Jenny Edmunds – Chair of the Hastings Club Grants Committee

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Each year, our local clubs provide thousands of dollars worth of assistance to our community through the Club Grants program. Jenny Edmunds, Chair of the Hastings Club Grants Committee, fills us in on the program and the valuable service it provides in our area …

What’s your position with the Westport Club and also with the Club Grants program?

I’m the Marketing and Community Co-ordinator with The Westport Club, and I’m also Chair of the Hastings Local Committee of what was previously known as the CDSE (Community Development and Support Expenditure) scheme. That title changed on September 1, 2011 to Club Grants.

The name change to me is significant, because it actually defines that the grants come from the clubs themselves; whereas there was a lot of confusion before that the grants came from a combination of clubs and local government. We do work closely with local government to establish priorities and what is needed in our community, but 100 per cent of the money comes from the clubs.

In essence, what exactly is the Club Grants program all about?

Club Grants emanate from money that has been set aside by the government and returned to the clubs for the purpose of distribution among community, welfare, education, employment and sporting groups.

It’s money that the clubs would otherwise have paid in tax, but instead goes back into supporting the community. The money is used in different ways; there are opportunities to assist community and welfare organisations – and a lot of clubs partner with these organisations. At The Westport Club, we have strong community links with The Salvation Army and Lifeline. We also support organisations like Marine Rescue, Rotary and Probus, among others.

Under the Club Grants program, qualifying clubs contribute a minimum of 25 per cent of their Category One funds to the Hastings Local Committee’s pool of money. The funds are allocated at the discretion of each club, working closely with the Local Council, Community Services and NCOSS. The grants distributed through the Hastings Local Committee may only be used to fund Category One projects – which cover welfare, community, education and employment.

Category Two funding is fully distributed at the discretion of individual clubs. Category Two covers sporting organisations and some other types of community activity. The Westport Club alone has 13 sub and affiliated clubs which we sponsor. The sub clubs (where all members are also members of The Westport Club) include the bowling clubs, travel club and the Euchre club. Affiliated clubs include Port Saints Soccer, Port Saints Netball Club, Senior Men’s, Women’s and Junior Cricket Associations, Thunder Hockey Club and Pirates Rugby Union Club.

Category Three is a new category, and the State Government is still to confirm exactly how it will work. The description of this Category states that it will be “a contribution of 0.4% paid quarterly into a state wide funding pool known as the Club Grants Fund for large scale projects associated with sports, health and community infrastructure”. That’s as much as we know about this category at present – we have briefings in late February that will tell us more.

A lot of what we try to do with Club Grants is to fund projects, rather than fund ongoing commitments. For example, last year the local committee funded new equipment for a childcare group in Lake Cathie and a new fence for the Comboyne Community Preschool. The grant to Comboyne Preschool was for $10,000 and was funded from all of the local clubs involved in the Local Committee. Another grant funded from the Committee was Lifeline’s telephone counselling services, who received just over $10,000. The Hastings Local Committee can fund grants from $600 up to $10,000.

Each Club also have specific projects they continue to support. One of The Westport Club’s projects is a literacy program. We partner with Dymock’s Children’s Charities, and that’s been a very successful program where we put books and educational facilities into schools. To date, we’ve provided around 7,500 books to schools in our community, and it’s continuing to grow. In the first quarter of this year, we will inject another $11,000 worth of resources into local schools and community preschools.

What clubs are associated with the Hastings Club Grants scheme?

The clubs involved in the Hastings Local Committee are The Westport Club, Port City Bowling Club, Port Macquarie Panthers, Wauchope RSL Club, Laurieton United Servicemen’s Club and North Haven Bowling Club.

How do community groups desperately in need of funds seek help from Club Grants?

Each club widely advertises the Club Grants program on its websites. Notices also go into the local newspapers – particularly advertising the pooled funds held by the local committee, and Council assists us in notifying of the annual Club Grants round.

A lot of welfare groups actually approach clubs individually. As the Community Co-ordinator at The Westport Club, I like to establish a relationship with the community groups we support – it’s not all about simply handing out a cheque and saying goodbye; it’s about building an ongoing relationship. I feel all clubs are moving this way now.

It can be hard sometimes – we can’t be everything to everybody. The Hastings Local Committee receives requests for funding of anywhere between $300,000 – $400,000 each year. The Committee last year distributed $110,000 worth of grants. There are so many worthwhile projects out there, and that’s where it comes back to assessing the priorities in our local area.

The Committee has worked extremely well, and there is great collaboration between the clubs. One of my aims is to provide better education to the local community, so we are able to communicate exactly what is available under the Club Grants scheme across all categories.

I would also encourage community groups to read the guidelines before submitting an application, so that they understand where their request for funding fits within the guidelines. Groups should ensure they have clear objectives and outcomes for their projects and details on what resources are required and how the life of the project can be sustained.

When is the next round of funding likely to be allocated?

The Club Grants’ funding year runs from 1 September to 31 August, which is the same as under the old CDSE scheme. The Hastings Local Committee will open up applications for the combined pool of funds in early March. Applications will close on April 30, so community groups will have two months to get their applications in.

This year the application process will be done online. Clubs NSW have introduced a new system, where applications can be entered online and tracked by the Committee – which will provide a more efficient process for reporting.

Why do you feel the Club Grants program is so important?

Club Grants enables community groups to finance projects that may not normally attract funding from other sources. Clubs are all about giving back to the community, and Club Grants allow us to do this in an extended format. It’s a great opportunity for community groups – even the small ones situated in areas like Lake Cathie, Comboyne, Pappinbarra and Beechwood, to tap into a pool of funds they may not otherwise have had access to.

Does the proposed Mandatory Pre-Commitment Legislation affect the future of the Club Grants Scheme?

Yes, the proposed legislation as is recommended by Andrew Wilkie, would have significantly affected Clubs’ community contributions. Clubs are not-for-profit, community based organisations, whose central activity is to provide infrastructure and services for the community. The Government’s announcement in January to deviate from the Wilkie model and offer a full and proper trial of mandatory pre-commitment (in the ACT) is encouraging, as it will provide evidence to support future policy development with regard to problem gambling.

This issue is still such a hot topic, and there is still so much debate amongst the various political parties, that our industry will continue to lobby State and Federal Governments to work with the club industry to bring about a sustainable resolution – and one that will not see the demise of Clubs as we currently know them.

What action can community members take to support the Clubs?

We feel that the most important issue in this debate is that the proposed legislation will not assist problems gamblers with their addiction.  We understand there needs to be some kind of reform, but it should not destroy clubs as we know it. If community members are concerned about this issue and the long term viability of their local clubs, they should contact their local member, or they can go online and visit one of the club’s websites and fill in the survey they’ll find there about the issue.

Thanks Jenny.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

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