Hawkesbury Council’s Aboriginal Flag Raising Ceremony

During Reconciliation Week, I was pleased to attend the first raising of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags, which will now be flown continuously at the Hawkesbury City Council Chambers. It has taken a long time but this is a significant and historic moment for Aboriginal people of the Hawkesbury which will increase a sense of belonging and is a positive step towards reconciliation.

For some more photos of the event visit the Hawkesbury Greens’ Facebook page.

Accommodation providers left out of pocket by Bentley back-down should be compensated

North Coast accommodation providers should be compensated for the damage caused by the NSW Government’s plan to send hundreds of police to break up the peaceful protect at Bentley, says Jan Barham, Greens MP and spokesperson for Tourism and the North Coast.

“Until the Government’s last minute suspension of Metgasco’s drilling approval, accommodation providers all over the Northern Rivers region had been booked for up to 800 police who were being brought in to break up the Bentley blockade,” Ms Barham said.

“These businesses, and our local communities, have missed opportunities to host tourists who were unable to book accommodation due to the planned police operation. The least the Government can do is to compensate those operators who were directly affected by the reckless plan to use police force on a peaceful protest.”

Ms Barham noted that the planned police operation to allow gas drilling at Bentley lacked community support.

“It’s especially unfair that the communities who have expressed such strong opposition to unconventional gas might bear the economic impact from a mining operation that lacked a social licence.

“The communities of the Northern Rivers have wanted to remain gasfield-free, and our region’s wellbeing relies on industries such as tourism, not mining.

“I’m relieved that the police operation at Bentley did not proceed as planned following a large amount of community pressure. But the Government must shoulder responsibility for the financial impact on the North Coast accommodation industry caused by their last minute back-down,” Ms Barham concluded.

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

Premier Baird must stand up for the vulnerable harmed by a cruel Federal Budget

Premier Mike Baird must use Sunday’s meeting of chief ministers to raise the harms the Federal Budget would cause for disadvantaged groups and the pressures it would place on NSW services and programs, says Greens MP Jan Barham.

“The Federal Budget has cut enormous holes in this country’s safety net and is set to put already vulnerable people at risk of poverty, homelessness and deep disadvantage.

“The biggest impacts in this budget will be felt by the people who are least equipped to deal with further challenges,” warned Ms Barham, the Greens NSW spokesperson for Ageing, Disability Services, Aboriginal Affairs, Housing, and Family and Community Services.

Ms Barham’s call comes ahead of Sunday’s meeting of state and territory government leaders in Sydney to discuss how they will deal with cuts to Commonwealth funding.

“The cost-shifting in health and education are obvious concerns for the state and territory governments, including NSW. But the cuts and changes to programs that support younger people, older people, people with disabilities, Aboriginal communities, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness will see the state government faced with increasing numbers of people in crisis,” said Ms Barham.

“Changes to pension eligibility and indexation will push people deeper into poverty. Removal of housing investment and support will drive people further into housing stress. The withdrawal of funding to Aboriginal services and programs will widen the gap. This is a budget that promotes inequality, and the unfair burden will fall on those who can least withstand it,” Ms Barham said.

“Instead of providing people with support and opportunity, this Budget is going to leave vulnerable people under greater pressure to overcome the challenges they face, while they receive far less assistance and support.

“The Premier needs to make the case that investment in that support is crucial to securing people’s wellbeing and preventing them from suffering harm,” Ms Barham concluded.

Adjournment speech on the Federal Budget from the NSW Legislative Council, 14 May 2014:

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891

NSW rental affordability crisis needs urgent action

The NSW Government must act to address the worsening rental affordability crisis across the state, warns Greens MP and Housing spokesperson, Jan Barham.

“Without a dedicated Housing Minister and with ongoing uncertainty about agreements with the Commonwealth on housing and homelessness, an already grim situation could quickly deteriorate further,” Ms Barham said.

“The Government needs to ensure affordable housing is an essential target in planning future development in Sydney and regional centres. The State Government must call on the Commonwealth to improve income support to vulnerable people and commit to extending the partnership agreements that fund housing programs,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham’s call for action follows yesterday’s release of Anglicare’s latest Rental Affordability Snapshot.

“Anglicare’s report shows that the problems with rental affordability in NSW are widespread and leave the most vulnerable at risk of homelessness. In Sydney, only 33 of the more than 12,000 available rentals were affordable and appropriate to people on income support. The problem is also worsening in the regions. In many regional areas jobs can be hard to come by, and the lack of affordable housing for people on income support is presents additional challenges. In my home town of Byron Bay, there were no rentals appropriate to people on the minimum wage or income support.

“The Premier should acknowledge the extent of the affordable housing problems in NSW by appointing a Minister with dedicated responsibility to fix it.

“There are things that can and must be done at the state level, without waiting for federal support. The NSW Government can provide greater support to help vulnerable and disadvantaged people access and maintain appropriate rental accommodation and break away from what is sometimes intergenerational disadvantage. The Government must also review its social housing stock and deliver on its overdue strategies to provide the housing that is needed, including single-person dwellings and housing for the aged and people with disabilities.

“Coordinating the state’s social and affordable housing delivery, pressing the Federal Government to meet its commitments, and supporting innovation in the housing sector are challenges that need an urgent focus,” Ms Barham concluded.

Anglicare’s Rental Affordability Snapshot for Greater Sydney

Anglicare National Rental Affordability Snapshot (incl. NSW regions)

NSW Select Committee Inquiry into Social, Public and Affordable Housing

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891