Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt has called for the Department of Communities to go back to the drawing board regarding a proposed accommodation facility in Edmonton.
Mr Pitt last night attended a public meeting to discuss residents’ concerns and to correct some of the misinformation that had been circulated in relation to the government’s proposed purchase of land in the area.
“I invited a Department of Communities representative to speak to residents and to answer any of their questions about the proposal as it currently stands,” Mr Pitt said.
“To set the record straight, the facility is not earmarked for disabled youths nor is it for public housing as suggested by some residents.
“I’ve been informed that if the land purchase goes ahead in Plantation Estate, the Department is considering building a Child Safety Small Group Home.
“This would provide housing for up to four young people who are in need of accommodation, and these young people would be under 24 hour supervision by experienced residential care staff.”
Mr Pitt said he listened very intently to residents last night and while he didn’t support some of the comments put forward, he agreed with residents that that the facility would not be the best fit.
“I support this view because young people need to be close to the services which they need such as schools, retail services, sporting facilities and not isolated from them.
“The proposed location is not ideal for the facility’s intended purpose and target group, and I want to get the best outcome for the children who would use the facility.
“Young people who live in homes such as the one proposed may have been rejected by their own families or have been subjected to some form of abuse and are unable to be placed in long-term care with foster families.
“They are among our most vulnerable and it is important they are provided with a safe environment and appropriate care.
“We must find a place to support our most vulnerable children with the focus at all times the best outcome for those children. I intend to work with the Department to achieve this.”
Mr Pitt said he initially found out about the proposal via a local resident and subsequent newspaper coverage, and expressed his concern about the site selection process.
“Had I been asked, my advice would’ve been to find somewhere else that better met the needs of the intended target group,” Mr Pitt said.
“Planning for facilities of this kind needs to take a lot more note of local conditions and local knowledge.
“The demographics of this estate aren’t age appropriate and I don’t believe the young people would feel welcome in the area. Kids like these need the full support of their community – they do not need yet another group of people telling them they’re not wanted.”
Mr Pitt said there are lessons to be learned from this experience.
“Last night’s meeting provided some clarification on the current situation, but in future I’d urge people to arm themselves with the facts instead of relying on second-hand information, and contact my office first with their concerns.”
“My suggestion to the Department would be to tap into local knowledge before securing options on a parcel of land. This may prevent unnecessary alarm in the community and save time for all concerned.
Mr Pitt however pointed out that his views on the proposed purchase of land may have been very different if the proposal was for social housing or other affordable accommodation.
“While I agree with residents that the purpose and target group are not suitable for this particular location, there is an unsettling culture of ‘not in my backyard’ emerging in the Far North,” Mr Pitt said.
“If NIMBY-driven groups have their way nothing would ever be built in order to provide the range of services required.
“Collectively, we need to take a good hard look at ourselves and realise that not everyone is in as privileged a position as we are.
“Our community is made up of all kinds of people, plenty of them are doing it tough and they need to live somewhere.
- The target clients for a Small Group Home are young people aged 12 to 17 years who are subject to longer-term child protection orders and are unable to be placed in family-based care.
- The proposed site area is 3,580m2 and is zoned with low-density residential.
- The proposal is in its early stages and is not yet confirmed.
- If the contract is settled and the proposal is determined to be substantially inconsistent with the planning scheme, a public notification process (usually 15 days) would occur under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.
- Through the public notification process, community members would have an opportunity to make submissions to the Director-General.
- The local planning scheme and the Sustainable Planning Act process mean that there cannot be a substantial change of use from a Child Safety Small Group Home to social housing or disability services without obtaining approval for the new use.