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Childcare opens at Flynn

There have been some questions about the position of the John Flynn Community Group and the P&C on the childcare centre that opened at Flynn this week (16 January), so we have answered some of the more common questions here.

1. What has been the community’s response to the childcare opening?

The initial reaction to the childcare opening was one of surprise because the main Flynn community groups were not invited, and in fact, we first heard the news from the media.

Our community is very pleased that our efforts have halted the large scale demolition at the site, so now we are keen to make sure that the further work brings a true Flynn community hub that actually looks after the heritage and community values as promised by the ACT Government.

2. Does that mean you are happy with the childcare?

Childcare is something that our community has included in its proposal since 2007.  The real issue is that, until very recently, our efforts to establish a local Flynn community hub and look after heritage values and local community needs have been largely ignored. We hope that will change.

4.The Government says it has consulted extensively – how have you not been consulted?

The Flynn community has not been genuinely consulted about the childcare development. The plans were developed in secret, with demolition starting before a development application was even notified. The government ignored the community’s objections and used its call-in powers.

While there have been various meetings over a number of years the government has, until recently, either not listened or ignored what the community has been saying. So it has been a very poor consultation and process.

3. So you are happy with what’s happening now with the rest of the site?

There are some signs that the government is listening now and the process for the further use of the site will be better. We just hope that being left out of the centre opening is not a sign of the same-old, same-old shoddy treatment of the Flynn community and that we actually do get a Flynn community hub that looks after heritage values and meets local needs.

Past experience with the Community Services Directorate (the responsible department, formerly DHCS) leads us to be cautious because the treatment of the Flynn community has been so poor that we lodged a complaint with the ombudsman, leading to a formal, independent investigation into departmental practices.

4. How has government not looked after heritage at the site?

The government has committed to treat the site as if it were heritage listed, but it has failed to recognise or protect some of the most important features of heritage and community value. For example, in the childcare development, the government has failed to protect the fabric and aesthetics of the significant architecture, interrupted the iconic rooflines, and privatised the public courtyard and centre of designed Flynn village.

It would have been easily possible, with only a few modifications to the government’s plans, to make the buildings suitable for childcare without the effects on heritage values. The issue is not the use, but the extent of unnecessary changes.

5. Aren’t you still hanging on for a school? The community could be in there using the place if it weren’t for you.

If only that were true, but it’s not. It’s only thanks to the efforts of the P&C and the John Flynn Community Group that there are buildings there at all, which we hope the Flynn community will soon be able to use.

After the school closed in 2006, the John Flynn Community Group was formed specifically to lobby for community use of the school. A proposal was submitted in early 2007 with the help of John Hargreaves. The Government’s response, however, was to run the ‘Purdons consultation’, which recommended demolishing the Flynn buildings and developing the entire block for housing. Similar recommendations were made for all closed schools, and since it was an election year, the government rejected that report and ran another consultation process (the ‘GHD’ consultation). By then, a heritage nomination for Flynn had been lodged, and so Flynn was not included in that consultation round on the basis that it was not possible to determine the future use of the site without knowing its heritage status.

The John Flynn Community group and the P&C wrote to several government ministers for years, asking for the site to be used for the community, but the government was not interested until late 2009 after an Assembly Inquiry. At that stage, departmental officers were still advocating at least partial demolition (and total demolition in some cases), and it was only a promise by Chief Minister Jon Stanhope in late 2009 to protect the school building and grounds that secured the site’s future.

Since then, the government has made some progress in re-using the site for the community, but it has taken significant effort by a lot of people to convince government that the school should be used in a way that protects the heritage values of the building and meets the need of the local Flynn community.

Images from Flynn

Angles on the textured concrete walls


Flynn grounds

Landscape setting & grounds

Enrico Taglietti visting the school he designed

History and design

Memorial to John Flynn

Memorial to John Flynn