Community Grants

March 03, 2020

I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020, and I want to talk about grants. There's been a lot of talk about grants today. I want to talk about the ones where my community groups, schools and environment groups have worked really hard to put together something that they hope is going to be assessed on merit. That's exactly what we have done with the grants programs that the government has asked members of parliament's offices to administer, with all the paperwork that that involves. We have put a high level of probity around it because we care and want to make sure that these grants are fair. This is important funding for these community groups, and they want to know that it's a level playing field.

The sports rorts affair has left a really bad taste in people's mouths about the quality of the assessment process by the government—not by the department, which clearly prioritised the grants that it thought would rate really high in terms of the criteria it had, but then that was just completely overturned and it came down to colour-coded decisions. So I want to talk about the panel that I put together to make sure that the Stronger Communities grants, the Local Schools Community Fund grants and the Communities Environment Program grants are properly assessed, and to talk about some of the people who have been successful in achieving those grants. I also want to point out an issue around grants, and that is that we get way more applications than any of these funds will allow to be distributed. For Stronger Communities grants, it isn't surprising for us to get more than a million dollars worth of applications for $150,000 worth of funding to be spread throughout my community. There is a huge need in the community for support for groups that are run by volunteers, for sporting facilities and for community facilities, to be able to keep on upgrading and meet the needs that are growing in the community. When governments step away from providing services, volunteers and the community step in, and they need support to do that. If a government, like this one, is going to continue to cut budgets for government-funded services, we really need to see a massive increase in the funds that we get to support our very hardworking volunteers and community groups—and I want to talk about some of those.

In the Hawkesbury, a huge number of organisations applied for grants under round 5 of Stronger Communities. We looked at each very seriously to see how it strengthened our community. I'll talk about some who were successful in their grant application. The Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association is a real cornerstone in our community. Our Hawkesbury Show takes place this year from 1 to 3 May—and I encourage everybody in this chamber to come and visit the Hawkesbury Show. It's the largest show in New South Wales outside the Royal Easter Show. It's much easier to navigate, much more fun and much but still an incredible show to visit. There is always the need for upgrading facilities at the showground, and the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Association does a huge amount on very little. So it's great to be able to provide them with an additional $10,000 to enable them to upgrade the amenities that they have there.

I was also very pleased to be able to support a not-for-profit aged-care facility in Windsor, Fitzgerald Aged Care. This is a really important organisation. One of the processes we have in place is that, when there is a personal connection to a place, we declare that and the panel makes decisions around it. I was on the board of this organisation many years ago, and so I have got to know it very well. The panel that I put together decided that we would be able to approve $10,000 for them to upgrade their gym equipment. There's nothing more important for older people than to keep physical and keep active, and the mini gym will do just that.

We also looked at providing funding for the Australian Foundation for Disability in South Windsor. Theirs was for interactive and sensory equipment. Again, it's the sort of thing that makes a difference to the quality of life for the community members who are there and brings more community members in to use the facilities.

I'm very pleased that the St Albans Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade have a very deserving electronic sign for fire danger. I'll talk more about them at a later date.

Let's turn to Wilberforce soccer. They have been trying to play soccer in the dark. That's what happens at Woodland Oval. The Hawkesbury Sports Council applied for lighting. This was something that I had hoped we would see happen. I made a commitment prior to the election, and on its merits it was considered by the panel as being a really worthy cause. I'm very pleased that that was able to happen. They'll receive $20,000 through the Hawkesbury Sports Council, which basically prioritises the projects. That will go to that wonderful Wilberforce soccer community.

Just before Christmas, I was able to celebrate Windsor Girl Guides' Stronger Communities grant with them at their Christmas party. They need a new roof. These are the sorts of things that make a difference when it rains or when it hails. Now the Windsor Girl Guides are going to be able to have that new roof. The 1st Glossodia Scout Group, equally, will have a hot water system thanks to the Stronger Communities grant. The Richmond Girl Guides will be able to continue the work they're doing on their really lovely blue meeting space. It must be almost heritage listed. It has a lots of Hawkesbury flavour to it. They'll be able to continue improving it and have somewhere to store the materials that they use.

They were some of the Hawkesbury Stronger Community round 5 grants. There was also a timing and starter kit for the Hawkesbury Amateur Swimming Club at Hobartville, a group that I admire—the families and volunteers of people who swim. It's always an early start. There are always lots of laps. Everything we can do to help them will make a difference.

The last sporting one is the Lowland Wanderers Soccer Club at Richmond. I've left them until last because I'm very pleased to see that we were able to give $5,000 to this organisation for a kitchen upgrade and to improve some of their seating. I'm looking forward to getting in that kitchen. I hope it's the new kitchen I get to help out in! The volunteers at that club do an amazing job, and it's really great that these facilities can have an upgrade.

I now turn to the Blue Mountains. I have two quite distinct parts to my electorate. The panel takes the view that there should be a very even split between them. In the Blue Mountains, again, we saw fantastic applications. I'm very pleased that a number of children's services are able to do more and deliver more to their community. The Blackheath Kookaburra Kindergarten is going to have bathroom renovations—the basic stuff that makes a real difference to not just those children but the adults caring for those children. We'll also see improvements in Katoomba at Gateway Family Service for the playroom that they use there and the equipment that's in there. Again, it's recognising how important learning through play is for the youngest members of our society. Euroka Children's Centre at Blaxland will now have the opportunity to experience an edible community garden in their facility thanks to this grant. These are all wonderful projects to be able to support.

Katoomba Rotary—people know that I have a long history with Rotary, but not with this Rotary Club in particular. I continue to see really good proposals coming forward from Rotary Clubs. Like many members here, I'm an honorary Rotarian of one of my many Rotary Clubs. I'm not sure that you can be a member of Rotary and a member of parliament, because the obligation to be involved with your Rotary Club is paramount and it's very difficult, so I've accepted honorary membership and support them fully in the things they do around youth exchange, leadership development, group study exchange—all the incredible things they do, like fundraising for wonderful medical causes, including seeing an end to polio. They are great fundraisers themselves. It's great to be able to support Katoomba Rotary with a new catering trailer, which will allow them to travel around in the community and do what they do so well.

Another group that makes a huge difference to the quality of life for people—and this is for people going through dreadful illness—is the Cancer Wellness Support at Leura. This organisation's request was very modest: they wanted air-conditioning. You don't normally associate the upper mountains with hot days, but the way things are changing they are finding more and more often the days are hot, so it is just a delight to be able to provide an appropriate environment for the cancer patients who they support, and for the volunteers and the team who work with them, with air-conditioning through this grant program.

The Central Villages Anglican Church focuses on many different community things, one of which is about youth. They needed a slightly better audiovisual and sound system to be able to do what they do—bring people together. So they received a small grant to assist them to do that.

Radio Blue Mountains in Katoomba is one of the really important community institutions we have run by volunteers. They will also receive funding to upgrade equipment. I started out in community radio. I know how important it is to provide training to people as they learn how to communicate and move through a journalism career or sometimes just represent their community. So, congratulations to Radio Blue Mountains.

I think I've probably missed a couple here—no, just one. Of course, there's always soccer. The Blaxland Football Club has received $10,000 to improve its field with goalposts and fencing. We are a bit of a soccer community in the Blue Mountains. We like to call it football. And while my children were never a member of this club, the Redbacks, we competed with them fiercely.

They are some of the Stronger Communities Program grants that we were pleased to do. People who applied for those grants know there were decisions made on merit. They know that we agonised about which groups would receive funding, because, quite frankly, so many of them were so deserving. I'd really encourage the government to put more funding into these grants programs that support our community. They make a huge difference.