One of the most obvious omissions in the suburb of Glebe is a dedicated, fully staffed, full-time community centre. In a 2019 survey of older Glebe residents over 90% of responders identified that as an impediment to the availability of local activities for groups of all ages.
The Community Development Subcommittee of the Glebe Society has been researching what opportunities there are in Glebe for community groups to form, meet and flourish. We are aware that there are several variously-sized City of Sydney owned and managed spaces available for hire by community groups. These include St Helen’s, Benledi, the Peter Forsyth Auditorium, the Robyn Kemmis space at Francis Street Park (the so-called ‘old butcher’s shop’), the new community space at the Tramsheds, and the Glebe Town Hall itself. They lend themselves to a variety of uses but the major handicaps in utilising these are the cost and the difficulty of hiring a space for a community activity. While the City website has a link for this, there is a complicated process for obtaining a fee waiver, which many groups might need if they are to succeed. We note that our neighbours, Pyrmont and Ultimo, are both provided with such a facility and feel that Glebe should have one too.
The main advantages of Glebe Town Hall for the Glebe Community Centre are its geographically central location within the suburb and the number of potential spaces for community activities. The Society is advocating for this to bring Glebe into line with our neighbours.
Consequently, we have sent a submission to the Lord Mayor, to all the City of Sydney Councillors and to Monica Barone, the Chief Executive Officer, in relation to this community need. See a copy below. We look forward to your support and await their response.
Text of Letter to City of Sydney
Enabling Community Activities – A Staffed Community Centre at Glebe Town Hall
The Glebe Society (TGSI) urges the City of Sydney to create a Community Centre at the Glebe Town Hall to provide a much needed fully-staffed facility to serve the whole of the Glebe community.
TGSI welcomes the views expressed in the Mayoral Minute of 9 September 2019, ‘Enabling Community Activities’. We believe that the most effective way to achieve these objectives for the Glebe community is to utilise the Glebe Town Hall as a dedicated fully-staffed Community Centre.
The Mayoral Minute notes the ‘extensive portfolio of community venues’ in the City of Sydney, and the critical contribution they make to ‘our commitment to sustaining Sydney as a city for all’.
Glebe is generously endowed with community venues, including the beautifully refurbished Glebe Town Hall, the recently opened community space at the Tramsheds in Forest Lodge, the boutique Robin Kemmis facility at Franklyn Park, the Peter Forsyth Auditorium at Broadway Shopping Centre, the community space at St Helen’s on Glebe Point Rd, the Benledi community space at Glebe Library, the former Walter Burley Griffin incinerator and the arches at Jubilee Park. However, our community spaces are generally under-utilised, and do not currently achieve their potential in ‘enhancing community resilience’.
The Glebe Society has been investigating the needs of our community members who are ‘ageing in place’. We have found a wide variety of activities already available in our community. City of Sydney provides several fitness and exercise programs as well as Monday and Thursday bingo, but most activities are organised by residents. Some are small and informal, such as book groups and sewing circles; others more formal and run by local organisations such as church groups, the PUG Men’s Shed and the Glebe Society itself.
There are, however, a number of barriers in getting these self-generating activities off the ground. The first that most groups encounter is locating an appropriate venue. St Helen’s Community Centre is staffed on Mondays and Thursdays, but it only has one space for community use, and that is booked on Mondays and Thursdays for early morning exercise and bingo. At other times St Helen’s, along with all other venues, is unstaffed. Gaining a booking to use these community venues involves a complex application process, which is especially difficult for unincorporated groups without insurance. In addition, access to an unstaffed venue on booking days can be cumbersome and time-consuming. Then, those groups that aim to be inclusive face barriers in spreading the word about their new activity.
The next step – a staffed community centre at Glebe Town Hall
The Glebe Town Hall is located in the geographic heart of Glebe and boasts a number of fully accessible community spaces. We believe it is an ideal location for a fully staffed Community Centre, similar in nature to that available to residents of Pyrmont and Ultimo at their respective Community Centres. TGSI considers the present disparity creates an equity issue.
A Glebe Town Hall Community Centre (GTHCC) offers many positive advantages for our community.
- The location is accessible from all areas of Glebe and Forest Lodge
- The venue has a range of separate community spaces that could support a diverse cluster of activities, as well as having on-site office space for Community Centre staff
- The proximity of GTH to many social housing neighbourhoods is particularly advantageous to people seeking information about available assistance and services, many of whom currently seek help in lieu from the Glebe office of our State political representative, Jamie Parker.
- Clustering community activities at a GTHCC would:
- Bring together a wide range of residents, increasing the scope to generate a program of activities that meets the needs of all residents, not just those with the capacity to organise their own activities and negotiate for the community space they need.
- Create foot-traffic for a GTHCC noticeboard, increasing the scope for activities to become truly inclusive.
- But GTHCC would need staff to facilitate this process, reaching out to the community to support existing self-generated activities, and facilitating the establishment of new activities. At a minimum staff would need to handle bookings and allocate spaces among competing uses and ensure the spaces were open when needed; ideally, they would also facilitate discussions about the GTHCC program, to help generate new activities.
The Glebe Society is very aware of the City of Sydney’s support for our organisation, and of the many ways in which the City supports community development in all its ‘villages’. We urge you to consider our submission. We see a Glebe Town Hall Community Centre as an important initiative to make our diverse village community more resilient.
Recent interviews undertaken by GlebeConnected members found that approximately 90% of older people interviewed for their ‘Ageing in Place’ research expressed the desire for a comprehensive Community Centre to be established at Glebe Town Hall. The time is ripe for a fundamental review of the use of this valuable facility.
Our vision is for a dynamic community centre that engages the whole community, gives voice to those who currently have none and offers a program of activities that meets Glebe’s diverse needs. We acknowledge that, if our vision is realised, it may inconvenience organisations that currently book Glebe Town Hall for ad hoc meetings, but Glebe has other under-utilised meeting rooms at Benledi and (on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays) at St Helen’s.
Our community as a whole would benefit greatly from a fully staffed Community Centre at Glebe Town Hall.
Janice Challinor, on behalf of the TGSI Community Development Subcommittee