Unease about Women's Rest Centre closure

CRONULLA retailers and community members have started a campaign to save the Women’s Rest Centre from closure.

A recommendation to close the centre was contained in Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s strategic review of Sutherland Shire Council released in June.

The review suggested numerous cost-saving measures and among its key recommendations was to ‘‘exit the Women’s Rest Centre’’ at Cronulla.

Under a table entitled ‘‘business-as-usual opportunities,’’ PwC suggested closing the centre at the top of Cronulla Plaza, which was listed as a ‘‘low-value service’’.

So far the council has made no public moves to close the centre but Annette Hogan, of Cronulla, believes its days are numbered.

Mrs Hogan, who led previous campaigns to save the rest centre, said Cronulla shopkeepers were concerned its closure would result in a loss in business.

She said at least 70 retailers had joined a fight to keep the centre open.

The council’s general manager John Rayner said PwC had made a recommendation regarding the rest centre but nothing was happening ‘‘at this stage’’.

But he seemingly sealed the centre’s fate, adding ‘‘the council has taken on board the recommendations in the report’’.

Former Sutherland Shire mayor Kent Johns previously moved to hose down fears other services would be lost, tabling a mayoral minute in June in which he vowed to protect some council assets earmarked for closure by PwC. But there was no mention of saving the rest centre.

Mrs Hogan said the strategic review described the rest centre as an ‘‘under-utilised, narrow service’’ but she argued others did not share this view.

‘‘A lot of people shop at Cronulla because of this facility,’’ she said.

‘‘Fathers can send their daughters into the toilet there and know that they will come out.

‘‘The mayor has said he would not sell pocket parks. "Well this was a pocket park, Souter Park, and it had a community asset built upon it for a community purpose in lieu of a contribution to the council.

"This facility has a trust attached to it to be used for a public purpose. It is classified community land and should stay so."

The Leader reported in 2000 that newspaper cuttings from 1961 showed the council granted Amoco (Aust) Pty Ltd a 25-year lease for an access strip through a park to its service station. In exchange, the company agreed to build a women's health centre for free.

Mrs Hogan said the Observer newspaper dated April 12, 1956, and headed Chamber of Commerce News described a planned "ladies retiring room and baby creche" to be built in either Monro Park or Souter Park as a "lasting monument in this our golden jubilee year of local government in the shire". The building eventually opened in 1962 at its present site.

Christine Blood wrote in a letter to the editor that five generations of her family had utilised the women's rest centre and that she and family members continued to use it.

"Not only is it a safe haven for the loo but I have used the centre on occasions to breastfeed my three children if this became necessary while out from home," she said.

"The small playpen is perfect for toddlers to have a quick play, the baby change room is a blessing [and] the small child's toilet is a godsend.

"There is no other facility at Cronulla that meets the needs of women and children."

 COUNCIL SAYS 

Sutherland Shire Council general manager John Rayner said PwC made a recommendation regarding the rest centre but nothing had been decided.

‘‘There is nothing happening at this stage,’’ he said.

‘‘The council has said we are not going to take the recommendation.’’

However, Mr Rayner seemed to indicate the centre’s days were numbered.

‘‘I think the council has taken on board the recommendations in the report,’’ he said.

Mr Rayner said councillors would need to see a report on the matter before any action was taken.

He said a report had not been started at this stage but the council ‘‘may look at it later in the year’’.

Mr Rayner said he was not aware of any letters or petitions to the council from the public in regards to saving the centre.

‘‘[But] I am sure there will be some comment,’’ he said.

Should the women's rest centre be saved? 

Community asset: A fight has begun to save Cronulla Women’s Rest Centre from closure. Picture: Lisa McMahon

Community asset: A fight has begun to save Cronulla Women’s Rest Centre from closure. Picture: Lisa McMahon

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