Community Resource Centres are set to lose as much as $94,000 as a result of State Government cutbacks.
Greens (WA) MLC for the South West, Diane Evers, said she had been hopeful of a reversal or lessening of the belt-tightening moves in the forthcoming State Budget, but recent correspondence to CRCs from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has confirmed the 40 per cent reduction to the program, as signalled in last year’s Budget.
In a letter sent to all CRCs, Acting Deputy Director General Niegel Grazia said the funding allocation for the program would be slashed from $13 million per annum to $8 million from July 1, 2019, as a result of the “significant budgetary pressure” facing the Government.
DPIRD has proposed a change to the funding model and is seeking feedback from all CRC committees. The program aims to split the allocation of funds into two separate tiers.
Recipients of Tier 1 funds will be open 25 hours per week and provide services such as assistance to access internet and online facilities, video conferencing, and organising wellness events. These sites would be offered $70,000.
Tier 2 recipients will open only 18 hours per week and be expected to deliver similar services. These centres are those with populations of more than 3000, or located within 30km of another CRC or a regional centre. They receive $50,000.
Ms Evers said regardless of the tier levels, existing CRCs will find it difficult to continue the services they now offer within shorter hours and with less staff.
“CRCs received an average around $116,000 in the current year and now face funding cuts of up to $94,000. Pingelly CRC had received nearly $144,000 in the past year, and now, as a Tier 2 CRC will only receive $50,000,” she said.
Other big losers include Brookton ($83,000), Manjimup ($80,000), Merredin ($83,000) and York ($85,000). In the north, the Broome CRC faces a $79,000 cutback, while Mingenew and Moora CRC funding is down by about $48,000 each. It has not been announced which tier the Kununurra CRC, which was granted about $139,000 last year, will fall into.
“The cutbacks will mean loss of staff, inability to upgrade equipment, and a reduced ability to hold events or community assistance programs,” Ms Evers said.
“It will be impossible for the centres to continue delivering their current level of service to rural and regional communities.”
Ms Evers was also concerned at other aspects of the model, such as a reduction in the traineeship program, expected increased fee for service payments on training and workshops, and the lack of understanding of the indirect mental health support provided to the communities at the CRC.
She reiterated her call that the regions should not suffer at the expense of big-ticket metropolitan infrastructure projects.
“With the state heading toward $40 billion in debt, we need to focus on services and addressing the needs of the people,” she said.
“It’s not just the CRCs. After the education cuts last year and the report showing how poorly Royalties for Regions was distributed, I expect to see a boost in this budget for regional education, decentralised essential health care and rural fire services,” Ms Evers said.
“This government must invest in the regional areas by servicing the communities and looking after the natural environment. Ultimately, it’s about strengthening regional communities to make a meaningful rural life more achievable.”