Callan Park: Community resource or NSW Government cash cow?

Callan Park: Community resource or NSW Government cash cow?
Image: Callan Park. Greater Sydney Parklands website.



Callan Park is a rich, and massively underutilised community resource. It should have a much greater physical connection with the community. The Callan Park Plan of Management (CPPM) is a rare opportunity to develop a true community hub.

Local community groups concerned primarily with activities that promote health and wellbeing, and with mental health in particular, should be the prioritised occupiers.

The NSW Government should also set aside an annual budget to ensure that the cost of services and maintenance is covered, and that additional funds are available for the rolling restoration of the decaying heritage buildings on the site.

The CPPM should enshrine as its mission statement something along the lines of the following.

‘The Callan Park Plan of Management actively encourages a wide variety of community organisations to take up residence within the confines of Callan Park. Allocation of premises, on extended leases at a nominal peppercorn rent, should be prioritised for self-help community organisations. Private businesses that have no legitimate claim to occupy premises in community open space, nor any connection with community wellbeing, will be deemed non-compliant’.

Foremost of these desirable occupiers should be The Friends of Callan Park. This organisation has demonstrated an unwavering 25 year commitment to the preservation of this people’s resource and in making it available to the community.

A museum detailing the rich history of the acquisition, development and usage of Callan Park is an obvious prerequisite, one that could possibly be staffed and managed by community volunteers organised by The Friends of Callan Park.

Domestic violence refuges, community centres, self-help organisations such as the Men’s Shed, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, indigenous organisations, community focussed not for profits including bush care, community gardens, native nursery, seniors activities, recycling clothing and household goods, health, exercise and fitness groups, bicycle clubs, Zumba, Pilates, Tai Chi, yoga and dance classes, community arts and crafts centres, a gallery showcasing local artists, music appreciation, amateur theatre rehearsal and performance space, weekly fruit, produce and jumble markets, local history and heritage organisations, local planning/environment action groups; perhaps even TAFE satellites actively involved in the restoration of the heritage buildings utilising TAFE resources (including teachers, students and volunteers), are all potential and desirable occupiers.

A succession of NSW Governments have continually failed the community in relation to Callan Park. The following stipulation to safeguard the interests of the community would be absolutely essential.

“That the adopted CPPM ensures the board of management includes a representative from The Friends of Callan Park, and that the board is always comprised of a majority of community representatives, elected by and from the community organisations that occupy the site”.

This is the only way to ensure that management decisions will always be in the best interests of the community. This requirement needs to be included in the constitution of the CPPM.

The local independent Balmain IWC Councillor John Stamolis said. “Callan Park has a long, rich and continuing history of public purpose, community and mental health use. The many veterans who have passed through Callan Park, and even some who lived out their lives there, are a testament to the importance of its place in our community”.

Submissions to the Greater Sydney Parklands can be made at this web address. They close at midnight on June 30.

However be aware that with the short survey there is no submit button, nor is there any way to review the completed submission. And it isn’t possible to revisit the previous pages to make any alterations once you reach the last page. The pre-determined boxed selections preclude some very important uses, and the numeric restrictions imposed also make it almost impossible to clearly state your position.

There is just one “Complete this sentence”…

Once you do turn to the final page your submission is lodged automatically! Without any warning. And you are then permanently denied re-entry. It certainly does seem to have all the hallmarks of a ‘box ticking’ exercise.

That said, it is still an opportunity for the community to restate their claim on Callan Park. The Greens State member for Balmain, Kobi Shetty, has encouraged residents to “take a moment to have your say and help protect this green oasis in the heart of the Inner West”.

This is almost certainly the last opportunity for grass roots input into the management of a significant community resource. One that for many years successive governments of both persuasions have been hell bent on taking from us.

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