Vital service axing fears

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times

Local authorities hold serious fears Margaret River could potentially lose its one-person Department of Communities office.

Mindful Margaret River believes a broad array of residents needing direct State Government support could be left in the lurch later this year when the local officer takes maternity leave, with fears she will not be replaced.

MMR spokesman Stuart Hicks said the local community co-ordinator position was established last year as part of a two-year trial winding up in mid-2021.

“The trial has been a raging success,” Mr Hicks, the former South West Development Commission chairman said.

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“Mindful Margaret River is deeply worried (the position) will not be replaced.

“Two similar positions established in Busselton as part of the same trial have already lapsed, and Busselton no longer is served by local community co-ordinators.”

The office co-ordinates relief measures by other agencies for residents and helped clients who could walk in with no referral process, Mr Hicks said.

“It provides a unique type of triage, helping individuals and families navigate the mind-boggling mental health world they find themselves in,” he said.

The officer also co-ordinates outside agencies in local relief efforts during times of emergencies.

The role was created partly in recognition of serious community trauma in the wake of the 2019 Lishman report into the shire’s mental health load, the 2018 Osmington murder-suicide, and was crucial as COVID-19 continued to affect residents, Mr Hicks said.

Shire president Ian Earl also voiced the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s concerns.

“The trial has demonstrated the need for this service within our community and has developed into a linchpin that links community members and service providers extremely effectively,” he said.

“With our local economy identified as one of the most severely impacted by COVID-19 we believe this position should be retained to provide ongoing local assistance.”

A Department of Communities spokesman could not offer certainty for the office until the review of the two-year trial occurred.

Communities was aware of the officer’s pending maternity leave.

“The local communities co-ordination trial will be subject to an evaluation, which will inform future delivery of services to the community,” he said.

“The implications of this for the Margaret River trial site are currently being considered.”

Communities also noted staff would “continue to utilise the Margaret River office and have a regular presence in the Margaret River community,” but was unable to clarify any staffing commitments before deadline. Mr Hicks said many services did not extend beyond Busselton.

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