Advocacy in Darebin

Advocacy involves identifying and responding to issues that impact the wellbeing of our community. These include much needed infrastructure services and programs that address health, social justice, housing, travel, access, safety, sustainability and education. Darebin City Council is committed to addressing disadvantage in our community and to improving health and wellbeing outcomes for all.

Our advocacy work is underpinned by Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (the Charter) and guided by the principles of equity and inclusion to support more equitable wealth distribution. Council is committed to upholding all of the rights, principles and values set out in the Charter.

Successful advocacy means that Darebin City Council’s community priorities are “on the radar” to influence Federal, State governments and other stakeholders in order to gain support, resources and funding to implement projects, programs and policies that benefit local communities.

Key Projects

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The projects below are currently being actively pursued and deemed as a priority after consultation with the community during the development of the Council Plan 2013-2017. The advocacy projects/priorities have been grouped under the goals of our Council Plan. This list is not a complete list of key issues and projects that Council is currently pursuing.

1. Vibrant City and Innovative Economy

Preston Market Redevelopment

Preston Market is one of the most-loved, iconic features of our city and we share our community's deep interest in its long-term future.

On Monday 27 February, Council unanimously voted to refuse two town planning permit applications from Preston Market Developments. The applications were to build three residential apartment towers containing 300 dwellings and 2900 square metres of additional retail floor space on the Preston Market site.

Our job was to assess the planning applications against the requirements of the Darebin Planning Scheme. The Scheme includes a specific development strategy for the Market site, which is called the Preston Market Incorporated Plan. We decided there were aspects of the two applications which didn’t sufficiently comply with the Planning Scheme and the Preston Market Incorporated Plan. We’ve taken a strong stance on this application because we want to secure the Market’s future.

Our decision to refuse these applications can of course be appealed to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and the owners of the Market may decide to lodge an appeal against our decision.

Knowing this, at the same Council Meeting we also decided to ask the Hon Richard Wynne MP, Minister for Planning, to exercise his powers to ‘call in’ these planning permit applications and any other applications we might receive for the market site in the near future.

To support this request we are currently compiling a detailed submission to the Minister that demonstrates the social, cultural and economic significance of the Market site to broader northern metropolitan Melbourne. If the Minister agrees to our request the Victorian Government will become the Responsible Authority for town planning decisions for this development.

We have decided on this course of action because, as far as Council’s planning powers are concerned, we are not convinced that existing controls provide a level of protection that secures the long-term future of the fresh food market.

Council maintains our long-held position that the site is ripe for appropriate redevelopment into a thriving residential and retail precinct. While we share the owner’s view that much more should be done on this site to create a vibrant community hub, we need stronger planning controls that secure a prosperous economic future for the Market.

We will keep you updated as new information about the Market development comes to hand.

St Georges Road Shared Path Upgrade background

The St Georges Road shared path is Darebin’s busiest bicycle route and is heavily used by people riding bikes to and from the CBD.

Surveys have recorded more than 500,000 riders using the path every year, an average of 600 riders daily during the morning peak hour – making it the sixth busiest bicycle route in Australia (according to Bicycle Victoria's Super Tuesday data). As well as being a popular commuting route for cyclists, the shared path is also frequently used by pedestrians, especially those using the Route 11 tram and various bus services that intersect the shared path in an east/west direction.

The increase in popularity of this route has led to serious safety concerns in some locations as the path’s capacity is reached. Council commissioned a safety audit of the path in 2013 between Merri Parade and Murray Road. This audit found that in order to be in line with the relevant VicRoads and Austroads standards, a range of works would be required to increase the path’s capacity and remove interactions with vehicles where possible by treating or closing road median openings.

The provision of high quality off-road paths will help ensure safe environments for our bike riders and has the potential to prevent conflicts between cyclists and cars, such as those that recently occurred on Sydney Road, Brunswick. Improving this path was the second most important issue raised by those living in the south of Darebin in the recent Traffic and Transport survey.

Melbourne Water is currently renewing two sections of the M40 water main, from the Preston reservoirs to Arthurton Road. This represents a great opportunity to upgrade this path in a way that reduces costs and disruptions for the local community. For more information on the upgrade plans see the Melbourne Water website.

For further information contact the Transport team at 8470 8888 or email transport@darebin.vic.gov.au.

St Georges Road vehicle crossover closures

We have written to VicRoads in response to community concerns about the impact the temporary closure of the vehicle crossovers is having on the local community and businesses. The letter seeks assurance from VicRoads that they will undertake significant public consultation to determine the best long term solution. Our own community engagement on this matter has shown us the community has a range of concerns and ideas that should be considered. These may involve the introduction of signalisation, rather than total removal, of key crossing points as well as the upgrade of existing signalised intersections.

