Warrawong Centrelink and Medicare offices to close, senator asked to intervene

Illawarra MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird (left, with residents) and community campaigner Alice Scott (right) have called on Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (centre) to fight the decision to close Warrawong Centrelink.

Illawarra MPs Stephen Jones and Sharon Bird (left, with residents) and community campaigner Alice Scott (right) have called on Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (centre) to fight the decision to close Warrawong Centrelink.

A user of the soon-to-close Centrelink office at Warrawong has taken aim at Illawarra-based federal Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who grew up in nearby Port Kembla.

Community campaigner Alice Scott, from Berkeley, has called on Senator Fierravanti-Wells to join the fight to stop the Department of Human Services’ planned closure of its southern Wollongong office.

The office, located inside Warrawong Plaza, provides face-to-face Centrelink and Medicare services to the immediate area – including the suburbs of Port Kembla, Berkeley, Lake Heights and Cringila, which are home to some of the most disadvantaged people in the Illawarra. 

Mrs Scott, 78, said Senator Fierravanti-Wells was “born and bred in Port Kembla” and urged her not to forget where she grew up.

“Why isn’t she going into bat for the people of this area?,” she said. “I believe her mum still lives in this area.

“She should know [about the importance of the Centrelink office]; I don’t think she wants to know.

“Once she’s got up there in Canberra, she’s not interested in her roots. When she wants votes she mentions Port Kembla, but once she gets the votes she forgets about us, we’re nothing.”

Illawarra Labor MPs Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, who met with concerned residents to discuss the planned closure earlier this week, have also called on Senator Fierravanti-Wells to “join the fight to save” the office.

Ms Bird and Mr Jones have written to the senator and federal Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan, asking them to “intervene and overturn this decision”.

In their letter to Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the MPs wrote: “As someone who grew up in Port Kembla, you would know the difficulties that face many members of the community in and around Warrawong”.

“You know that there are many elderly people with English as a second language who rely on local services to assist them,” the MPs said.

The Mercury contacted Senator Fierravanti-Wells for comment, via her office, but did not receive a response.

The senator is currently overseas, visiting Myanmar until Thursday. While there, she formally opened Australia's new embassy in Yangon and was briefed on the country’s humanitarian efforts in Rakhine.

On Tuesday, the department’s general manager Hank Jongen said the closure of its Warrawong Service Centre was due to a lack of customer foot traffic and the “limited range of services” provided would be consolidated into the Wollongong Service Centre from late next month. 

Customers requiring more complex support had always been sent to Wollongong, Mr Jongen said.

Residents can also use the Shellharbour or Dapto offices.

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