‘Desperately needed’ Aboriginal Community Hub doesn’t make budget discussion cut

Melton councillors agree on the need for an Aboriginal Controlled Community Hub, but haven't opted to discuss it at this years budget.

Liam McNally

Melton council will most likely build a community hub dedicated to the municipality’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, but the question of when has been kicked down the line by councillors.

A scoping report on an Aboriginal Controlled Community Hub (ACCH) was brought before council at a meeting on Monday, March 27.

The report found a “range of complex and inter-related health, wellbeing, social and education and employment needs are present amongst the local First Nations population that demonstrate demand for more services” and that current local provision of culturally specific services “does not meet levels of need”.

An ACCH would help address these issues by providing community members and families a variety of support services as well as a place to make social and cultural connections, the report said.

Cr Ashleigh Vandenberg moved a motion for council to note the report and to refer the development of a business case feasibility study, to council’s 2023-24 budget.

“The report identifies that first nations people are the most marginalised group in Australia… supporting self determination requires choice for our local first nations community to exist when accessing either mainstream or culturally specific services… it would be of great benefit to our community,” she said.

Multiple councillors voiced support for the ACCH, but were split on whether the development of a business case feasibility study could be added to budget deliberations, which begin on Wednesday, April 5.

Council budget submissions were supposed to be in by the end of February, although other motions at the March 27 meeting were referred to the upcoming budget.

Cr Kathy Majdlik said Melton does “desperately need” an ACCH but it’s “just a matter of timing”.

“Unfortunately it didn’t cut the budget discussion so hopefully it can be done soon and we can talk about it at the next budget,” she said.

An alternative motion by Cr Steve Abboushi was passed to note the scoping report, and for council to hold “further discussions on the ACCH at a councillor briefing with all relevant information including costings”.

Cr Vandenberg said Monday night’s meeting is a “core example of how and why we have a gap in Australia today”.

“… Where other topics are prioritised over Aboriginal lives, and there is not enough time to add the words ‘business report and feasibility study’ to a budget template that isn’t finalised until June 2023.”