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We need suitable and affordable venues for growing communities

Canberra’s growing multicultural population enriches our city with its vibrant cultures, faiths, languages and customs. Unfortunately, for several years community groups have struggled to access suitable venues for their events.

I have been raising this matter with the Barr Government for two-and-a-half years, both in speeches and through questions to ministers. I specifically wanted to know the government’s plans ‘to guarantee that the ACT’s growing multicultural communities will have access to suitable, affordable venues in future’.

I was told that people needed ‘to utilise existing community facilities and other suitable government infrastructure across the ACT for cultural events’ and was promised that an online booking system would make this easier. The booking system never materialised, and since community groups were already being turned away from venues, this response was inadequate.

The Barr Government has now admitted that multicultural groups are suffering from lack of access to venues. It has agreed to conduct a feasibility study to look at creating a community facility at EPIC. Whilst I welcome this study, it should have been done when I first started raising this matter.

In welcoming the overdue study, I reminded the government that venues must be affordable. Community groups often rely on volunteers and have limited budgets. Some of them have been forced to shift their events across the border in recent years. For example, the Oktoberfest event that was held at EPIC relocated to Queanbeyan after the Barr Government raised venue hire fees from $6,000 to $41,000 in just five years. Many smaller cultural events have followed suit.

It will do no good to provide a venue that multicultural community organisations cannot afford to hire. In addressing this matter in the Assembly today, I called on the government to focus not just on space but also on affordability.

Click on the arrow button to read my speech.


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