Our advocacy priorities seek partnerships and commitments from Federal and State Government to support critical local priorities – particularly in the areas of transport, creative and health and wellbeing initiatives that can leave a lasting legacy.
These projects can play catalyst roles in regional COVID-19 recovery efforts, as well as help to provide us with the foundations for broader environmental, sustainability and social outcomes now, and for the future.
Read about our advocacy priorities below or download Merri-bek City Council Advocacy Priorities (PDF 1,839kb).
Our ask: Invest in and bring forward the upgrade and duplication of the Upfield Rail Corridor
Our aim: Improve train frequency, accessibility, passenger experience and station amenity, and support job and socio-economic outcomes for Merri-bek and Melbourne’s growing northern region.
Merri-bek acknowledges the State Government’s investments over recent years towards removing dangerous level crossings in Glenroy ($285 million) and Coburg ($542 million). When combined with the State’s Metro Tunnel Project’s completion by 2026, these projects will help create room for 45,000 passengers every week, or 71% more capacity, along the Upfield Line during peak periods for passengers, and save around five minutes time on the journey to the CBD.
However, the reality is far more will be required, and before 2026, to urgently address a range of longstanding and ongoing challenges and constraints along the remainder of the Upfield Rail Corridor, and to help us build a more sustainable city.
Merri-bek Council is calling on priority investments towards the Upfield corridor to:
- duplicate the Upfield line between Gowrie and Upfield Stations
- modernise Batman, Merlynston, Fawkner and Gowrie Train Stations as part of any duplication works
- re-configure the City Loop to separate the Upfield and Craigieburn lines
- Create transport interchanges adjoining each of the Upfield line’s stations that make provision for train, bus, tram, pedestrians, cycling and cars
- Take a partnership approach with the Merri-bek community around the design and delivery of an enhanced Upfield corridor
- Extend and integrate the Upfield line with Melbourne’s growing northern communities, including through innovative means
- Ensure local job, skill and procurement pathways are provided for Merri-bek residents and businesses to support construction works.
To learn more about this advocacy priority, read Fact Sheet - Upgrade and duplicate the Upfield Rail Corridor (PDF 340kb)
Our ask: Federal and State Government investment of $6 million towards the delivery of the 33 Saxon Street Cultural and Community Hub by 2024.
Our aim: To deliver a flagship creative industries COVID-19 recovery and growth project in the Brunswick Design District, starting the next chapter of the unique creative industries cluster of Melbourne’s inner north.
33 Saxon Street is strategically placed in Melbourne’s unique creative neighbourhood of Brunswick, at the doorstep of Melbourne’s growing northern region.
Located 5km from Melbourne’s CBD, Brunswick plays an oversized role in creative industries and the production of culture for Melbourne and Australia.
The State Government has recognised the role of Brunswick and the opportunity for growth by the designation and support of the Brunswick Design District (BDD) – a partnership between Creative Victoria, RMIT and us.
With the BBD also identified within the current North and West Melbourne City Deal process, the framework exists for significant Federal and State contributions towards this once in a generation opportunity.
We have kickstarted the project by committing the early funds needed to undertake design, feasibility and engagement to make the redevelopment of 33 Saxon Street a reality. The final concept plan is now complete, with a current estimated project cost of $30 million, taking into account inflationary pressures and the impacts of Covid-19 on construction costs.
We have committed $13.4 million towards the project but cannot do it alone, so we are seeking:
- Federal and State investment of $6 million, to add to our commitment of $13.4 million, to help us deliver this $30 million transformational project for the people of Brunswick and our creative communities by 2024.
To learn more about this advocacy priority, read Fact Sheet - 33 Saxon Street Cultural and Community Hub (PDF 608kb)
Our ask: Federal and State Government to invest in the redevelopment of the Fawkner Leisure Centre.
Our aim: To deliver modern aquatic and recreation facilities that will meet the needs of a growing community and support COVID-19 health, wellbeing and socio-economic challenges across Merri-bek and Melbourne’s growing north, particularly Fawkner.
As a valued asset to the Fawner community, having first opened as a seasonal pool in 1965, with an indoor facility added in 1987, the time has now well and truly come for the Fawkner Leisure Centre to be revitalised.
A redeveloped Fawkner Leisure Centre will complement existing local services and enhance wellbeing opportunities for residents and visitors accessing local learning, sporting, recreation and community facilities.
It will also meet the needs of a growing community. With the current facilities experiencing 135,000 visits on average per annum, Fawkner’s population is forecast to grow from 15,280 residents (2019) to over 18,680 (2036), placing increasing demand on an ageing facility.
