Plans by the McGowan government to slash funding to regional Community Resource Centres in WA by $5m have been met with disappointment and anger from CRC users.
Linkwest, which runs the centres, says the 40-per-cent funding cut will have a profound impact on its ability to cover staff and operational costs, resulting in job losses and significantly reduced hours and wages.
Kalbarri Resource Centre Manager Margi Peet says the funding cuts will affect the socio-economic position of community members within her town.
“They’ve built us up for the past 16 years and now they’re taking it away from us, detracting from services within the community and simply saying ‘oh we can’t do that anymore,’” Ms Peet says.
The Kalbarri CRC not only provides technology support to those who do not have computers at home but offers volunteers and donations to local community tourism events, transport and passport services, as well as practical traineeships for community members.
Alongside these duties, Ms Peet is Kalbarri’s contractor for the Department of Human Services, which means she provides access to Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support, Hearing Australia and Ngala.
Another DOHS program offered is Rural and Reach, a program for women and family health services where members of the community can book a video call with a health professional in a private enclosed office space.
“If someone is having a bad time with post-natal depression and can’t get to a specialist they can book in and have a free session with a professional,” she says.
However, these services and others will fight to be included in a budget that will be reduced from $100,000 to $60,000 in July 2019.
Regional Development Minister Allanah McTiernan insists it’s not the government’s intention to see any CRC’s close.
But Ms Peet says it will not stop members of the community from helping others.
“Every coordinator and their volunteers in each CRC knows the community,” she says.
“We can’t just say no.”
Ms Peet says it’s important to keep the CRCs alive and says funding cuts will deprive communities of their access to timely information.
“We help people get online and get out there, particularly people with disabilities who can’t use a computer, they find it safe and friendly to ask questions and get the help they need.”
Linkwest CEO Jane Chilcott says a comprehensive review is needed by the government to assess how the CRC network can provide the government with an opportunity to re-design the delivery of multiple government services.
“Without that funding we are not sustainable,” says Ms Peet.
“It’s very disillusioning and disappointing.”