Warnbro family centre faces funding crisis that could ‘rip heart out of community’


Tanya Miller and Natalie McLaren. Picture: Jon Hewson d470591
Tanya Miller and Natalie McLaren. Picture: Jon Hewson d470591

A MOVE to rationalise funding for local family centres could “rip the heart out of communities,” according to the co-ordinator of a Warnbro family centre.

The Warnbro and Westerly centres, in Coolongup, are among 50 throughout WA facing the most acute funding crisis in their history, according to peak body Linkwest.

They are campaigning against what they are calling “misguided reforms” being introduced by the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC) from June next year.

Among them are moves to put the services out to competitive tender instead of funding preferred service providers and combining three existing programs into one new scheme.

Another proposal was to move away from placed-based services in community centres to “delivering outcomes” for families and individuals regardless of their location.

Warnbro Community and Family Centre co-ordinator Natalie McLaren said open market tenders would significantly disadvantage the centres.

“Open tenders would allow larger services to come in which creates a risk of our community’s needs not being met,” she said.

“One size does not fit all as all our communities are unique.

“We don’t even know if the money is going to be used in the Rockingham area.”

Ms McLaren said the centres were facing an uncertain future and was concerned that the changes could “rip the heart out of communities”.

“The State Government is creating a process that will destroy locally governed and managed organisations.”

She said the Labor Party had opposed the moves when it was in opposition but had not overturned them since winning the election.

Westerly co-ordinator Tanya Miller said the co-ordinators now had to prepare an open tender document, as well as run their centres.

“We have to out source that and hopefully find the money to get it done,” she said.

“It feels like we’ve been set up to fail.

“There is a risk that our community’s needs are not going to be met.”

Ms Miller said the services provide services for a wide range of groups, from toddlers to seniors and a low-cost meeting location for organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous with about 50 people attending a recent meeting.

“They rent the centre off us at a very minimal rate, where will they go?” she said.

The centres have started a petition calling for the existing funding arrangements, which have been in place since 2000, to be retained.

Linkwest chief executive Jane Chilcott said the centres would be significantly disadvantaged if the proposed policies enabled open market tenders.

“They are at threat because they are grassroots community organisations that are tendering for less money, with uncertainty around their buildings, against organisations that have a lot of money or employ competitive tender writers,” Ms Chilcott said.

A statement from the DLGC said there would be no reduction in total funding with $9.4 million to be invested.

It said the open tender process would provide “fair and equitable access to government supply opportunities to ensure the best outcomes are achieved for WA’s communities”.

“The Department of Local Government and Communities has undertaken consultations with the sector to inform the design of the new program.”

It said arrangements for maintenance costs for community organisations could be included in the total funding bid put forward in a tender application.

Costs would vary for each organisation depending on the nature of their tenancy.

Services set to be merged

Community neighbourhood and development
Individual and family support
Youth support

From a parent’s perspective

THE Warnbro Community and Family Centre has played a vital role in helping Port Kennedy mum Amanda Gooding settle in the region after emigrating from New Zealand two years ago.

Ms Gooding said she had met lots of new mums since coming the playgroup twice a week at the centre.

“My children have also made friends so it’s been wonderful,” she said.

“It’s somewhere my son can come to run around and be free and interact with other kids.”

Ms Gooding said her family would miss the centre if it had to close.

“It’s also affordable, I’m not doing day care so having this centre is good,” she said.

“It has helped me to settle in the region and now I see a lot of the mums outside day care as well.”

She said the centre provided a great service.

“Being a mum is a hard job and being at home with kids is hard,” she said.

“To be able to come here, get out of the house, and meet other mums is crucial.”

MORE: Man convicted for filming adult daughter in bathroom

MORE: Man charged after allegedly forcing his way inside day care centre

MORE: Man stabbed while walking dog

MORE: Perth swimwear makers Cenote headed for the big time