A community member who was knocked back for one of Snowy Valleys Council’s Stronger Communities Grants has criticised the council’s decisions as “corrupt.”
Tom Black is the Managing Director of AustYouth, an organisation that provides support for youth homelessness. He applied for a grant for a community kitchen and mental health resource centre that would provide free or cheap meals, and work opportunities for young people in need of hospitality experience.
He said he is concerned many of the grants, which totalled $1.4m, instead went to projects that fall under council’s jurisdiction, such as upgrades and maintenance to parks and libraries.
“In a lot of ways, the council are taking money away from the community to fund their own maintenance issues. They just looked after themselves, its just the big end helping the big end, is how I see it,” he said.
“The wider community doesn’t necessarily know what the grants are and what they’re for, and council actually hasn’t said what’s missed out. [The community] can say, ‘oh an airport hangar – that’s great!’ But they don’t know that that money didn’t go towards a mental health facility.”
The Stronger Communities grants went to not-for-profit incorporated organisations with an application for a project that would benefit the community. They were allocated to the Snowy Valleys Council as part of the amalgamation process of Tumut and Tumbarumba shires.
However, some of the projects were for areas that traditionally fall under the auspices of council.
For example, the Rotary Club of Batlow received a grant for $5301 to go towards tables and seating at Batlow Library. There were also grants to be spent on Tumbarumba Library, Memorial Park, Pioneer Park, Junction Park, and Tooma Hall.
Snowy Valleys Administrator Paul Sullivan has rejected this view, pointing to the fact that the process was transparent and overseen by higher levels of government.
“They all went to incorporated organisations, and incorporated organisations go under audit, the whole process has been signed off by the Department of Premier and Cabinet – there is nothing secretive about the way we did this, and it will also be audited by the auditor general.
“I’m sorry for Tom, but he just didn’t satisfy the criteria. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way it works.”
Margaret Isselman is Secretary of the Rotary Club and also a former Councillor.
She said one of the things the Rotary Club looked at when deciding what to put grants in for was areas where council simply didn’t have the budget to complete the relevant works – such as for the upgrades to the Batlow Library.
“We as a Rotary Club got ourselves together and had a conversation about how we could improve the town and what we could ask for, one of the things we looked at was what council doesn’t have the budget for already. We thought it would be nice to support the community, and I don’t think that’s any different to the other applications that were put in,” she said.
However, Mr Black believes charities such as his own were overlooked in favour of projects that didn’t tangibly benefit the wider community.
He cited the $14,880 beautification of the Khancoban Country Club’s beer gardens, $33, 250 for a hangar upgrade for the Tumut Aero Club, and the Tumbarumba Rotary Club’s $2800 for Scenic Lookout Design Planning, as examples of money that could be better spent elsewhere.
“Services that actually provide to the community, us, neighbourhood centres, they all got nothing,” he said.
“You’ve got people like Riding for the Disabled Australia, people like ourselves that are providing an on the ground service, we got nothing. It’s hard to swallow when you see grants going to country club for beautification and maintenance on their own equipment.
“I looked at what the community needs, and what the community doesn’t need, and what the community doesn’t need is an upgrade to an airport hangar. I feel it was about who you knew, not what you provided.
“My application was for a youth centre and a community kitchen, which would house Headspace to bring better mental health services to the area. That building would also house a teaching kitchen to teach kids cooking and cleaning skills and work ready skills, as well as providing the community with meals as cheap as $8, and if you couldn’t afford to pay for a meal, your meal would actually be free.
“We got knocked back and we were told it was because we couldn’t guarantee where the rent for the next 10 years would be coming from. Well, in our grant we made it clear that the rent would come from the kitchen. We had a projected income of $100, 000 a year, which would easily cover the cost of the rent.
“A lot of people may hear me and say ‘he’s just a whinger’, but if you actually look at who got the grants…the bias is so blatantly obvious, it’s not funny.”
Council have said they are not releasing the rejected grant applications to the public.
