While the announcement of $25 million for the Growing Suburbs Fund (GSF) is welcome, Interface Councils will wait with bated breath for the October State Budget.
The total funding available through the fund is now $25 million - half of what was previously shared by the ten Interface Councils and, this year, the funding will also be shared with six Peri-Urban Councils.
Interface Councils takes pride in its ongoing positive collaboration with the State Government and is hopeful the State Budget in October will provide additional funding support for Melbourne’s outer suburban communities, who have been some of the hardest hit by the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Chairing yesterday’s Interface Councils Forum, Interim Administrator at the City of Whittlesea, Lydia Wilson said, “The Growing Suburbs Fund is a fund that delivers for individuals and families by reducing levers of disadvantage. It increases community engagement, supports mental wellbeing and improves access to health infrastructure services. At a time like this, Interface Councils believes the GSF will provide essential support for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable people.”
The GSF is an established program and every dollar invested by Government is matched or doubled by other funding sources. This amount of leveraging is a real benefit for the State Government. The returns far exceed other funding programs, such as the Community Infrastructure Loans Scheme, where the State Government contributes up to 90 per cent of the cost of a project.
More than 1.6 million people live in the Interface Councils Region. But the fund will now provide support for an additional 200,000 people who live in the Peri-Urban Group of Rural Councils.
“COVID-19 has seen a spike in family violence and incidents of mental illness due to rapid unemployment. Nowhere has this been felt more keenly than in the Interface Region, where the existing gap of essential health and human services and critical infrastructure is widening even further.
“Historically, the GSF has provided community hubs, cultural facilities and sports/leisure centres for families who don’t live close to the CBD. These places are where local networks are formed and people’s lives are improved,” Lydia Wilson said.
In addition to the social benefits generated, more than 6000 jobs have been created by the Growing Suburbs Fund. This is important in a region where a good mix of local jobs is scarce and unemployment is the highest in Victoria.
There has been an oversubscription to the GSF’s priority project funding round every year, which shows the willingness of Councils to financially commit to these important community projects.
The Interface Councils group is hopeful the upcoming budget will include another Growing Suburbs Fund announcement and provide additional assistance to people currently living in outer suburban areas without the adequate infrastructure or support.
Interface Councils Media Contact: Zoe Forbes via email@example.com or 0438 924 462
All Growing Suburbs Fund Progress Reports and the GSF Social Benefits Brochure are available on the Interface Councils website.