Fawkner Leisure Centre’s redevelopment is planned over two stages and will support and include:
Stage 1 commencing 2023/24 - $27.8 million
- new centralised entrance and foyer to other services, new reception, café and community lounge area
- expanded and upgraded gym facilities enabling 24-hour access
- new group fitness rooms to provide for increased programming including women’s only and children friendly programs
- new dry fitness accessible toilets
- new cycle studio
- new first aid room
- indoor 25m lap pool and learn to swim and new spa pool
change rooms and accessible change rooms
- new indoor pool plant and services
- new outdoor pool plant
- refurbished sauna and new steam room
- new outdoor 50m lap pool with accessible ramp
- new outdoor children’s leisure pool
- new outdoor social spaces including additional shading and seating and BBQ area
Stage 2 commencing post 2026/27 - $8.7 million (plus escalation)
- new health and consulting suites, meeting room and prayer room
- refurbished administration areas
- new family change village
- additional change facilities
- new indoor warm water program pool with accessible ramps
To learn more about this advocacy priority, read Fact sheet - Fawkner Leisure Centre redevelopment (297kb)
Supporting projects and initiatives
Our ask: More frequent and improved bus services across Merri-bek, particularly through enhanced east-west connections, and for our municipality’s northern suburbs, namely Fawkner.
Our aim: Provide fair and sustainable transport options throughout Merri-bek, particularly Fawkner, to increase patronage throughout Merri-bek’s bus network which will help address local congestion and amenity outcomes.
While Merri-bek proudly has high rates of residents who travel to work via public transport (25% compared to 15% in greater Melbourne), most people (51%) still travel to work by car.
With limited public transport and bus options, car dependency across the northern suburbs of Merri-bek is particularly high. In Fawkner, 66.3% of residents utilise a car as their primary mode of transport to and from work, with 14.6% of Fawkner households owning three or more vehicles.
Council’s 2019 Moreland Integrated Transport Strategy identified that only 2% of trips originate via bus services, and only 3% of work-related trips commence with local buses. In Fawkner only 0.7% of residents access the bus for work purposes.
Compounding these issues is the fact that many bus services across Merri-bek still do not fully integrate east-west with the local train, tram and active transport networks.
In the north there are primarily two bus routes servicing Fawkner (Bus 530 and Bus 531). They follow slow and convoluted routes, largely running north-south parallel to the Craigieburn and Upfield transport corridors, and do not efficiently or effectively connect people to key destinations.
Furthermore, while Fawkner notionally has access to two train stations along the Upfield rail corridor at Fawkner and Gowrie, both of these are situated within Fawkner’s Cemetery and Industrial district, over the other side of Sydney Road and the Hume Highway, and in many cases are one to two kilometres away from most of Fawkner’s residential neighbourhoods to their east.
As a result, more people drive and fewer people catch public transport, especially buses across Fawkner.
With the last review of Fawkner bus services having occurred 12 years ago, there is no better time than now to partner with Merri-bek to review and enhance bus services with the aim to identify route and timetable changes to better connect all residents, but particularly Fawkner residents, to jobs, shops and schools through more frequent bus services.
Our ask: State Government invest in accessible tram stops along the Sydney Road Route 19 Tram Line and partner with Council to engage with local residents, traders and our wider community on making the Sydney Road Route 19 Tram Line more accessible for residents of all abilities.
Our aim: Make the Sydney Road Route 19 Tram Line accessible for residents of all abilities in a fair, safe and sustainable manner.
With a higher number of residents in Merri-bek requiring assistance with core daily activities in comparison to Greater Melbourne (6.2% compared with 4.9% respectively) , Merri-bek Council has long advocated for investment to ensure all public transport is accessible for people of all abilities.
The Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) requires that all tram stops must be fully compliant with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT) by 31 December 2022, and all trams must be DSAPT compliant by 31 December 2032.
A person with a mobility restriction cannot have an accessible tram journey without both a level-access stop and a low-floor tram. Council recognises that provision of level-access tram stops requires a partnership between State and Local Government and has demonstrated significant commitment to developing plausible options in consultation with the community.
A Victorian Auditor General Report (VAGO) 2018-19 Report into tram stop accessibility found many of Merri-bek’s tram services do not meet the accessibility needs of passengers with mobility restrictions, and in the absence of a clear pipeline of investment, will fail to do so in coming years.
The Auditor General identified that for 2018-19, North Coburg’s Route 19 was found to provide for 71% of low-floor tram departures, but only 14% from level access stops.
