15 June, 2022

The Hon. J.S. LEE (17:13): I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that Community Centre Week was celebrated in South Australia from Monday 9 May to Sunday 15 May 2022, coinciding with national Neighbourhood House Week;

2. Recognises the vital role that local community centres play in providing welcoming and inclusive spaces for social activities, support services, and personal development for people from all walks of life;

3. Acknowledges the contributions of all the staff and volunteers who are the heart of the 165 community centres located across South Australia;

4. Notes that this year’s theme is 'Building resilience by bringing people together', highlighting the importance of rebuilding strong social connections as we re-emerge from the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; and

5. Commends the Marshall Liberal government on implementing the new Community Connections Program to support socially isolated people to increase their independence and to build strong, sustainable social and community connections.

It is a great honour today to rise to move this motion to acknowledge the importance of Community Centre Week 2022. Community Centre Week is also known as National Neighbourhood House Week.

As the Shadow Minister for Communities and Multicultural South Australia, I would like to recognise the significant contributions that local community centres and community organisations make in South Australia. Community Centre Week is part of a nationwide initiative to celebrate and recognise community centres and the role they play in building social connection and community resilience.

For those of us who have visited a community centre, we know that such a centre is a friendly, informal place for community members from all walks of life and all cultural backgrounds to meet to participate in a variety of activities for free or at a minimal cost.

These community hubs are often called neighbourhood houses or neighbourhood centres because they are located where people can easily get to them, in close proximity to their homes. Each community centre reflects the needs and aspirations of their local community.

Volunteers are at the heart of every community centre across South Australia. Without these passionate volunteers who generously donate their time and skills, many of the vast range of community centre programs simply would not be possible.

Community centres, families and children, including refugees and new arrivals, can meet new people, learn new skills, pick up a hobby, build their computing or financial literacy, or learn how to cook lasagne or fried rice. The community centres are as diverse as the communities they serve and are spaces that are flexible and responsive to local needs. They have a particular focus on intervention and prevention and improving outcomes for children and families and those experiencing disadvantage.

In South Australia, we are fortunate to have over 170 community centres, neighbourhood houses and community organisations across our state, from Adelaide metropolitan areas to country regions, including Mount Gambier, Port Lincoln and Roxby Downs, to name a few.

According to Community Centres South Australia's 2021 Member Survey, on average each community centre employs 1.5 FTEs and involves over 40 volunteers, with over 20,000 hours of volunteering taking place each week across our state's community centres. With around 35,000 visitors each week and approximately 2.15 million contacts each year, Deloitte has estimated that for every dollar spent in the community centre sector, $2.78 is returned to the economy. This is an incredible contribution to support our community.

I would like to take this opportunity to particularly acknowledge and thank Community Centres SA for their advocacy and support around South Australia. As the peak body for community centres in South Australia, Community Centres SA strives to build the community and organisational capacity of its members and build business sustainability to ensure that our community centres can continue to provide invaluable services and support to our local communities.

During the global COVID pandemic, we saw that lockdowns and isolation had a detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people across South Australia. One in four Australians report being lonely, and in 2021 a quarter of community centres in South Australia reported an increase of 300 per cent in the number of people presenting with mental health challenges.

This year's theme for Community Centre Week was “Building resilience by bringing people together”, highlighting the importance of rebuilding strong social connections as we recover from the isolation caused by the COVID pandemic.

Community centres focus on social scaffolding, working to nurture positive in-person relationships that are meaningful and contribute to our social identity and sense of belonging. By creating a strong foundation to help support individuals, we can help build their resilience, foster healthy family relationships and improve mental health, wellbeing and cohesive outcomes for families and communities.

This motion also seeks to commend the Marshall Liberal government for implementing the new Community Connections Program in 2021 to support socially isolated people to increase their independence and to build strong sustainable social and community connections. Community Connections was designed following the Home and Community Care Reform Consultation undertaken by the former Liberal government in response to a large number of HACC clients transferring to national care, such as through the NDIS and My Aged Care.

The independent review involved consultation with sector providers and peak organisations to develop options for a new South Australian program. The review presented a range of key considerations for the development of a new program, including a service gap for people who are not eligible for federal disability programs, as well as the greatest common risk factors, including social isolation and disconnection from services and communities.

Key themes raised during the review included the need for flexibility and collaboration, the importance of culturally appropriate services for the multicultural sector and the challenge of addressing the emerging needs of younger people. The findings of the review informed the development of the Community Connections Program, which better matches services for greater needs by connecting people with community social networks and services.

I would like to particularly commend the Hon. Michelle Lensink for driving the important reform when she was the Minister for Human Services and thank her for her ongoing commitment to supporting our community sector to best meet the needs of vulnerable community members as we navigate our way out of the pandemic. As the new Shadow Minister for Communities, I am proud to take on this important portfolio and ensure that the Marshall Liberal Government's legacy continues.

It is vital that we continue to support community partners such as community centres to deliver community programs, services and activities and help participants gain independence and make strong, sustainable connections with families, communities and other networks. I look forward to working with everyone in the community services sector to help build resilience in our community and create a more inclusive and stronger South Australia.

Once again, I wish to congratulate everybody who has celebrated Community Centre Week 2022.