Resource hub fears cutback

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Mt Barker Community Resource Centre is likely to lose staff if State Government funding cuts go ahead.

Community resource centres across WA’s regional towns will soon face an almost 40 per cent funding cut of $6 million, which could force the closure of many of the 105 centres around the State.

Mt Barker CRC manager Martina Meinen said she was not confident she would be able to keep all her staff after the funding cut.

“You’re taking a valuable resource from a regional town, because we provide a range of services to the community,” she said. “Some people in this town don’t have access to fast internet and some don’t really know how to use a computer.

But I can tell you, people that come in to use the services here often come from a lower socio-economic environment.”

Many community centres also provide Centrelink access and food relief in their town and Ms Meinen said she was not sure these services would continue to exist in some regional towns.

“If the CRC isn’t here any more — then the Department of Human Services wouldn’t be there and the food agency — which we use for emergency relief services — that would also go,” she said.

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the cost of running CRCs had blown out under the previous government.

“The total CRC operational cost of $5.9 million in 2009-10 ballooned to $13 million five years later,” she said

“We acknowledge that CRCs provide valuable services, but there is huge variability between individual CRCs in terms of usage and the level of service offered. We also need to take a real look at the locations of our CRCs — there is a disparity in how resources are allocated between the regions.

“But we have to be clear — the budget has been set in line with the State’s current financial capabilities, and this allocation will not change.”

Greens regional development spokeswoman Diane Evers MLC said digital disadvantage was a significant problem for rural and regional people.

“With more and more government services going online, if people are not digitally literate – or even able to access the internet – then they will fall further behind and struggle to participate in society as they need to,” she said.

“CRCs are a line of defence in our country communities against creeping digital disadvantage and the fallout that inevitably follows,” she said.

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