Victoria's infrastructure strategy 2021-2051 has specifically recommended the State Government prioritise, plan for and fund public transport accessibly through tram stop upgrades, to help make progress towards the legislated 2032 accessibility targets.
Sydney Road is one of the most heavily used roads for motor vehicles, trams, cyclists and pedestrians in Melbourne. Increasing the number of accessible tram stops along the corridor will improve safety for residents requiring assistance, meet legislated targets, and play a catalyst role in helping revitalise the urban amenity, ambience and retail experience along the longest shopping strip in the Southern Hemisphere.
Our ask: State Government to conduct a safety audit of Jacana railway station and develop and implement a plan to increase safety at the station.
Our aim: To improve personal safety at Jacana railway station.
Jacana railway station sits between Glenroy and Broadmeadows train stations, conveniently located for local residents of Merri-bek and Hume to use when catching trains on the Craigieburn line.
A conveniently located station encourages public transport use and reduces the need for people to drive to the station, further assisting with mode shift and promoting environmentally friendly modes of travel.
However, RACV’s 2019 On Track survey listed Jacana station as the sixth most unsafe station in the entire network.
Safety issues at Jacana station include:
- Inadequate lighting in the tunnel used by passengers entering the station from the west when passing under Pascoe Vale Road.
- No mirrors to assist passengers with visibility when turning the corner from the tunnel to the platform access ramps, creating a safety hazard, particularly when shared with bicycle riders travelling along the M80 trail.
- Poor maintenance of the station, with graffiti throughout the tunnel structure and planter boxes intended for landscaping consistently overgrown and filled with litter, including syringes.
The Department of Transport’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025 has a focus on safe journeys for all, striving to operate a transport system that is safe and inclusive, and inspires confidence for all journeys and users. The design and maintenance of stations sits with VicTrack and VicRoads.
While works planned to occur in the vicinity of Jacana railway station by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) as part of the Inland Rail Project around 2024 will likely address safety issues in the longer term, action is needed now to look after the personal safety of passengers at the station.
Council is calling on the State Government to directly engage with local residents, women and non-binary people to increase safety at Jacana railway station and looks forward to an updated project timeline from the ARTC for works within the vicinity of Jacana Railway Station as part of the Inland Rail Project.
Our ask: Invest $2.75 million in active transport, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in Merri-bek and partner with Council on initiatives to increase cycling and pedestrian priority, safety and experiences at crossings, including at the Nicholson/Bell Street bridge.
Our aim: Create a safer community to live and move around in, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, encouraging greater community health and wellbeing, the reduction of greenhouse emissions and Merri-bek’s carbon footprint and improved amenity.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, two thirds of all trips by Merri-bek residents were under 5km, and 60% were made by car. Community consultation revealed that many people in Merri-bek would like to walk or cycle more but don’t feel safe or supported to do so.
Rates of cycling and pedestrian activity prior to COVID-19 saw 7% of Merri-bek residents cycling and 3% walking to work, compared with 1.4% and 3% respectively across greater Melbourne.
A Monash University and VicHealth study showed 83% of Merri-bek residents were ‘interested in cycling but concerned’ and likely to ride a bike more often if separated bike paths were provided.
The Victorian Government has committed to increasing active transport mode share to 25% by 2030, and Infrastructure Victoria recently recommended that government partner with councils to specifically fund pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
Merri-bek Council has identified $2.75 million in walking and cycling improvements that could be delivered through the following:
- Contributing $1.4 million to replace the Harding Street bridge across Merri Creek – a $2.8 million project to create a key active transport corridor linking Merri-bek and Darebin.
- Funding a feasibility study and designs for safe and accessible active travel options over Coburg's Bell Street bridge at the Nicholson Street intersection to address pedestrian and cyclist safety issues, particularly for Coburg High School students. View the Safe access over Bell Street Bridge fact sheet.
- Partnering with Council to implement and fund permanent improvements from the “Ride & Stride” pilot, a behaviour change program getting kids riding, striding and scooting to school.
- Funding the installation of new pedestrian operated signals on Merri-bek Road, Brunswick West near Walhalla Street.
- Increasing cycling and pedestrian priority, safety and experiences at crossings through automated pedestrian callups at principal signalised intersections, quicker callup for pedestrians and cyclists at all crossings and early start and late introduction green signals for pedestrians, particularly in shopping strips and areas frequented by children and the elderly.
Our ask: State Government to partner with Merri-bek Council to support speed limit reductions across Merri-bek, through expedited approvals of 40km/h limits on local roads, and trials of new 30km/h limits along selected roads.
Our aim: Implement safer speeds on local road to reduce the frequency and severity of crashes and injuries, increase walking and cycling as people feel safer and improve residential amenity through reduced traffic and noise.
