Opportunities to empower community members

A new report has identified opportunities to further tackle disadvantage in Corio, Norlane and Whittington and improve the livelihoods of community members who live there.

These suburbs (including North Shore) are home to around 27,400 residents, with a majority born in Australia but many also hailing from countries like England, Croatia, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

The ‘Strategies for Alleviating Locational Disadvantage in Geelong’ report has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified or compounded many entrenched issues for these communities, leading to social isolation, barriers to remote learning and poorer health outcomes.

Council noted the report from Deakin University tonight, which makes a number of recommendations in the areas of education, employment, housing, liveability and health and wellbeing, including:

  • Address priority areas such as housing stress, Indigenous health and wellbeing, mental health, domestic violence and place-based stigma;
  • Respect, trust and listen to residents while working with them;
  • Explore options to work with employment organisations and programs such as RISE (Regional
  • Industry Sector Employment Program) and extend Northern Futures to Whittington;
  • Ensure domestic violence and mental health programs are active in these suburbs; and
  • Identify and address gaps in social infrastructure such as neighbourhood houses, sporting facilities and parks.

The report details how community members in these suburbs believe the ways in which new initiatives are approached can be more important than the programs themselves.

This insight strengthens the City’s resolve to empower people to be involved in designing solutions in their own communities.

Workshops and stakeholder engagement sessions will be held to refine the recommendations and further progress an action plan for the next financial year.

Several recommended initiatives are in progress, such as the Council’s $44.84 million funding allocation to build the transformative Northern Aquatic and CommunityHub, a key action in the Social Infrastructure Plan.

It’s estimated the state-of-the-art aquatic and community facility will deliver $111 million in preventative health benefits during its first decade in operation.

The Council’s commitment to improving social infrastructure in these suburbs is reflected in a $350,000 grant for the Norlane Bowling Club this year and millions of dollars allocated towards upgrading the Corio Football andNetball/Cricket Club and Labuan Square.

Other activities already underway include the establishment of a Geelong Affordable Housing Trust as part of the Social Housing Plan 2020-41 and the RISE program, which connects young unemployed people with construction industry training and jobs.

Hot meals were prepared for those in need, community gardens were embraced and online communities were created as part of a range of new community initiatives developed last year during the pandemic, that improved social connections.

The report highlights examples of international and Australian initiatives that could benefit community members in Corio, Norlane and Whittington, such as green jobs training for young people, migrant youth mental health programs and family violence intervention programs.

Federal, state and local policies are also reviewed to inform the Council and City’s advocacy efforts with other levels of government.

The university’s HOME Research Hub was engaged to explore strategic approaches and policy needs to achieve social equity and assist with COVID-19 recovery, as part of the Vital Communities program.

Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher said many community members in these suburbs face significant challenges.

More collaborative work needs to be done by all levels of government to improve social and economic outcomes for residents of some of our suburbs which are not as well-resourced as others.

Council will keep listening and learning from the lived experiences of these community members and I look forward to seeing this reflected in the action plan.

Councillor Anthony Aitken from the Windermere Ward said addressing disadvantage is an extremely complex and multi-faceted process that requires collaboration with all levels of government.

Locational disadvantage is a significant problem in Norlane, Corio and Whittington and this report highlights a number of issues residents face, including high unemployment, homelessness and financial stress.

This report gives us the evidence and a voice to continue our campaign to advocate for these community members and restore their hope.

We want to be a council that doesn’t leave people behind and I look forward to the action plan that will be developed.

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