26 casualty accidents have occurred at these openings over the past five years, so Council fully supports treating these openings in a way that improves safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Our objective is to secure a solution that balances the needs of all stakeholders by improving safety, keeping trams and traffic flowing, and reduce traffic on local roads.

Please refer to the Darebin Mayor's letter to VicRoads re St Georges Road Shared Path Upgrade letter for more information. We will keep you up to date on this matter here.

Train Level crossing removals in Reservoir, Preston and Fairfield

The Victorian State Government’s announcement that work will start in 2018 to remove level crossings located on: Bell Street, Preston, High Street, Reservoir and Grange Road, Fairfield is welcomed news, that follows many years of intense lobbying by Council in partnership with the local community and media.

The announcement builds on the visionary work undertaken by Darebin City Council in conjunction with Moreland City Council in 2013 to investigate the financial feasibility of completing several grade separations at once across the two municipalities through a regional approach.

Separating the road from the rail network at critical junctions will enable more frequent rail services to run to and from the city, reduce road congestion, allow for future public transport upgrades and free up land for regeneration, development and public open space.

Level crossing removal presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver positive community outcomes that will improve community safety, mobility and connectedness and provide opportunities for local jobs and businesses in the City of Darebin.

The Level Crossing Removal Authority (LXRA) has been established by the Victorian Government to deliver these projects. They are responsible for determining the final design and will keep the community informed and will consult over the coming years.

Keep an eye out for future opportunities to have your say on how the Victorian Government’s level crossing removals are undertaken. Council will work with the community to continue to advocate on your behalf to the Level Crossing Authority and other levels of government to achieve the best possible outcome for Darebin.

For the latest Council contributions to the project, see the Council minutes for 20 June 2016 and read Item 604 Appendix A - Darebin Level Crossing Removal Projects - Urban Design Principles.

For information and to register for project updates go to www.levelcrossings.vic.gov.au/crossings.

Upgrade of the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre

Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre (NARC) is a popular community facility that has reached the end of its practical lifespan. Located in the heart of Northcote it provides much-needed aquatic and recreation facilities for the local community and despite its poor condition NARC continues to attract more than 780,000 visits per year.
Significant investment is required to redevelop the facility to bring it in line with modern standards. Given the large scale of the project, Council is also looking at opportunities to integrate other services into NARC including child and maternal health services. Council is currently advocating to all levels of Government to see this project progress by 2020.

For further information contact the Leisure and Public Realm team on 8470 8302 or email transport@darebin.vic.gov.au.

Establishment of a youth business incubator in Preston

Council wants to reduce youth unemployment by setting up a temporary youth business incubator (for a minimum of five years) in Preston which will service the cities of Yarra, Darebin, Moreland, Hume, Whittlesea and Banyule. This project is a response to the high average unemployment rate in Melbourne’s north-west of 17.2% – compared with the average unemployment rate across Victoria of 13.8%.

A vacant office building would be refurbished to create office spaces that would provide young people with the ability to test their initial business ideas under the guidance of business development professionals. The building would be fitted with boardrooms, meeting and training rooms, kitchenettes, toilet facilities, IT equipment and high speed Internet via the National Broadband Network. A commercial kitchen facility will also be included for emerging food and beverage manufacturing businesses. If the youth business incubator is found to be successful in reducing the youth unemployment rate in Melbourne’s north, then a permanent self-sustaining office building will be sought in a commercial location such as the Preston Market or within the Preston Civic Precinct when it is redeveloped. Funding is being sought for this project.

For further information contact the Manager of Economic Development and Civic Compliance on 8470 8686 or email Eddy.Boscariol@darebin.vic.gov.au.

2. Healthy and Connected Community

A new location for the Darebin Intercultural Centre

The Darebin Intercultural Centre was established to provide a community program of intercultural education, events, and dialogue.

It is a safe space where interactive activities lead participants to a better understanding of cultures different to their own. Darebin has a significant number of isolated people with limited English language skills wishing to connect to other groups and engage in activities that promote belonging, health and wellbeing. Since opening in 2011, more than 95,000 visitors have participated in intercultural activities at the Centre and more than 30 people have volunteered in programs to support local people to gain skills and readiness for employment or training.

The Intercultural Centre is a crucial resource that helps Council support many of these vulnerable community members. As well as Council’s presence at the Centre, a range of community-based organisations and community groups partner with Council to support residents, local community groups, regional ethnic networks and visitors across the State.  The Intercultural Centre operates from the old Preston Courthouse, which Council leases from State Government. Under lease arrangements in 2015, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal VCAT commenced hearings from the Centre, occupying 30% of the building’s space. Although the Intercultural Centre and VCAT are operating alongside each other comfortably, the limitations of its current venue restrict the growth of programs and services. A permanent purpose-built home would contribute to the nurturing and protection of Darebin residents’ heritage, cultural diversity, community safety and wellbeing.

