Use of Community Rooms

Policy

The Community Services Directorate (CSD) has a strong commitment to community development and inclusion, as witnessed by the Community Linkages Program. This policy provides guidelines for the provision and use of community rooms in Housing ACT multi-unit complexes.

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Definition of Community Room

A community room is a space in a multi-unit complex set aside for the use of residents and residents’ groups for conduct of activities conducive to the establishment, development and maintenance of a community or communities of residents.

Community rooms may be purpose built or be the result of a conversion of other spaces such as cleaners or caretakers room or, on rare occasions, prior dwellings.

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Purpose of Community Rooms

Community rooms are provided as a means by which residents can engage in activities that will contribute to improving the quality of their lives. This can be achieved on either:

  • an individual basis by quality of personal involvement in personally satisfying activities; or
  • a collective basis by creation of and involvement in the development of a community.

To achieve these goals participating individuals and agencies will work towards:

  • creating an environment conducive to community development reflecting values of warmth, friendliness and impartiality;
  • providing appropriate activities with equity of access by all residents;
  • providing support services relevant to residents needs and aspirations; and
  • building links between residents and the external community that will enhance good will, participation and mutual respect.

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Not For Profit Use

Community Rooms are provided to residents without charge by Housing ACT and are to be used only on a not for profit basis. However, this does not prevent those organising activities from levying a small charge to cover expenses for consumables such as tea and coffee or the charge of fees to cover materials used in ‘how-to’ programs.

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Access to Community Rooms

Unfortunately, not all multi-unit complexes are conducive to the provision of a community room for reasons of size or other physical restrictions. In such situations it may be desirable and appropriate for the residents’ association of one complex to access a community room located in another complex. Members of a complex with a community room should willingly negotiate with other groups with a view to providing easy access to this resource.

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Coordination of Community Rooms

Responsibility for Coordination

Generally, coordination of community rooms is delegated by Housing ACT to the local Residents’ Association. However, this function can be taken on by others:

  • an individual tenant who is willing to take on the task and work towards development of a residents’ association; or
  • a community organisation who wishes to operate programs on site that are designed to assist the community to develop and to the development of a residents’ association.

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Guidelines for Coordinators

Coordinators, whether agencies or individuals, are generally expected to:

  • develop, in conjunction with residents, a set of guidelines or local rules for governance of the community room. A ‘Code of Behaviours’ could be developed and include, as examples, such things as:
    • drugs and/or alcohol and those under the effects of drugs and/or alcohol not permitted in the community room,
    • activities must be inclusive of all people unless the activity is aimed at a specific group of people such as self defence for women,
    • those who have used the community room are responsible for leaving it in a clean and tidy condition immediately after use, etc.
    • an example of appropriate guidelines is provided at "Community Room Guidelines for Working in Harmony";
  • promote the use of the room to residents and community agencies providing support to residents or community development activities;
  • oversee health and safety concerns by:
    • liaising with the ACT Fire Brigade to determine community room capacity and posting this information in the room,
    • reporting venue related health and safety concerns to Housing ACT for maintenance such as lifting tiles, sharp edges, etc;
  • facilitate appropriate access to the community room to ensure:
    • there is a reasonable level of support for the activities by residents,
    • the activities are designed to assist in the development of the community or community members, and
    • no reasonable activities are excluded;
  • not approve activities which*:
    • include illegal or inappropriate activities such as those:
      • based on gambling or profiteering,
      • involving the use of dangerous equipment such as sharps, guns or other weapons, and/or
      • that unnecessarily seek to exclude individuals or groups of residents by means of a form of discrimination such as racism;
  • provide advice to Community Room users on behaviours which are not permitted, for example:
    • possession of alcohol and/or drugs,
    • being under the influence of alcohol and drugs,
    • using offensive language or behaviour,
    • disrupting activities (by participants or visitors),
    • deliberately upsetting others, and
    • smoking
    • and the appropriate manner of dealing with such behaviours (see Attachment A);
  • coordinate community room usage such as:
    • providing access to the community room and to associated equipment,
    • working with room users to ensure upkeep of the facilities, and
    • liaising with Housing ACT for maintenance concerns; and
  • negotiate with external residents’ associations who need to share the community room by:
    • ensuring ease of access to the community room and ensuring access does not favour one group over the other,
    • sharing community room coordination responsibilities,
    • sharing of equipment and other resources, and
    • conduct of mutual activities as desired or appropriate.