Reducing speeds on our local roads is a key measure in helping people feel safe enough to walk or cycle locally, and crucial in supporting active transport efforts.
Research supports lower speed limits as a way to improve road safety and encourage active travel. The World Health Organisation has found that decreasing speed by even 1km/h can lead to a 2 to 3% reduction in road crashes.
Trials in the UK found reducing speeds also results in increased walking and cycling trips, including for trips to school as parents feel more comfortable allowing their child to travel by foot or bike unsupervised.
Council has sought 40km/h speed limits on all local roads – excluding the collector, major and arterial roads which play a greater role in carrying vehicular traffic – since 2010 and the 2019 Merri-bek Integrated Transport Strategy sought to conduct trials of 30km/h speed limits in two selected areas of Merri-bek.
Studies conducted by the 30km/h trial found that reduced speed limits have limited impact on car travel times. Reducing the speed limit from 40 to 30 would delay drivers by less than 12 seconds per kilometre travelled within the 30km/h zone.
Lowering speed limits across Merri-bek can make people feel more comfortable with walking and cycling for local trips, help support foot traffic for local businesses and discourage motor vehicle congestion and its associated impacts on local amenity and liveability.
The current process to gain approval for 40km/h speed limit changes is time and resource intensive and Council is suggesting a broad approval could be granted based on Council’s policy position, and subject to signage standards being met.
Council is seeking continued and expedited support from State Government for speed limit changes and a financial contribution towards a high-quality rollout and implementation of more 40km/h speed zones, and trials for new 30km/h speed limits that gather valuable and meaningful data for government, council and our community.
Our ask: Federal Government investment of $500,000 in local and regional partnerships to increase community resilience to climate impacts, and State Government investment of $6.5 million to electrify two of our major aquatic centres, accelerating our shift to zero emissions.
Our aim: To protect communities by increasing resilience to climate impacts and achieving Zero Carbon Merri-bek by 2035, through efficient and 100% renewably powered energy for businesses, community and households, active and zero emissions transport and a circular economy with zero waste.
Merri-bek has a proud history of action on environmental and sustainability issues. Council has long recognised the challenges posed by climate change and, with the community, led local efforts through:
- declaring a ‘climate emergency’ in 2018
- being certified as a ‘carbon neutral’ council in 2012
- implementing actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- partnering with leading environmental organisations and initiatives
Despite these local efforts, the science is continuing to tell us that to avoid permanent climate collapse more must be done to reduce our global carbon emissions to net zero as soon as possible, and keep temperature increases to less than 1.5°C over coming years.
As an inner urban community, with high levels of socio-economic diversity, Merri-bek is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The Federal Government’s National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy 2021-2025 includes plans to drive investment and action through collaboration and improve climate information and services.
Merri-bek believes a focus should also be directed to improving the resilience of individuals and communities via strategic funding of local councils to empower communities to identify and proactively manage how they are impacted by climate change.
The State Government’s Gas Substitution Roadmap aims to reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45-50% by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050. Merri-bek is already acting to phase out gas from Council operations and the community and implementation of the roadmap would help this work.
Council is pursuing Zero Carbon Merri-bek in partnership with our community to transition to zero carbon by 2035 and reduce Council emissions by 80-100% by 2030. But more needs to be done.
Merri-bek Council is asking the Federal and State Government to invest and partner with Council to continue supporting and enhancing Merri-bek’s leading efforts around local climate change, sustainability and biodiversity initiatives.
Our ask: Protect and enhance the urban forest by strengthening tree protection measures, reviewing and amending the Electricity Safety Regulations and facilitating partnerships with state-owned entities to create urban forest assets in public open spaces.
Our aim: Improve the health and wellbeing of current and future generations of people and vegetation by increasing Merri-bek’s tree canopy cover to 30% by 2050.
Over the past two decades, Merri-bek’s urban forest has been affected by extended dry periods, increased high density housing driving steady canopy loss, inadequate protection of trees and vegetation during construction and constrained levels of maintenance.
Between 2005 and 2016, overall canopy cover in Merri-bek declined from 15.6% to 14.2%. On private land, tree canopy cover decreased from 12% to 9% as a result of increased high-density housing.
Residents of Merri-bek and its neighbours Darebin and Hume have been identified as some of the most vulnerable to heat, poor health, economic disadvantage and limited access to green spaces.
Over three decades, Council and community groups’ urban forest actions have included revegetating large areas of Merri-bek’s waterways, and adding canopy trees and passive irrigation in Council’s 10,908sqm of new parks through the Park Close to Home program.
