Thursday, 8 September 2022
Durack Electorate: Government Services
In 2022 it is inexplicable that any town in our nation could be likened to that of a war zone, yet early last month reports from the beautiful town of Carnarvon in my electorate of Durack said otherwise. In a letter addressed to Premier Mark McGowan, shire president Eddie Smith said some parts of the town looked 'like a war zone and at times were exactly that.' It is a harrowing tale, all too familiar to those living in regional Western Australia, with stories of ongoing domestic violence, child abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, youth crime—the list goes on. You can help alleviate these problems by providing access to better services for at-risk youth and for struggling families, but community leaders in Carnarvon are saying that too many state government services are being managed from Geraldton, some 500 kilometres away.
Durack is the largest electorate in Australia, spread over some 1.4 million kilometres, with over 300 towns and communities. Access to services is a constant challenge. You cannot simply travel from one suburb to the next in 10 minutes by simply jumping on a bus. This problem is not unique just to social services providers or just to Carnarvon. Councils are struggling to find chippies and other tradies. The local cafes are struggling to hire coffee-makers and chefs. Childcare centres can only staff a quarter of what the demand requires from them. If Labor, state and federal, actually took a moment to consult with the community leaders on the ground and take into consideration the unique challenges of remote and regional Australia, they would know that a lack of housing lies at the core of these workforce issues. Put simply, if you cannot house your workforce locally then what chance do regional communities in Western Australia have of attracting workers? How can they possibly grow? How can they develop?
Western Australia's resources sector alone—a majority of which is based in my electorate of Durack—is going to need another 40,000 workers by mid next year, according to the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA. When I visited the beautiful town of Tom Price, only last week, I was told that the senior high school has 12 teacher vacancies. The feedback that I got on the ground was that this was due to a lack of housing. Now, that's on the McGowan government—it's their responsibility to get the teachers and to house them.
In WA, there are close to 19,000 people currently on a waiting list for social housing, and, of those 19,000, over 3,400 call Durack home. These are not just people struggling with homelessness but also other very vulnerable people in our community, like victims of domestic violence.
I'm sure that Premier Mark McGowan and the housing and lands minister, John Carey, are aware of the housing crisis that's hurting communities in my electorate. But they are not behaving like it is a crisis. Local families and businesses are suffering. So I ask: Where is the outrage? Where is the sense of urgency? Where is the action?
I understand that close to 2,000 social houses across the state of Western Australia are empty and are in need of repairs. This is shameful, while Labor are trying to build new houses in an incredibly over-inflated market with blowing-out building costs. We know the story about how hard it is to get a house built. They need to focus on fixing up the stock of houses that they currently have in their control.
Of course the state government is not the only provider of houses. We know that businesses, especially the mining industry in Durack, are owners of housing stock, as are private individuals and local councils. But, for such a wealthy state, you would think that putting a roof over the heads of vulnerable Western Australians and of our key service providers in regional WA, like our nurses and our police, would be a priority for the McGowan government. But it doesn't appear to be.
Yalgoo in my electorate has over 200 residents. The residents of that town need and deserve services, just as you and I do. They are struggling to find professionals to deliver these services because they have nowhere to house them. When I visited Yalgoo recently—and my word, the wildflowers were wild!—I learnt of a contracted nurse who had been forced to live in housing provided by the local council because the health department housing provided to her was unsafe. We need action. This is shameful. McGowan needs to act.