For further information contact the Intercultural Programs Liaison Officer on 8470 8485 or visit the Intercultural Centre webpage. To subscribe to the Intercultural Centre’s wide range of free events email intercultural@darbein.vic.gov.au or phone 8470 8440.

Development of a regional Multi Sports Stadium

On 21 September 2015 Council endorsed the construction of a regional Multi-Sport Stadium (MSS). This key piece of sporting infrastructure will provide much needed facilities for a range of court-sports including netball, basketball, volleyball and badminton. One of the key outcomes expected from this project is to increase participation in sport and physical activity, in particular women who experience a lack of access to quality sports facilities in Darebin. Council is currently working with a number of stakeholders including State and Federal governments to make this facility a reality.

For further information visit the Multi Sports Stadium information page.

Junction Urban Master Plan

The Junction Urban Master Plan has been prepared by Darebin Council together with the community to improve the attractiveness and liveability of public space in the Junction. ‘The Junction’ refers to the area in Preston bound by Bell Street to the north, Plenty Road to the east, Dundas Street to the south, and Railway Place to the west.

Consultation Feedback

JUMP seeks to change the look, feel and function of High St, Preston from a historically industrial area into one that is more urban and community friendly. The Draft Streetscape Concept Plans for both High Street and Plenty Road were presented to the community in March 2015.

Following a four-week community consultation process, the most significant issue raised by the community was the loss of the on-road bike lanes. They have now been retained and incorporated into the new cross section of High Street.

Next Steps

Future improvements to High Street will include new traffic calming devices such as the central median, kerb outstands, pedestrian thresholds and landscaping, will support slower speed travel and encourage a safer public space for pedestrians and cyclists. The proposed changes also provide opportunities for outdoor dining, increased shade, improved amenity and create a more vibrant public realm for the community.

We are currently completing the final detailed design for construction in mid-2016.

For further information contact Public Realm on 8470 8381 or email publicrealm@darebin.vic.gov.au.

3. Open and Accountable Democracy

Increasing social and affordable housing

Low-income families and individuals continue to be ‘priced out’ of Darebin due to urgent lack of affordable housing. Housing affordability is a real challenge for Council and the community-housing sector. Rental and housing subsidies by the State and Federal Government have not kept up with escalating housing costs. Public housing is being sold as waiting lists for public housing get longer.

Council often sees firsthand, the increasing urgency of individuals, family and communities in ‘housing stress’ - who are being forced to ‘trade off’ between housing costs and costs for food, education and health.

In response, Council is seeking to increase the level of affordable ‘bricks and mortar’ accommodation across the city.  Our advocacy actions includes:

  • Engaging in an active partnership with the State Government to protect and increase public housing, include affordable housing in all private and public  property development opportunities and develop social and affordable housing on Council owned land.
  • Increasing the level of safe and affordable rooming houses by being an active member of the Melbourne Metropolitan Rooming House Working Group
  • Exploring innovative financial models such as Superannuation funds for building affordable housing by using the collective influence of Local Government Mayors.
  • Advocating for public policy and structural change  such as making a formal submission to Australian Senate’s Inquiry into Affordable Housing
  • Contributing to improving local government practice around Homelessness research and policy through quarterly magazine ‘Parity’
  • Being an active member on the Housing and Local Government Network to develop collective advocacy campaigns.
  • Continuing to convene Darebin Housing Advisory Committee to provide Council with an accurate barometer of current housing issues and emerging trends.

For further information visit the Community Support and Wellbeing page and read the Social and Affordable Housing Action Plan, or contact the Darebin Community Planner, Monday to Thursday on 8470 8635 or email Nick.Matteo@darebin.vic.gov.au.

Reforms to Electronic Gaming Machines (Pokies)

Every year for the last 20 years residents from the City of Darebin have lost $69M by gambling on Electronic Gaming Machines (EGM’s). Most of these losses occur in our most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Council regulatory capacity to reduce these losses is weak as the current legislation and regulation provisions privilege EGM operators and maximise tax revenue for the State Government.

We recognise that advocacy provides the main avenue for EGM reform and to reduce the harms associated with gambling. We are an active participant in two major advocacy forums;

The Local Government Working Group on Gambling (LGWGOG) and the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA). This group is represented by Councils, community based agencies, advocacy groups and churches.