* note that disputes can be taken to the relevant Housing Manager who will commence a resolution process.

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Indemnity Insurance

Activities conducted by Incorporated Bodies

Incorporated bodies conducting activities in government owned community facilities must provide appropriate indemnity insurance. Insurance coverage relates to times when services are provided under the auspices of the sponsoring organisation and there is no cover in place should residents meet outside of service provision times.

Community organisations funded by government or occupying government owned premises such as the department’s community facilities are required to take out public liability insurance as well as general and accident insurance as part of their contractual obligations as per the Financial Management Act 1996.

Housing ACT is NOT liable for injuries that occur as a result of participating in activities conducted by an incorporated body (eg. physical injury occurring through participation in an exercise program conducted by an incorporated body).

Activities conducted by Bodies that are NOT Incorporated

Organisations such as tenants’ associations or residents’ groups are seldom incorporated. Many of these groups are either not aware of requirements for liability insurance, or continue to operate in the knowledge that they are exposed.

Housing ACT is NOT liable for injuries that occur as a result of participating in activities conducted by bodies that are not incorporated.

Insurance provided by Housing ACT

Housing ACT provides standard insurance and indemnity arrangements including building insurance and Public Liability Coverage to tenant and third parties on or using community facilities, for death, injury, loss of or damage to property arising from activities, events or accidents that Housing ACT would normally be liable for. For example tenants or community service providers injuring themselves by tripping or slipping on broken pavement, wet and slippery floors, defective stairs or loose or defective carpet, etc. For an individual to be covered by these insurance arrangements, Housing ACT must be legally liable for the loss, damage or injury suffered.

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Establishing a Community Room

Application Process

Housing ACT is prepared to receive applications from tenant associations, residents groups or community organisations for provision of a new community room. Applications should include information/comments on:

  • the type and quantity of activities planned;
  • expected benefits to the residents of the complex and the community; and
  • when from a community organisation:
    • demonstrated support from residents for the community organisation and the activities proposed, and
    • a plan clearly showing how tenants will be supported in establishing their own residents’ committee which will take over direct responsibility for the community room within approximately six months.

Housing ACT Considerations

Housing ACT will consider the use of existing spaces (units, store rooms, etc) as well as establishing purpose built Community Rooms depending on:

  • financial and other costs and benefits,
  • adequacy of current spaces for use as a community room,
  • future plans for the complex,
  • space requirements of the tenants’ association, and
  • current demand for dwellings in the complex.

Alternatives

Those wishing to access community space should also consider the possibility of accessing suitable space in other nearby neighbourhood facilities. Possibilities include sharing of resources in another complex (as above) or seeking access to alternative community resources such as church halls, schools, clubs, etc.

Those who wish to may apply for funding from the Tenant Initiated Grants program under Community Linkages to access an off site ‘community room’. Funding under the Tenant Initiated Grants program is:

  • available on an annual basis with applications usually called for in October;
  • advertised by direct mail out to all tenants; and
  • by a needs based selection process.

Further information on Tenant Initiated Grants can be obtained from Social Housing and Homelessness Services on 133427.

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Community Room Guidelines for Working in Harmony

Housing ACT:

1. Expects the Community Room is used to benefit community wellbeing and support the development of individual members through appropriate and safe activities such as:

  • social groups;
  • general skills courses (craft, how-to);
  • hobby groups (singing, quilting, model building);
  • living skills workshops (cooking and cleaning);
  • drama groups; and
  • other opportunities for interaction.

2. Does not support activities which detract from community harmony, for example:

  • illegal activities including the use of weapons or dangerous materials (explosives or volatile products);
  • discriminatory and exclusionary behaviour. Please note activities can be targeted for a specific group (women’s programs, cooking for men, youth group) if it is for the essential success of the activity/program; and
  • gambling or profiteering (poker games for money or goods for sale such as party plan).

3. Does not support objectionable and anti-social behaviours, for example:

  • possession of alcohol and/or drugs;
  • being under the influence of alcohol and drugs;
  • using offensive language or behaviour;
  • disrupting activities (by participants or visitors);
  • deliberately upsetting others; and
  • smoking.

People exhibiting any of these behaviours will be asked to and are expected to leave the premises immediately.

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