Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Banks Electorate: Riverwood Community
Last week I visited the community centre and gardens at Riverwood in my electorate. I have been welcomed there many times before. The community centre itself is staffed primarily by volunteers under the management of Mrs Pauline Gallagher. Pauline has put her heart and soul into the community at Riverwood and the results are a testimony to her hard work and perseverance. On the day I visited last week, there was evidence of the extraordinary impact the centre has on the local community.
In one room, a group of Arabic mothers were having a meeting and I spoke with them briefly. In another, a number of children were playing with donated equipment under the auspice of volunteers. At the front in a large open area a number of people of Chinese background were playing shuttlecock. I saw people of many ethnic backgrounds playing together, working together and discussing matters of mutual interest. In a community that generally does it tough, that is how it works: everyone works together for their mutual benefit.
The community centre hosts many programs arising from the needs of the local community. These include family support, youth services, a neighbourhood aid program, a community care program, a housing and communities service program, a links to learning program, employment assistance and skills development, a child sexual assault service and the tenants resource centre. I have been invited to attend some of the meetings of the various community groups which meet at the centre, such as the Vietnamese social support group, the Chinese elderly social group and the Arabic social support group. I enjoyed talking with the group members about the day-to-day issues they deal with. On average, 2,000 people a week use the centre.
Just outside the centre building, the Riverwood Housing Estate is located. I have spoken before about the community garden nearby and the pleasure that it provides to many people from around the community. It has been featured on ABC TV. On my most recent visit last week with Canterbury councillor Karl Saleh, we spoke with several residents tending their gardens, playing cards and just talking together in a community environment. Between the community centre and the community garden, we strolled alongside the wonderful Riverwood wetland. This is something new that Canterbury council has invested in. Originally, this land had been impacted by sediment and nutrient loads in the stormwater, damage from public access, invasion of weed species and the predatory impact of domestic animals on native fauna.
The original project involved the construction of a wetland within open drainage and an in-stream sedimentation pond to transport flows from a previously constructed gross pollutant trap to a reed bed for further filtration. Flows in excess of the reed bed capacity—which are one in five year flows—overspill into a natural salt marsh area before entering Salt Pan Creek. Through the culling of weeds and exotic plants and the planting of native species in the reed bed, the Riverwood wetland has become a natural habitat for a diverse range of wildlife. The wetland plants have also had positive effects on the level of pollutants in the stormwater, including heavy metals and sediments. In addition, footpaths, boardwalks and barbecue areas have been established to promote and encourage recreational activities. In a diverse community, it is useful to remind ourselves that with cooperation and common sense magnificent outcomes can be achieved.
This area is the most marginalised area in my electorate but—and I have said this before—going there and talking to the people of that community gives me the greatest pleasure. The community spirit is sensational. The support that they have received from the state government—and their local member is the Premier, Morris Iemma—has been unbelievable over the years. We have worked in partnership with Canterbury council. I got money for the community centre to build a basketball court as an addition to the centre when Ros Kelly was giving out those community grants. There are a number of other wonderful projects in our area that we were able to help. I bring this to the House’s attention because it is worthy of the House’s attention. I salute the people in this area, and I will be doing everything that I can to assist them in maintaining their community spirit.