Benalla group aims to keep pressure up to re-open Centrelink

Essential service: A group of Benalla locals is fighting to see the town's Centrelink office re-open. Photo by Simon Ruppert

The government might have changed, but the message from the Benalla Branch of the Labor Party remains the same — bring back Centrelink.

The group began a campaign and started a petition after it felt the community was blind-sided with the removal of Benalla’s Centrelink office.

What had been sold to the public as a temporary, COVID-19 enforced shutdown, ultimately turned into permanent closure.

A Centrelink agency model was introduced in Benalla, and is still operating.

Branch member Hamish McPherson, however, said he felt it had proven ineffective for the Rose City, and those in town who needed face-to-face services were suffering.

“There’s still a lot of strong community feeling about the closure of the Centrelink office by the previous government,” Mr McPherson said.

“We’ve been at the (Benalla) market all morning speaking to people from all walks of life and are hearing so many personal stories about how it is impacting people.

“It’s difficult for the elderly or for people living with disability, or those who are caring for someone living with disability, to make that trip to Wangaratta or Shepparton.

“There’s strong community support to re-open the Centrelink office.

“Obviously we saw at the election a vote for a change of government and I think that was a vote against a mean-spirited penny-pinching approach to this type of issue.”

New NDIS and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten was in Benalla in the lead up to the Federal Election supporting local candidate Nadia David.

While he refused to make the re-opening of the Benalla Centrelink an election promise, he did tell The Ensign he would look to review the closure, if Labor formed government.

Now that it has, members of his own party’s local branch are not planning to give him an easy ride, and will continue to campaign for Centrelinks return.

“I think people would like to see the incoming government review the decision and reopen the Centerlink office,” Mr McPherson said.

“We will be putting a strong case to the new government, telling them there is a strong social need for this.

“It’s an essential service for our town and our community.”

The group are at the Benalla Market each month if you would like to sign the petition.