On Tuesday 28 April 2020 Lord Mayor Cr Clover Moore convened a Zoom meeting to discuss our proposal for a staffed Community Centre at Glebe Town Hall (GTH). Glebe Society President Janet Wahlquist and I also attended, as did City of Sydney (CoS) staff members Mariana Ivantsoff (Policy Officer) Kirsten Woodward (Manager, Social Programs and Services) and Emma Rigney (Director, City Life).

The Lord Mayor began by itemising existing CoS-supported services and venues in Glebe and noted the City’s financial support for Glebe and local grant recipients. While this support for the Glebe community is welcome, the Lord Mayor appeared to consider that Glebe was well catered for.

Janet introduced the proposal for a full-time, staffed community centre at the GTH, then I identified further reasons for our submission; including the advantages a staffed centre would provide and some barriers to community use of existing Council venues: the lengthy and complex booking process (especially for unincorporated/uninsured groups); Council’s policy to grant groups a maximum of one year’s tenure, affecting their long-term sustainability; and, the lack of coordination to facilitate access to the GTH and develop community programs.

Kirsten Woodward spoke of the role of existing CoS staff in facilitating community, and Emma Rigney noted that the GTH is one of their most frequently booked venues, if largely for private functions.

The Lord Mayor, through incisive questions, understood that the Society was concerned not just for its members’ interests, but those of the whole community; who would be better served by more effective use of such an accessible site. She observed also, that changes flagged by the University of Sydney to the to the Glebe Community Development Project (GCDP) may affect service provision in the area; such changes will be especially significant for the social housing community which, until recently, has been served by the GCDP.

In summing up, the Lord Mayor indicated a willingness to re-evaluate the role of the GTH and consider providing more support for GTH-based activities, acknowledging that, being centrally located, the GTH is an important community facility. She explained her intention to ensure that the GTH play an important role for the whole community.

We welcome the Lord Mayor’s assessment that this is an important issue for the whole community. I left the meeting confident that the Lord Mayor is now aware of the Glebe Society’s view that that the GTH could be better used by the Community as a Community Centre and our desire for action by the CoS. The Lord Mayor undertook to further address our proposal with her staff with a view to increasing the GTH’s contribution to community benefit.

Janice Challinor
Community Development Subcommittee Convenor

Zoom meeting between Glebe Society, Lord Mayor and Council staff (image: Janet Wahlquist)