Bentley Community Garden
The shabby vista in the photo above, taken two weeks ago, appears to have cost taxpayers and ratepayers, one way or another, circa $100,000/yr in benefits and may have gone on as long as 10 years*, while thousands remain homeless or at wits’ end in terms of affordable housing. About the only thing that hasn’t been spent on this garden is the effort to maintain it between bailouts, including as late as last November.
(Images below – You decide if this has been value for money)
Premier Mark McGowan was pictured in a high-viz vest recently, selling The Big Issue alongside a man of limited means in life. “[Don’t cast your eyes down as you walk by]” Mr McGowan said, “[Every edition Steve sells he gets to keep half the proceeds…]”.
It led to an observation about the homeless – the Premier estimates there are about 10,000 in WA and went on to say a range of services was available to help, including Homeswest: “[It’s a problem…been around for a long time…the State is doing its best to fight it]”.
It seems the Premier may be a little out of touch with where funds to help those in need of affordable housing are applied today, if what’s going on at the Bentley Regeneration project in the City of Canning is any indication.
Homeswest hasn’t existed since 1999, and the agency for public housing that we knew has changed.
In fact the Premier might be appalled to know how much money Housing is spending on consultants and groups that claim to create community, activate spaces or work to achieve resiliency when it comes to, particularly, large tracts of public housing (like the Bentley Regeneration precinct), when nothing enduring seems to emerge.
In the case of this hopefully soon-to-be overhauled section of Bentley, that in the 60s produced one of the first, large-scale affordable and diverse housing precincts in Perth (later falling to ruin), the outcome to expenditure designed to engender hope has been, quite simply, ludicrous.
Essentially, around 10 years ago the state govt, via Housing, created a community group eventually known as Bentley Community Focus (BCF). Consecutive consultants were appointed to assist the group, but rather than developing in proficiency as time went on the group’s committee seemed to get everything bar their botties wiped.
Creating Communities informed me they provided “day-to-day assistance”, years of it, from running its meetings to providing graphics, advising on governance matters, liaison, etc.
Did I mention BCF’s committee, over the last two years at least, has largely composed of university-educated, gainfully employed or retired, no doubt well-meaning types: fmr mining engineer, fmr electoral officer claiming to have been trained by Alannah MacTiernan, teacher, several Canning staff members, current school principal, current cafe owner whose wife ran for Canning council and may well do so again….
Why would people with skill sets like this, “luckier” in life than those who ended up living at the Regen, need so much help?
My understanding is consultant contracts may have run as high as $100-150,000 a year by the end – the asterisk in the intro of this post denotes that no matter how hard I tried to find out where it all went, what other community groups or “stakeholders” in the vicinity of the Regen were assisted to improve its chances of sustainability and resiliency, no information was going to be provided.
Perhaps this can help – in conversation with me in 2016, BCF Committee member, Bentley Community Garden co-ordinator and now member of the City of Canning’s community advice group on matters sustainability and environment, Maria Bonser giggled at me:
“Whenever we need something [they] just do it for us! All we have to do is ring! “
Even more staggering is that despite years of high level assistance, when Housing finally cut the umbilical cord claiming the group had “transitioned” to independence, BCF, or more to the point it’s only tangible outlet, Bentley Community Garden, transferred it to City of Canning, which promptly told me it “works with community groups” to help establish them.
Have a look at the results of the last two years, following years of training by consultants, and benefits since 2015/16 including from City of Canning, well-meaning companies and local, state and federal govt grants. Do you feel this is [money] well spent?
All parties involved find excuses for this eye sore but its gone on for years and the BCF committee, which arrives to partake in canapés and media ops at the garden cheerfully enough, doesn’t extend those energies to weeding it.
BCF is a virtual entity, as far as I’m concerned; its main skill set seems to be up-describing what it did at some point and the value it believes it signifies otherwise, on a website it took two years to produce (even though it, too, was funded by govt).
It’s only other outlet, for four hours a year, the Harmony Day festival, appalled me so much I wondered if it were a case of Canning Kept Poor?
I can’t even get an answer as to why BCF doesn’t have a Chair, right after an AGM that had Garrick Smith, the new guy at Housing appointed to “deliver the Regen”, believing everything was alright (now).Nice man; doesn’t seem to get out to Bentley much.
More community engagement/activation consultants are on the way! No doubt BCF and Bentley Community Garden will seek something from them – but what’s needed is for all vested parties to get their act together and restore the Regen to a place that once offered something for everyone.