Batemans Bay residents are learning that their community owned Batemans Bay Community Centre will be leased to Relationships Australia Canberra & Region, a not-for-profit service provider, that has been awarded the role of lead agency to oversee the headspace service in Batemans Bay from late 2020. The open day will be held on 17 July 2020 from 10am to 4pm at the Community Centre in Batemans Bay. NOTE that the lease report seeking Council support to adopt the lease will go to Council on the 28th of July. As Council has changed the classification of the land last year from community use to operational this is now an operational matter and the community do not need to be either advised or engaged nor given any opportunity for objection via submission. The centre was built for the community under a black cloud that had seen the Council stealthily sell off the original community owned and constructed Community Centre in Orient Street. Council sold the old building and land for their own profit knowing full well that they were only the trustees. When this was revealed by Peter Neilson after considerable research Council said they would build a new community Centre at Hanging Rock. The Batemans Bay residents were not at all happy with that offer and demanded a centre be provided IN Batemans Bay. Council gave in and built the centre that now stands in Museum Place. Over the years the Centre has become the epicentre of the community while also providing the kitchen facilities for Meals On Wheels. The building and amenities are cost neutral for Council as it is well utilised by many groups offering a variety of activities from youth to seniors and more recently has become the weekly site for the community markets of fresh produce and handmade wares. But Council has had other ideas. They have stated on several occasions that their intent is to provide a community room at the proposed Mackay Park swimming pool and to either sell or lease the Batemans Bay Community Centre. This has been met with stiff opposition. May 26, 2019 - More community backlash for Council over proposed sale of Batemans Bay Community Centre
At Council's meeting on Tuesday May 28th, 2019 Councillor Anthony Mayne submitted a petition with over 1000 signatures indicating concerns for the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre putting forward a motion that a decision on the Batemans Bay Community Centre be deferred until the capital and operation costs for the Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre have been determined. The General Manager, Catherine Dale has stated that Council has not made a decision to sell the existing BBCC. It has been identified that it could possibly be sold or leased, to offset construction and/or ongoing operational costs associated with the proposed Batemans Bay Aquatics, Arts and Leisure Centre BBAALC. The General Manager has also advised the Batemans Bay community in writing that she "cannot give you any long term assurance on the future of the Batemans Bay Community Centre (BBCC), other than that which I have previously provided – namely that Council has not made any long term decisions," adding "The BBCC will need to remain open to the community until the new Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre (AALC) is constructed and operational. Maintaining the existing facility would duplicate functions and add operational costs while removing potential sale or lease options, including the revenue arising from such. This would have the effect of inadvertently increasing the operational cost of the AALC and deprive that centre of a potential source of income, therefore compromising its affordability, including the theatre."
Above: Councillor Anthony Mayne receives the 1000+ petition from Dr Sue Mackenzie Now under the veil of Covid secrecy it is revealed that Council have been plotting once again to turn out the users of the community centre with confidential conversations happening behind the scenes as council staff go from group to group and suggest they find a new location. The Beagle has learnt that Council has recently been contacted by Headspace, which is a national youth mental health support service. Headspace have asked Council to consider leasing them the entire Batemans Bay Community Centre building for the next two years. Council's official response is that "There are some real benefits to having Headspace in our community, which is why Council is considering the request. It is a one stop shop for young people with mental health and wellbeing concerns, providing a range of services such as therapeutic services, counselling, family dispute resolution, suicide prevention and relationship and parenting education. The plan is to have the regional office in Batemans Bay." Council is advising the various community groups that use the community centre that Headspace needs to be located close to the CBD, but not in a main street location to ensure a degree of privacy, and near their partner organisations to help with service delivery. Council also advises that they need a facility with a range of spaces and outdoor activity areas and accessible entry points. With the above Council is of the opinion that the Community Centre "is ideal and providing a lease would mean the service can start soon." The lease report will go to Council on the 28th of July. If a lease is agreed, Headspace will need to take over the Community Centre in stages from August with Council saying "The timing of this is something we will work through with them". In letters dispatched to the many groups and users of the Batemans Bay Community Hall Council says "We recognise that your group is one of many that utilises the Community Centre for a variety of activities. I’m hoping our team at the Booking Office can work with you to find suitable alternatives". Should Council approve a lease with Headspace, we believe the following options may be suitable alternative venues. The Hanging Rock Library, the Hanging Rock Function Centre or Batemans Bay Basketball or the Batemans Bay Family Day Care centre.
The Beagle has sought the initial feedback of the news from various members of the community with the following comments clearly showing disappointment, outrage and exasperation at the failure of the Council to respect that the Community Centre is for the community. "I am supportive of headspace' s efforts to promote the mental health of young people but we see it as absurd that the efforts made by so many groups to promote the health and well-being of the older members of the community should be undermined, as they would be if they are denied access to our community centre."
"The 650 members of Batemans Bay U3A depend heavily on access to the Community Centre for many of the classes it runs. They need the Centre to be available due to the shortcomings or outright unsuitability of other possible venues in the shire." "The Community Centre should not be regarded by the Council as something the Community doesn't need whenever some outside organisation might offer to lease it. The purpose for which it was built and has been maintained is key."
"When there are many untenanted premises available for lease in BB, it would be to the benefit of the owners concerned for headspace to lease from them. The interests of the business community should be given priority over the Council's interest in gaining some rental income for itself."
Dianne Kitcher, CEO of the South Eastern NSW PHN, said Relationships Australia has confirmed the existing headspace service in Batemans Bay, set up by South Eastern NSW PHN in partnership with headspace National as an interim response to bushfires, will continue to operate until the full headspace centre is established later this year.
“Young people will continue to be able to access youth friendly, confidential mental health and wellbeing services through the current headspace service,” said Ms Kitcher.
“We will work to ensure a smooth transition for all accessing support during this period so young people continue to get the help they need without interruption,” she added.
Under the new arrangement with Relationships Australia, outreach services will also be provided to Moruya and Ulladulla (two days per week in each location), with a mobile office (coach) being set up to provide additional outreach services between Ulladulla and Narooma based on community needs and demand. This is a great innovation and addition to the regular services provided by other headspace centres.
“The coach will be fitted out with appropriate, sound-proof counselling spaces and will visit other youth services, or even work in conjunction with local schools,” said Ms Kitcher.
Ms Fiona Phillips, Member for Gilmore, applauded the announcement of the lead agency as a positive step in establishing the much-needed service.
“Young people across our region have been through a lot recently with the drought, bushfires and now COVID-19, and these experiences can certainly impact our mental health and our ability to get through these tough times,” said Ms Phillips.
“We know early intervention is key and that is why I have long advocated for a full headspace for young people in the Batemans Bay area. I am thrilled to see that one step closer today,” she added.
Alison Brook, CEO of Relationships Australia Canberra & Region, said she is delighted to be the lead agency for headspace Batemans Bay, and looks forward to increasing the organisation’s footprint in the South Coast, with a focus on mental health and wellbeing.
“We are committed to recruiting staff locally to work at headspace. As a first step, we will be
undertaking an open day to provide interested local applicants with information about job
opportunities at headspace and brief first round interviews for positions such as clinical lead, mental health clinician, dietician, new access coach, community engagement officer, case manager, and practice administrator,” said Ms Brook.