In Melbourne’s West, Melbourne Water’s ‘Greening the Pipeline’ project is converting the Main Outfall Sewer Reserve along the Federation Trail bike path into a linear reserve featuring community gardens, new parks, cycling and walking paths. Similar tracts of land are available for greening in the north of Melbourne.
Vegetation clearance requirements around powerlines in Victoria also impact urban forest outcomes. This is compounded by old electrical infrastructure (uninsulated low voltage service line) in Merri-bek needing greater clearance. Vegetation clearance zones in other states such are significantly less than in Victoria. A review of the Victorian Electric Line Clearance Regulations (2020), could force distribution businesses to replace old electrical infrastructure and reduce electric line clearance requirements in Victoria, allowing councils to achieve better urban forest tree canopy outcomes.
Investment in actions and initiatives to cool and green the north are necessary to reduce the effect of climate change on residents of Merri-bek, improve its liveability and realise the goals of Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, which recognises that as our city continues to grow, more green infrastructure to help build resilience to climate change, enhance urban amenity, quality and liveability, will be required.
Our ask: State Government amend the Victorian Planning Scheme to elevate environmentally sustainable design targets, adopting the work undertaken by 31 Victorian councils and the Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE).
Our aim: Enable Merri-bek (and other councils) to implement clear guidance for new development applications to support zero carbon 2040 targets.
With Merri-bek’s population forecast to rise by at least 22% to 230,560 by 2036, at least a further 38,000 dwellings will be required to be constructed across the municipality to support growth.
Along with ensuring that local residents continue to be provided with a fair and meaningful say on how their neighbourhoods should evolve, Council has also been working to ensure that future development plays a major role to enhance local sustainability outcomes, including through better green infrastructure and environmental integration.
Since 2018 Merri-bek has pursued initiatives to develop and incorporate zero carbon standards within the Merri-bek Planning Scheme, requiring new residential, mixed use and non-residential development to achieve best practice environmentally sustainable design, through better building green infrastructure such as green building facades, walls, roofs and gardens in new developments, with a focus on:
- Future proofing new developments, by providing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Encouraging buildings to either maximise on-site roof solar photovoltaics and/or installation of a green infrastructure (roofs, walls, facades) to enable urban cooling and renewable energy.
- Requiring consideration of future waste streams, including requiring all new development to consider landfill waste, comingled recycling, food organics and green organics.
- Using the “Green Factor Tool’, an online tool that assists landscape designers, architects, planners and environmentally sustainable development practitioners and developers improve the environmental outcomes of their designs.
Through Merri-bek’s leadership, 31 Victorian Councils, through CASBE, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to elevate environmentally sustainable design targets for new development to support zero carbon in the Planning Scheme. This will support councils to work towards achieving the Zero Carbon 2040 targets.
Our ask: State and Federal Government to maintain existing support packages to aid ongoing local economic recovery efforts, invest in new local economic development, business and job opportunities and invest in Merri-bek’s major advocacy projects.
Our aim: To grow local business and employment initiatives, which can solidify Merri-bek as a jobs hub for locals and Melbourne’s northern region now and into the future.
Combined with Council’s direct support measures, the Federal Government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker Programs and the State Government’s Business, Worker and Community Support Packages were fundamental in supporting Merri-bek communities through the pandemic.
Over 95% of local businesses surveyed in Merri-bek reported being severely and adversely impacted by COVID-19, with 12,000 Merri-bek residents in July 2021 receiving either JobSeeker or Newstart Allowance (up from 7,000 in March 2020).
Despite Merri-bek’s employment, skill and educational outcomes continuing to improve over time, an ongoing challenge for Merri-bek is the availability of local jobs for local residents.
Prior to the pandemic, Merri-bek had over 102,700 employed residents yet there were only 48,200 jobs situated within the municipality, and associated with our 14,821 locally based businesses.
Only 15% of employed people in Merri-bek (or 15,000 people), actually live and work in our local area - one of the lowest rates for any local government area in Australia.
As recognised in Council’s Economic Development Strategy (2016–2021), there are a number of opportunities that can help create more local jobs in partnership with Government, investors and other stakeholders, including through urban manufacturing, sharing economy, technology and NBN, sustainability initiatives, arts and culture (Brunswick Design District), regional cooperation, growing health and retail activities and food and beverage.
Along with Federal and State investment into Council’s priority advocacy projects, Merri-bek is ready and willing to partner with Government to grow local business and employment initiatives, which can solidify Merri-bek as a jobs hub for locals and Melbourne’s northern region now and into the future.
