Wednesday, May 18, 2022
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Government silence on Waterloo

The redevelopment plans for Waterloo for the built environment and human services are progressing “slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter”. For some this is welcome news but for others the uncertainty is frustrating and angst-inducing.

The government announced the redevelopment with great fanfare, trying to elicit resident excitement, participation and support in its quest for media coverage. Residents were proactively participating early in the year, yet have now been met with disrespect and government silence. The machinery of government is clearly more focused on itself than the needs of the people it is supposed to serve. Politics and optics appear to be more important than the impact of the process and redevelopment on Waterloo residents.

The masterplan brochure from the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS), in early 2019, said:In 2019 FACS will focus on: developing a Human Services Plan to support resident health, safety and wellbeing and to meet their changing needs before, during and after redevelopment; developing a Community Facilities Plan to identify the appropriate allocation of community facilities ensuring operational arrangements are sustainable over time.”

Nothing visible has happened on either the Human Services Plan or the Community Facilities Plan, and there has been no consultation with the community about these in 2019.

Scott Morrison waxes lyrical about the “quiet Australians”, and at state government level the focus is on cutting red tape for developers. The real quiet Australians are voiceless and suffering because of government action and inaction. Poverty levels continue to climb and social isolation is becoming more entrenched. Residents with complex needs have to fight to get any level of decent support and a self-absorbed government aggravates the distress. Civil servants are paralysed by a lack of direction and authority, and NGOs and community groups are left picking up the pieces.

At the time of writing, the government hasn’t indicated whether the positions it funds within local NGOs to support residents will be extended into 2020. If the funding is discontinued, the community will lose five community workers: the Waterloo Redevelopment Community Development Officer and two Bilingual Educators from Counterpoint Community Services, and the Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Capacity Building Program Officer from Inner Sydney Voice.

Despite this, the local battler’s resilience, ability to self-organise and self-support as well as look out for others remains strong and admirable.

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Michael Shreenan is Convenor of REDWatch and Chairperson of the Groundswell coalition, Redfern and Waterloo.

 

 

 

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