THE future of the loss-making Chifley Health and Wellness Centre looks secure after some pre-election offers from both major political parties for rent relief to the Y Canberra Region to support the ailing health hub.
In response to a petition from members of the centre, which had not been expected to reopen after the Christmas break, Labor was first to offer six months’ rent relief and grant support from December 2020, which was followed up with a Liberals’ offer of rent relief and operational funding for 12 months.
Executive manager – health, recreation and accommodation of the Y Canberra Region, Adam Horner, says the rent support would give them time to consider a long-term strategy for the financially unviable centre.
“We’ve got an opportunity now to look at how we can create a more sustainable service in the long term,” he says.
Adam says the community-based gym has been in the red for the past 20 years, with the pandemic making it worse.
“The businesses that subsidise the gym have been struggling, and we had to reduce our hours to ensure proper cleaning and contact tracing,” he says.
“We made sure we could offer access to members at guaranteed times, and that people would feel safe, with a good vibe around the place.
“As a business it’s always been more community-focused than financial. We support people who are financially and physically vulnerable, and provide qualified instructors and modified support for those recovering from surgery or injury, or living with chronic illness or disability.”
Member of the Health and Wellness Centre Margot Marshall, 70, who gathered more than 100 signatures for the petition in a few days along with fellow member Libby White, says going to the club gives structure to her day.
“I go and do my class, then we all get a coffee afterwards,” she says.
“I’m more fit now than I was when I was working, and just sitting at a computer all day. It’s use it or lose it, and the fitness centre is important to us all socially, physically and mentally. Most of us are in the 65-90 year age group. We all really wanted it to stay open.”
Margot says those who signed the petition are prepared to pay more for their membership if it would help.
“It’s a fantastic place, with classes that cater for all fitness levels, it’s age-friendly, unpretentious and comfortable,” she says.
“I was absolutely elated when we heard back from Labor so soon, and then the Liberals. You do wonder if they listen to seniors, and whether you matter.”
“There’s a strong community voice in Chifley, and it’s very uplifting,” says Adam.
“We’re an old gym at the back of an old school, we don’t have any new equipment or flashy TVs, we don’t have much at all but what we do have is people.”