit to any major funding announcements for Neighbourhood & Community Centres in the lead up to the NSW State Election.
However, during the roundtable meetings, The Greens NSW published their support for the full implementation of the LCSA Policy Platform as well as a number of other important initiatives through their Supporting the Social Services Sector announcement, which LCSA & NCOSS welcomed.
Many candidates who attended the roundtables (particularly the minor party and independent ones) were unaware of the lack of core funding for Neighbourhood & Community Centres, which provided a great opportunity to raise their awareness of the issue and many responded by committing to advocate for either ongoing funding for their local Neighbourhood & Community Centre, or core funding for all Neighbourhood & Community Centres in NSW.
Regardless of the NSW state election results, we look forward to working with the NSW Government and promoting the opportunity to invest in essential social infrastructure through a formal partnership with LCSA and through the provision of ongoing realistic core funding for Neighbourhood & Community Centres in NSW.
Image credit: The photograph above was taken at Mullumbimby & District Neighbourhood Centre during the Local Candidate Roundtable for the Ballina electorate.