Our ask: State Government continue to partner with Council to support the delivery of flexible and targeted early childhood services for socio-economically disadvantaged and diverse communities and fund the development of an early years hub in Brunswick. (East, Central or West)
Our aim: To help ensure Merri-bek’s youngest are provided with the best start in life through a high-quality kindergarten experience and to create an integrated and expanded facility in Brunswick to accommodate growth and better meet the needs of families.
Early childhood is a significant period of development. Early life experiences create the foundations for lifelong learning, behaviour and development.
While 89% of eligible local children were participating in 4-year-old kindergarten in 2019, the forecast population growth of children in Merri-bek, a further 3,000 0-4 year-olds by 2036, will continue to place additional pressure on existing facilities and services.
The incremental roll-out of funded 3-year-old kindergarten from 2022 to 2029, while positive, also brings challenges.
Scarcity and high cost of land in the south, particularly Brunswick, projected unmet demand and smaller early years facilities which are at the end of their life means the expansion of some existing services is necessary, along with the creation of a new early years hub.
In the northern suburbs of Merri-bek, including Glenroy, Fawkner and Hadfield, there are higher concentrations of socio-economic disadvantage and higher rates of developmental vulnerability and youth disengagement.
To ensure there are the same opportunities for all children, and families across Merri-bek, Council, with funding from the Department of Education and Training (DET), has facilitated range of proactive outreach and flexible initiatives with newly arrived and vulnerable groups through bilingual kindergartens, new parent groups and immunisation sessions.
Council has also worked with DET (Victorian School Building Authority) to develop a pipeline of projects and a co-investment strategy to ensure the timely delivery of new or expanded facilities to provide sufficient kindergarten places for all 3 and 4 year olds. The program of works includes more than 17 individual projects and estimated costs of $46.9m over seven years.
Our ask: Support future partnerships across all levels of government that enable large scale revitalisation, jobs and community services where they’re needed most.
Our aim: Create vibrant, thriving neighbourhoods which meet the needs of residents, workers and visitors.
Council’s planned health and community services precinct on Bell Street, Coburg, is an example of how Council is leading new approaches, new partnerships and new ways of leveraging assets to deliver for the community, even where this is not a traditional function of local government.
Council first identified a gap in locally available health and community in Coburg in 2010, identifying growing shortfalls in key service areas such as general practitioners, aged care, mental health services, allied health services and childcare.
Council has been working for more than a decade to address this need, by putting in place the policy framework, assembling an appropriate site, going out to the market to find a delivery partner and garnering a high level of community support, to be able to realise this ambitious project and deliver significant and lasting benefit to the community.
The projected benefits of the health precinct, once complete, include:
- A campus style range of facilities which would deliver acute and primary health care, rehabilitation, mental health, childcare, residential aged care, aged care support services (such as home care), and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) services.
- $160 million of direct investment by developers Coburg Health Hub and their funders in the delivery of the health precinct, creating a further $300 million of projected benefit to the local Merri-bek economy.
- Up to 1,000 jobs in the construction and operational phases of the project.
- Over 50% floor area proposed to be community providers and not-for-profits.
- Diverse services for all life stages, from childcare through to aged care.
- A high proportion of services available to those on low incomes.
- Council is keen to work in partnership with State and Federal governments, as well as partners across other sectors, to pool our resources, networks and skills, to be able to realise more ambitious, legacy projects across Merri-bek.
Our ask: Federal and State investment towards the construction of new female friendly change room facilities across Merri-bek’s sport and recreation network.
Our aim: Encourage more women and girls to play sport as our local clubs emerge from prolonged COVID-19 lockdowns.
In 2009 Merri-bek recognised that despite 51% of local residents being female, only 8% were accessing council’s sport grounds.
In response, Merri-bek implemented an Active Women and Girls Sport Strategy through the introduction of a Sportsground and Pavilion Allocation Policy that requested all clubs be more inclusive, or risk losing their ground allocation.
Since then, Council has seen the number of females accessing our sport grounds rise from 8% (975) in 2009 to 23% (3021) in 2019. These numbers do not include women and girls partaking in recreational exercise, which are even higher.
Merri-bek has proudly led the way for other councils, and is grateful for the significant support from the State Government, which has invested record amounts in dedicated female friendly sport projects.
Investment in further projects can help us encourage more females to get fit, healthy and active as we continue to support our local sporting clubs to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic’s prolonged lockdowns.
