Medical centre tops Spalding wish list

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
Dr Sandra Thompson, Lenny Papertalk, Daphne White and Monica Moran at Mitchell Street Community Centre in Spalding.
Camera IconDr Sandra Thompson, Lenny Papertalk, Daphne White and Monica Moran at Mitchell Street Community Centre in Spalding. Credit: Geraldton Guardian, Francesca Mann

Spalding residents would like access to a regular medical service at the Mitchell Street Community Centre, according to a recent survey by a Geraldton social work student.

The Mitchell Street Community Centre needs assessment — a collaborative project between Desert Blue Connect and the Western Australian Centre for Rural Health — was designed to find out what services the community wanted at the centre. While on work placement at Desert Blue Connect, Lenny Papertalk went from door to door in Spalding last year, “having a cuppa and a yarn” and getting residents to fill out surveys.

In eight weeks, 150 surveys were completed by community members representing a cross section of ages and ethnicity.

Residents were asked what services they used, if any, and what services they might use if made available.

To help answer the last question, they were provided with a list of possible new social services, including employment, financial, housing, mental health, parenting, domestic violence intervention and community health, and were also able to make their own suggestions.

The data collected will help shape future uses of the community centre, which is leased by the WA Centre for Rural Health.

Ms Papertalk, who has lived in Spalding for 27 years, said it was about time something was done to address the issues in the northern Geraldton suburb.

“We are due for an update, a revamp,” she said.

“There’s nothing up here — kids are bored and throwing rocks because there’s nothing to do.

“Our people want to take ownership of what is happening.

“We see kids walking around looking like zombies and we want to pull them back in.

“I can see bigger and better things here ... and we’ve started these conversations.”

A generalised medical service was ranked as the greatest need by 67 per cent of respondents, while mental health and wellbeing services were listed as the second-highest need by 65 per cent of people. Parenting support services were also ranked highly by 57 per cent of respondents.

Many of the community members surveyed also expressed a desire for more social events and opportunities at the centre, such as morning teas and yarning circles.

A number of suggestions have already been implemented at the centre, including an Elders Advisory Group and after-school homework classes for students.

Desert Blue Connect executive manager of operations Daphne White said the data gathered was crucial for deciding what services to bring to the centre.

“We said we can’t put services out here unless we have proof of what the community wants,” she said.

“We wanted to make sure what we delivered was correct for the community’s needs.” The report suggests the need for further discussions between stakeholders and service providers to meet the identified needs of the community.

WACRH director Dr Sandra Thompson said the assessment was one small step in the right direction.

“We want to give people the opportunity to solve their own problems,” she said.

“They will be able to do it if they can meet in a safe space, and that’s what Mitchell Street Community Centre is all about.”

The City of Greater Geraldton, in partnership with the Department of Communities, is in the process of developing a precinct plan to revitalise Spalding.

The draft plan features new community facilities, footpaths, roads and housing options.

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