Full list of grants
Tumbarumba Camera Club, for Training Equipment – $489
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for Informative Signs at Cow and Calf – $601
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for Street Scape Improvements – $2,346
Tumbarumba Rotary Club Police Paddock, for Scenic Lookout Design Planning $2,800
Khancoban Angling Club Inc, for the Bringenbrong Reserve $3,026
Tumut Clay Target Club Inc, for an Automatic Emergency Defibrilator $3,258
Khancoban Childrens Resource Centre Inc, for Electrical Upgrade of Wiring and Lighting $3,620
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for a Community Ride on Mower $5,000
Rotary Club of Tumut Inc, for a Ken Warby Interpretive Sign $5,000
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for Table and Seating Batlow Library $5,301
Tumut Art Society Inc, for Making Arts Accessible $6,200
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for Upgrade Batlow Lookout $9,430
Tumut Potters Inc, for Purchase of Kiln $9,923
Tumut Town Band Inc, for Repairs to Bandroom Roof $10,000
Lanterns on the Lagoon Inc, for Promotion and Growth of Lanterns $11,591
Tumut Historical Society Inc, for Skillion Roof Addition $16,000
Lions Club of Tumut Inc, for Lions Junction Park $16,492
Tumbarumba Rodeo Club, for Upgrade to Arena $17,490
Adelong Progress Association Inc, for Rehabilitation Adelong Creek $20,000
Tumut Basketball Association Inc, for Cooling and Heating Basketball Stadium $21,488
Tumbarumba Polocrosse Club, for Polocrosse Club Revamp $23,500
Tumbarumba Rotary Club, for Upgrade Tumbarumba Christmas Tree Lights $26,762
Rotary Club of Batlow Inc, for BBQ & Tables Memorial Park $27,956
Riverina Highlands Landcare Network Inc, for Building Community Capacity $28,150
Talbingo Men’s Shed Inc, for Extension to Men’s Shed $32,000
Tumut Aero Club Inc, for Hangar Upgrade $33,250
Tumbarumba Equine Club, for Upgrade of Access Road $37,130
Tumbarumba Pony Club, for Indoor Sports Facility $39,035
Tumbarumba Little Athletics Club, for Improving Athletics in Tumbarumba $40,212.00
Tumbarumba Adult Riding Club, for Construction and Fencing of a Sand Arena $43,550
Rotary Club of Tumut Inc, for Pioneer Park Shelter $48,400
Batlow Senior Citizens Village Assoc. Inc, for Refurbishments of Units $50,000
Brungle Memorial Hall Committee Inc, for Brungle Hall Restoration $50,000
Gilmore Progress Association Inc, for Gilmore Hall Renovation $50,000
Sounds of the Mountain Inc, for Upgrade Broadcast Infrastructure $50,000
Tumut Junior Cricket Association Inc, for Enclosed Multipurpose Training Facility $50,000
Tumut Rugby Union Football Club Inc for Jarrah Oval Playing Surface Upgrade $50,000
Jingellic PA&H Society Inc, for Clean Water Clean Catering – Upgrade Kitchen Facilities $50,000
Radio Upper Murray Inc (Tumbarumba Site), for Replace Community Broadcast site $50,000
Tumbarumba Australian Football and Netball Club, for Netball Court Upgrade $50,000
Batlow Apple Blossom Festival, for Replacement of Community Items $2,629
Khancoban Golf Club Golf, for Upgrade 9 Hole grass greens $3,000
Khancoban Golf Club Golf, for Repair and Upgrade to Mower and Golf Cart $5,000
Brungle Tumut Local Aboriginal Land Council, for 50th Anniversary of the Referendum $8,431
Tumbarumba RSL Sub-branch, for Tumbarumba Memorial Hall Upgrade $9,969
Red Energy Rock the Turf, for Red Energy Rock the Turf $10,000
Tumbafest, for Tumbafest 2017 $10,000
Friends of Tumbarumba Library, for Youth Area Redevelopment $12,000
Tumbarumba Artists On Parade, for Purchase of Stage Curtain, Lighting and Stage $14,500
Khancoban Country Club, for Beautification of Beer Garden and Roof Repairs $14,880
Christmas in Tumut Committee, for Tumut CBD Christmas Decorations $17,278
Tumut Racecourse Reserve Trust, for Upgrade of Function Centre $19,610
Rosewood Golf Club, for Equestrian Arena and Grounds Improvement Project $21,500
Glenroy Heritage Reserve Committee, for Refurbishment of toilets at Glenroy Heritage Reserve $23,444
Brungle Recreation Reserve Trust, for Playground for Brungle $27,489
Khancoban Country Club, for Tennis Court Resurfacing $49,797
Batlow RSL Club Ltd, for Fix the Lid $50,000
Tumut Showground Trust, for New Amenities Block $50,000