Merri-bek Council is seeking Federal and State Government support to help us deliver even more women and girls’ sport facilities. Priority female sport and recreation projects for Merri-bek include:
- Holbrook Reserve Sports Pavilion, Brunswick West
- John Pascoe Fawkner Reserve East Change Rooms, Oak Park
- John Pascoe Fawkner Reserve West Pavilion, Oak Park
- Ray Kibby Table Tennis Centre, Coburg North
- Shore Reserve Sports Pavilion, Pascoe Vale
- Moomba Park Social Rooms and Sports Pavilion, Fawkner
- Hosken Reserve Soccer Pavilion, Coburg North
- Hosken Reserve Merlynston Tennis Club House, Coburg North
- Parker Reserve Baseball Pavilion, Coburg North
Our ask: The Federal Government to retain upfront Commonwealth block funding for the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).
Our aim: Allow councils to continue to provide critical services to older people, including home support, social support and transport services.
Australia’s greatest demographic challenge is the ageing population, caused by increasing life expectancies and falling fertility rates.
The number of Australians aged 65 years and over is projected to double to 8.9 million by 2060-61; the number of people aged 85 and older will more than triple to 1.9 million.
Merri-bek has consistently been home to higher proportions of residents aged over 75 years, compared with the Melbourne and Australian average. Coburg, Glenroy and Brunswick are home to the highest numbers of older people.
Merri-bek, and other Victorian councils, provide services including domestic support, meals, transport, personal care, social support including planned activity groups, and home maintenance using Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) block funding However, funding for the CHSP is only committed until 30 June 2023. The longer-term future of the CHSP is uncertain.
The Commonwealth is creating a new Support at Home Program due to start in July 2023 in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety however Council is concerned about key aspects of the program, including:
- The proposed funding model does not accommodate the needs of fixed cost services such as transport and social support groups.
- Delivered meals need to be funded in a way that supports quality, and responsiveness, community capacity building and consumer wellbeing.
- The absence of sector support and development funding to local government on an ongoing basis means that councils cannot facilitate planning and development for aged services.
- Changes to the assessment model and service navigation do not reflect the importance of local government as a key point of contact to older residents.
Continuity of care and service availability for frail older Australians are now at risk. The CHSP should be continued permanently and further expanded with recurrent block funding to recognise the program’s important role in caring for our ageing population.
Our ask: Foster strategic partnerships between State and Federal Government and Merri-bek Council to support Council’s advocacy priority campaign.
Our aim: To help deliver new economic, transport, creative, health and wellbeing outcomes, as our community collectively works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Council plays a leading role in helping coordinate and deliver local facilities and service across our municipality, however, we recognise we cannot do it alone.
That is why, along with setting our major new advocacy priorities, Council welcomes the opportunity to partner with government, non-government and community organisations, to help build awareness, momentum and support around respective priorities.
To begin with, Council will be collaborating with our existing regional partners including:
- Northern Council’s Alliance
- Northern Alliance for Greenhouse Action
Building on these strong foundations, Council also looks forward to engaging and partnering with the Federal Government, State Government, relevant departments, and entities, national and state peak organisations, as well as our local community organisations who have a proud record of supporting broader advocacy efforts.
Together we can collectively work to help secure major new commitments, including for the Upfield Rail Corridor, 33 Saxon Street Creative and Cultural Hub, and the Fawkner Leisure Centre, which can play catalyst roles in supporting municipal and regional recovery efforts, and leave a lasting legacy for future generations of Merri-bek residents.
Our ask: State and Federal Government to partner with Merri-bek to protect and promote human rights by ensuring that all people in our community have dignified and equitable access to information, goods, services and life opportunities as a result of good governance and democracy.
Our aim: Ensure that every member of the community is supported to fully participate in the life of the city and enjoy self-determination in decisions that affect them.
Merri-bek is committed to advancing inclusion and social cohesion throughout our community, as outlined in Council’s Social Cohesion Plan 2020-2025 and Human Rights Policy 2016-2026.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
In October 2021 Council renewed its Statement of Commitment to Australia’s First Peoples, strengthening its commitment to the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Merri-bek. It sets out Council’s vision for reconciliation, and outlines what Council recognises, supports and commits to, including the process of naming and re-naming spaces, places, roads and parks in the City of Merri-bek.
Council strongly supports processes towards self-determination and local, regional or national Treaty or Treaties that enshrine the rights of Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
With over one quarter of Merri-bek adults diagnosed with anxiety or depression, Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan highlighted an increase in mental health impacts since the pandemic, particularly on low income households.
Mental health promotion and prevention work can prevent many common mental health disorders from occurring. Merri-bek, and other councils, already resource programs and initiatives that promote and support good mental health in our communities. This includes through family violence prevention programs, youth programs, maternal child health programs, community programs that promote social cohesion, established advisory committees to hear the community's lived experience and arts programs that connect community.
