HUNTER charities have been left reeling by the federal government’s decision to put more than $550,000 in grants for the region on ice, pending a review.
The money is part of the $4.5million Building Multicultural Communities Program, offered to more than 400 community groups, churches and charities across Australia.
It includes funding to at least eight groups in the electorates of Newcastle and Charlton, including grants of $150,000 for the Ethnic Communities Council Newcastle and Hunter Region and the Islamic Centre of Newcastle.
The groups were offered the money in August, a month before the federal election.
However, in a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services told the Newcastle Herald the government was ‘‘assessing all grant spending for consistency with government priorities and commitments’’.
It said it would notify grant recipients ‘‘once the review is complete’’.
The ethnic council’s executive officer, John Tucker, said he was told of the review last week by a public servant and was now fearful the money would not be forthcoming.
He told the Herald the organisation would be ‘‘shattered’’ if the money, which it plans to use for a multicultural men’s shed, did not come through.
On Tuesday last week, Mr Tucker wrote to Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the parliamentary secretary to the minister for Social Services, and laid out his concerns.
‘‘The [council] has already spent some $30,000 on plans, local government approvals, electrical connection works and site preparation, not to mention the untold hours of volunteer and staff time invested in the development of these projects,’’ he wrote.
The figures for the grant allocations came from the offices of Newcastle and Charleton MPs Sharon Claydon and Pat Conroy.
Ms Claydon said the groups were being left ‘‘high and dry’’ by the government.
‘‘We’re not talking about large, profit-making groups here, they’re small not-for-profit organisations doing important work on the ground,’’ she said.
‘‘I’m not aware of any previous change of government not agreeing to honour grants like this.’’
Senator Fierravanti-Wells was unavailable for comment while calls to Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ office were not returned.
Paterson MP Bob Baldwin declined to comment specifically, but said those affected were welcome to contact him.
‘‘I haven’t heard anything about it but if people are so concerned [they should] contact my office rather than the media,’’ he said.