The LGWGOG advocacy actions include:

  • Introduction of maximum bets of $1 per spin
  • Review and reform the current ‘Capping’ system to further reduce the number of EGM’s in Victoria
  • To develop Australia wide consistent legislation and regulation
  • Greater intervention of venues to reduce harms to problem gamblers
The National Alliance for Gambling Reform is represented by Australian Councils and Community based agencies with a view to developing harm minimisation strategies tailored to Councils.The advocacy actions include:
  • High profile State wide media campaign called ‘Enough Pokies’ to influence Victorian State Government election
  • Research by Monash University that analysed those decisions made by the Victorian Commission on Gambling and Liquor (VGCLR)
  •  Regulation with regards to those EGM planning appeals lodged by Victorian Councils
  • Reform the definition and application of Community Benefits so that operators pay their fair share towards addressing gambling harms
  • Prevent saturation of EGM’s in areas of high disadvantage
  • Give Councils (as the Planning Authority) greater powers under the Act with regards to EGM’s
  • Contribution to ‘Ka Ching’, a documentary that raises awareness about the poker machine industry

For further information on Community Support and Wellbeing, read the Darebin Electronic Gaming Machine Policy and Strategic Action Plan 2014-2017 or contact the Darebin Community Planner, Monday to Thursday, on 8470 8635 or email Nick.Matteo@darebin.vic.gov.au.

The Municipal Association of Victoria has further information on the Pokies Play You website.

How you can be involved

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There are a number of projects and programs residents and business owners can be involved in.

Say NO to Racism

We are working towards a racism-free Darebin where our community's diversity is valued, celebrated, respected, embraced and leveraged. Darebin has a number of initiatives advancing this goal including provision of a Say NO to Racism Training Package encouraging bystanders to take action when they witness racism occur in the community.

The training package includes:

  • An overview of racism and its impacts of the community
  • Reasons why bystanders should take action
  • Practical tools and skills that enable and empower people to take  action
  • The link between collective action and creating a culture where racism is not tolerated
To register for the training package or to find out more information about the training, visit the Anti-Racism page, or contact the Community Equity and Diversity team on 8470 8630 or diversity@darebin.vic.gov.au. The Intercultural centre is running Say No to Racism Training in March. To find out more and to book visit the Community Calendar or our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/darebincitycouncil/events.

Advocacy Success Stories

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The following projects and programs have been completed or implemented thanks to successful advocacy by Council.

Reservoir Community and Learning Centre– opened 2015. 

The Reservoir Community and Learning Centre provides a new community hub that combines the library, customer service, maternal and child health, the toy library, youth services and community meeting spaces. Council was successful in securing $3M from the Federal Government and $812K from the State Government to construct this $5 Million Centre. For more information on the Centre visit the Venues page.

Reservoir Community and Learning Centre CCTV

Funded as part of the Department of Justice Community Safety Infrastructure grants, Darebin Council now operates five Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in a small area in the public realm around the Reservoir Community and Learning Centre. The cameras are part of Councils’ broader work to reduce crime, increase perceptions of safety and create a safe, inclusive community. For more information contact Community Safety on 8470 8587.

Keon Park Children’s Hub – opened October 2014

The Keon Park Children’s Hub provides a much-needed modern, integrated centre in Darebin’s north with maternal and child health services, kindergarten rooms, multi-use family rooms and playgrounds.  Council has been very successful in gaining $1.5M in State Government funding for this $5 Million project.

Alphington Railway Station Heritage Trees – completed 2014

Council worked together with community members and VicTrack to advocate for the protection of heritage trees and vegetation in the area slated for development around the railway station.  The active advocacy and collaboration led to a recognition of the need to preserve these much-loved natural features of the local environment.

Darebin North East Community Hub – opened 2014

The Darebin North East Community Hub provides local services to residents in the Bundoora, Kingsbury and Macleod areas. Council advocated to the Federal Government to achieve $4.9 Million towards the $6.1 Million cost of the project and was also successful in gaining $1.2 Million in funding through the State Government’s ‘Places Victoria’ program.  The Hub combines maternal and child health and family support programs with community meeting rooms and a conference and reception facility.The Hub provides key services with a focus on family and children, including maternal and child health, family support, breastfeeding support, early years programs and a toy library. It also offers community spaces, an art gallery, meeting rooms and a conference space to enable students, community groups and local business people to learn and connect in a historic but modern setting.

Housed in a restored building that was formerly part of the Larundel Psychiatric Hospital, the Hub provides a focal point for the community to interact and access Council services – and for Council to foster partnerships with other organisations to provide local services within a neighbourhood setting. The location of the Hub, within reach of both established and developing communities, enables it to service a diverse community including those newly arrived to Darebin, international and regional students and new families.

Preventing Family Violence

Council is committed to preventing violence against women and delivers a range of initiatives with the community, across our organisations and with our partners in the northern region as part of our Preventing Violence Against Women Action Plan. For further information please visit our family support page, and our preventing violence against women page. You can also contact the Preventing Violence Against Women Officer on 8470 8522 or email: preventing.violence@darebin.vic.gov.au.