Merri-bek is calling for local government to be recognised and
resourced for mental health prevention and promotion activities and be resourced to strengthen data collection and the research evidence that will enable local government to identify critical gaps and opportunities to enhance its initiatives, alongside
availability and access to mental health services in the north.
In 2020-2021 there were 1,942 incidents of family violence recorded in Merri-bek, directly affecting 1,407, women, and 134 children. More recent research indicates that since COVID-19 many women in Australia have experienced an onset or escalation of violence and abuse. Council remains committed to combating family violence issues through strategies including supporting and convening the Moreland Family Violence Network to advocate for housing, resources, and funding and cultural change to create safe spaces for all gender identities and their children to escape violence.
Raise the Rate
Merri-bek has proudly supported the ‘Raise the Rate for Good’ Campaign for many years, seeking to reduce poverty and inequality throughout Australia, as well as in Merri-bek. The key recommendations for the campaign include:
- Increase the base rate of JobSeeker Payment by at least $25 a day, and ensure everyone receives at least $65 a day.
- Ongoing indexation of payments in line with wage movements at least twice per year.
- Establishment of a Social Security Commission to advise the Parliament on the ongoing adequacy of income support payments.
Social, affordable and public housing
Research shows Merri-bek needs between 7,000 and 10,500 new affordable homes by 2036. There is an urgent need for safe housing options for people who need emergency or transitional housing. Council’s Affordable Housing Action Plan (AHAP) aims to increase affordable housing in Merri-bek through policy, advocacy, applied skills and investment.
Council asks Homes Victoria to deliver a minimum of 1,000 new social homes in Merri-bek by 2036. Old and substandard public housing sites in Coburg North, Glenroy and Brunswick West need to be renewed. In addition, the State Government should follow on from the support of Council in providing land to Moreland Affordable Housing Ltd in Wilkinson St Brunswick by providing significant capital funding for the affordable housing development on the site.
People experiencing homelessness
Homelessness exists in Merri-bek in many forms including in overcrowded, insecure and inappropriate housing and, the most visible form of homelessness, rough sleeping. During the 2021 calendar year, VincentCare recorded 264 people rough sleeping in Merri-bek. Council receives a significant number of enquiries related to rough sleeping and supports service coordination, information provision and community advocacy for people experiencing insecure housing.
Merri-bek aims to ensure a human rights approach to people in public space. Merri-bek also wants to ensure a health equity approach to support people into housing, where people sleeping rough are identified and referred to appropriate services and supported in securing and sustaining housing, thereby reducing time spent sleeping rough and reducing the associated health impacts.
Merri-bek has been at the forefront of the campaign to reduce gambling harm since the 1990s, when pokies were first introduced into Victoria. In Merri-bek there are 641 poker machines that take more than $60 million every year from our community. Poker machines are designed to addict, and they remain the source of the vast majority of damage done to the community from gambling.
Council continues to call for the State Government to introduce maximum bet limits and maximum losses per hour on poker machines. Federally, Merri-bek calls for measures that mitigate against the impacts of gambling advertising and online gambling.
Refugees and asylum seekers
Merri-bek has a long history of welcoming migrants from across the globe over successive generations, and has proudly worked to support and advocate on behalf of refugees and asylum seekers. Through the Local Government Mayoral Taskforce for Supporting People Seeking Asylum, we have been involved in leading the ‘Back Your Neighbour’ Campaign, to help ensure the rights and wellbeing of asylum seekers remain on the Federal Government’s agenda.
The campaign calls for the Federal Government to:
- Replace the existing ‘Fast Track’ system with a single Refugee Status Determination process and an independent, timely and fair merits review.
- Replace Temporary Protection Visas with a permanent humanitarian visa.
- Increase funding to urgently clear the backlog of asylum applications and appeals.
- Provide access to Medicare, income support, employment, mental health and other vital service.
- And calls on state and territory governments to:
- Provide funding to local services who are supporting individuals and families seeking asylum.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer,
Asexual and Aromantic communities (LGBTIQA+)
Merri-bek's 2016-2026 Human Right Strategy commits to a Merri-bek that is a safe and welcoming city for LGBTIQA+ people, striving to ensure that Merri-bek’s services are accessible to and appropriate to the needs of LGBTIQA+ residents and visitors. Council believe our laws should protect everyone equally, no matter who we are, who we love, or what we believe in.
Council call on Federal and State Governments to oppose dangerous and divisive Bills such as the Religious Discrimination Bill 2021 and continue to advocate for strong anti-discrimination legislation to protect all communities.