Surplus to requirements
One of the privileges of editing a community newspaper is that you get to attend many communtiy events, from football club galas to meetings of Knox City Council. It’s a great education in the structures we set up to help us get along together. It’s also very revealing of the culture and language of institutions.
So it is not surprising that the words ‘surplus to requirements’ jumped out from the agenda for the June meeting of Knox Council. The context was the proposed sale of the heritage building in Boronia, Millers Homestead.
The phrase keeps coming back. Requirements: whose requirements? Who and what can be labelled as such? Language is an important indicator of attitudes. Further comments in the Council’s July media release promising consultation seem to indicate that as long as the façade and garden of the homestead are preserved it does not matter who owns it.
Public comments on Facebook reveal a deeper insight. Community ownership means community engagement. Usages may change but the responsibility to determine outcomes should be shared.
In contrast, at the Italian Club recently, I met with a wonderful group of volunteers who have spent time and money importing glow-in-the-dark bocce balls and setting up an event to encourage people with an intellectual disability to learn and enjoy the game. Such has been their success in this field that the team is doing well in Special Olympics Australia.
Whose requirements are being considered here? It is unlikely that the founders of the Italian Club envisaged ‘glow-in-the-dark bocce’ but this imaginative venture is in keeping with the spirit of the club.
The swiftness of community reaction to the sale of Millers Homestead is not surprising. Such places are symbolic of our reverence for our history, for the value we put on lives lived, regardless of their productivity.
As the city’s infrastructure costs rise in the face of increased population, and asset sales are signalled, social media is keeping us alert to the use and respect of historical public spaces. Here is a challenge to the community to take initiatives, to be imaginative in finding new uses for public sites.
Do we need a few more Community Support Groups? ‘Friends of Millers’ ? Perhaps also ‘Friends of Ferntree Gully Cemetery’? The story on page 11 of the founding of the Ferntree Gully Bowling Club shows how community engagement used to be done. Congratulations to them on their 50th anniversary!
The Gully News team thanks everyone who sent in stories for this issue and thank you also to the advertisers whose support is essential. Make the most of the services they offer.
Anne Boyd, Editor