Do Disadvantaged Communites
benefit from the positive impacts of a City Deal
in relation to employment & skills development?
The Western Sydney City Deal is a partnership between the Australian Government, NSW Government, and local governments of the Blue Mountains, Camden, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Hawkesbury, Liverpool, Penrith and Wollondilly. The ‘Deal’ was signed on 4th March 2018 and an implementation plan released in December 2018 which states ‘the community is at the heart of decision-making and, by putting people first, the Western Parkland City will continue to thrive and build on what already makes it great’.
The implementation plan focuses on realising the 30-minute city by delivering public transport for the Western Parkland City, creating 200,000 jobs, skilling the residents in the region and initiating new education opportunities, enhancing liveability and improving the quality of the local environment, providing innovative approaches to planning and delivery of housing and getting on with delivering for the Western Parkland City through enduring tri-level governance.
The progress to date since the release of the implementation plan has been quite remarkable given the short timeframe in which:
the Western Sydney Investment Attraction Office and the Western City and Aerotropolis Authority have been established;
YARPA, the Indigenous Business Hub, now located in Liverpool, has opened its doors offering business support to the Indigenous business sector;
a feasibility study into a world-class agribusiness precinct has been released;
a scoping has commenced of a Skills Exchange near Western Sydney Airport to provide local training for workers needed for the construction phase of the Airport;
a Liveability program was launched late 2018 and is already preparing for its second round of applications from Councils;
a Planning Partnership has been established;
the Western Sydney Aerotropolis Land Use and Infrastructure Implementation Plan (LUIIP) has been released for public exhibition;
up to 10 Heads of Agreement have been executed with foundation tenants and more recently the NSW Premier secured MOUs with DB Schenker, BAE Systems, Siemens, GE Additive, Sheffields Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Suez.
Although not part of the ‘Deal’ there are some exciting programs being implemented in Western Sydney such as CSIRO’s Generation STEM, a state wide strategy funded by the NSW Government, the establishment of the TAFE Building Industry Skills Centre (BISC) and the TAFE Advanced Manufacturing Centre of Excellence and NSW Training Services delivery of the Regional Industry Education Partnerships which strengthens connections between local industry and secondary school communities and support students in planning their future career pathways. In addition to these programs the Parramatta Catholic Education Office has recently launched their CathWest Innovation College – school done differently.
Western Sydney is a great place to be with high energy levels and enthusiasm for change and innovation. But is this the case for all people within the Western Sydney Parkland City community? Will a City Deal change the circumstances for those communities described as disadvantaged? There are 9 areas within the Western Sydney City Deal geography that are in the top 100 most disadvantaged areas in all of Australia. It is understandable that up to this point governments have been focusing on industry attraction through visioning of what an Aerotropolis would look like and its satellite cities that surround it. It is also not surprising that the design of the response to infrastructure labour needs has been fairly centralized and released as a finished product at which time the community including the service providers are advised about the offer on hand.
There is an ongoing process of pop up stalls to advise the community about the Deal which is positive but there does not seem to be any ongoing co-design framework in place for community members and their service providers to have their say in how communities especially those that are highly disadvantaged can respond to the pipeline of opportunities. In many disadvantaged communities you need to build capacity before capability, to do this you need to engage and empower people by seeking their input as to how to address multiple barriers, otherwise, these opportunities will pass them by.
The governance structure in place for the Deal includes all levels of government meeting around particular priorities, such as Food and Agribusiness but, there does not seem to be a similar group that is meeting about human capital and capacity building for our most disadvantaged communities. We can learn by the mistakes of overseas City Deals, such as Manchester, where there was a welcome stimulation of investment and economic growth but even as an ‘economic success story …socially the city has shown little improvement, with deprivation and homelessness running at some of the highest rates in England’ 1. The missing piece, apparently, was a focus on building the resilience of local communities and government’s failure to acknowledge and engage with the community sector to ensure the most vulnerable neighbourhoods could benefit from the growth that was taking place.
It is early days for the Western Sydney City Deal, and as stated previously progress has been remarkable but the current implementation plan shows no actions which refer specifically to engagement with those 9 disadvantaged areas or the establishment of a governance structure that engages the expertise of the community sector that provides the service and support to these communities. The investment in liveability has been focused on spot projects like nice water parks but nothing for universal social infrastructure and services where there have been gaps as a result of growth and development.
While much has been progressed over a short period to realise the Aerotropolis, the Deal has yet to invest in community capacity building and universal social infrastructure and services, leaving corridors of communities with limited access to support that builds the resilience and wellbeing which is fundamental to social and economic development.
The next review of the implementation plan is less than 3 years and perhaps it’s the intention by the government that this specific engagement is a priority in the next version of the plan, however, these are big steps that are being asked of our most vulnerable. In the absence of inclusive governance to facilitate dialogue and exchange of expertise, local authorities remain the primary conduit through which supporting programs and projects are being formulated. But that raises issues of resources and the principle of “doing more with less” and that is why RDA Sydney strongly recommends that the conversation starts now!
Note: This Article would not have been possible without the background research conducted by our Western Sydney University Work Placement Nicholas Petkovic.
Further information: Mob: 0413 834 098