Centrelink and Medicare offices in Main Street, Mornington are set to stay open despite moves to close them last year.
Strong community opposition and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic prompted the federal government to delay its decision to shut the offices on 27 March 2020 and replace them with a private, part-time agency to run over 15 hours three days a week. (“Mornington Centrelink wins extra time” The News 25/3/20).
Now, Government Services Minister Senator Linda Reynolds says the federal government has “committed to maintaining a service centre in Mornington”.
“Mornington residents will continue to have local access to Centrelink, Medicare and child support services at the Mornington service centre on Main Street,” she said.
Flinders MP Greg Hunt said the decision “showed the Morrison government’s continuing commitment to supporting the people of the Mornington Peninsula”.
Mr Hunt said he had “worked tirelessly with the relevant minister to secure a long-term solution for the community”.
“We know many Australians are doing it tough right now, and the service centre will be there to continue to deliver key coronavirus support to locals … during this challenging time.”
Dunkley Labor MP Peta Murphy said “community pressure and the high demand for face-to-face services during the pandemic” had forced the government’s change of heart.
Despite claiming the centre would close in March 2020 due to a “lease expiry”, the lease had been renewed four times – up until September 2020, then March 2021, September 2021 and, most recently, to March 2022.
“The agent service model clearly didn’t fool the community into accepting the government’s plan to reduce services and the single desk was scrapped on 30 August 2020,” Ms Murphy said.
“[This] is a big win for the community. The permanent office will ensure that elderly and vulnerable members of the community have access to the face-to-face support they need.”
Mornington Community Information and Support Centre manager Stuart Davis-Meehan said the reprieve was “great news”.
“This is a significant win for our community,” he said. “I would like to thank all those people that signed our petition last year and advocated that we needed Centrelink to remain open.”