Thursday, 14 May 2020
Bass Electorate: COVID-19
In a quiet suburb of Launceston sits Australia's oldest working textile mill. Established in 1874, Waverley Woollen Mills to this day still produces the highest quality wool products, that are guaranteed to last, beautifully created and ethically produced. Today, the suburb of Waverley is home to some 1,500 residents but has just one local shop.
The needs of some in the community were highlighted when the coronavirus pandemic first hit the state in late March. For some in this community—and, indeed, across Northern Tasmania—the shortages of basic food items such as bread and rice were a very real reality. In difficult times, though, there are always some rays of sunshine to be found, such as caring community members like Danielle Watkins. With a few spare veggies in her garden and some spare pantry items, Danielle put together a few shelves outside her front fence, creating what has become the Waverley Community Co-op. What started as a way of helping her neighbours has filled a much-needed gap for community members seeking essentials. The mantra of the co-op is: 'Take what you need, share what you can.' And it has become quite popular in an area where access to the supermarket under coronavirus restrictions has been difficult, especially for those without a vehicle, making it quite difficult for families with young children to get everyone on a bus to make a trip to buy essentials. The local store provides a great service, but it doesn't provide fresh food options, and nor should it be expected to. There's increasingly a gap between what the community needs and deserves and what it has. The community co-op is wonderful and has the opportunity to grow. But, to do so, it will need to operate out of a full bricks-and-mortar building, with essential infrastructure in place. And, even in a suburb of 1,500 people, such a building does not currently exist.
Additionally, there is a need for community infrastructure for the area: Facilities where, in our post- COVID environment, children can play, families can congregate for barbecues and be outside together, and teenagers have access to amenities in their own neighbourhood. Governments play an essential role in assisting communities like Waverley, and I believe it will take a coordinated effort between all three levels of government—local, state and federal. I met with the City of Launceston back in February to advocate for the needs of this community and to discuss next steps. After I became aware of the co-op and the need for a space to keep the service going and to meet the needs of the community, I also wrote to the council to raise that issue and see what can be done. I'll be working with the council over the coming months to progress these infrastructure needs, and will also be talking to my state and federal colleagues to discuss the possibilities that can be explored to enhance this community.
Waverley is a wonderfully warm, vibrant and connected community, full of great young people, hardworking families and retirees who have lived in this neighbourhood for decades. There's no reason why they can't enjoy the same benefits as those in other suburbs around them, and I'll continue to advocate for this to happen.