June 30, 2021

Benalla community blindsided by removal of face-to-face Centrelink services

The Federal Government has abandoned the pretence of consulting with the Benalla community on the future of the Services Australia office, moving ahead with plans to permanently remove face-to-face help in Benalla.

Earlier this year Services Australia said an “agent model” would replace the Visiting Service in Benalla, which would mean people who visit the centre would only receive help to log in to computers, upload documents, or use the phones on site.

The community in Benalla have expressed serious concerns about the plan, which would mean people would be forced to travel to Wangaratta for face-to-face services.

Helen Haines MP, Independent Federal Member for Indi, met with the Minister for Government Services Linda Reynolds recently, where she conveyed the community’s concerns and requested better community consultation. Dr Haines asked Services Australia to hold a Town Hall meeting to give the community a chance to have a say on the model needed for Services Australia in Benalla.

Dr Haines said it appeared the government was listening and was going to take part in consultation, until on Tuesday Minister Reynolds wrote to Dr Haines and said the new model would start on Thursday. There has been no wider announcement to the community.

Dr Haines said she was appalled at the disregard shown to the people of Benalla by the Federal Government.

“Two days’ notice without proper consultation shows no respect or understanding of the needs of the people of Benalla for Services Australia services,” Dr Haines said.

“I expressed my concerns and those of the community to the Minister and understood Services Australia was going to consult with the people of Benalla on a new model. Now it seems there was never any intention of actually listening to the community.”

Dr Haines will continue to advocate for the Benalla community to be heard on the future model for Services Australia in the town.

“Today I met with the local Services Australia manager and conveyed my shock that the new model is being imposed upon Benalla this week. Services Australia clearly had no intention of conducting any meaningful engagement with the people in Benalla who rely on the service. I am writing to the minister to express my disappointment with the way the community of Benalla has been left out of this important decision for their town. This is simply not good enough” Dr Haines said.

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