Tuggeranong town centre

Residents are protesting the removal of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs from Tuggeranong town centre, pictured. Photo: Colleen Petch

Local business and community groups on Wednesday launched a petition to keep the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in Tuggeranong.

The department revealed this month it was looking for new space for its national office as part of a plan to consolidate more than 2700 staff into one or two buildings, and would consider remaining in Tuggeranong or moving to Woden.

The Tuggeranong Hyperdome shopping centre, Tuggeranong Community Council and not-for-profit company Communities@Work will be collecting signatures on a petition calling for the federal government to ''locate in Tuggeranong CBD the required 40,000 to 42,000 square metres of space that is needed to house the newly consolidated Commonwealth Government Department of Families, Housing and Indigenous Affairs''.

It asked the government to ''maintain and improve'' existing public service jobs in Tuggeranong.

Federal member for Canberra Gai Brodtmann backed the petition, confirming she had spoken to the secretary about keeping the department in the town centre, and would approach the relevant ministers to discuss the issue.

Ms Brodtmann said she would make the petition available for people to sign on her website and planned to present it in Parliament during the next sitting. ''There's a number of different positions that are attached to the department, and it's very important that you have jobs in various parts of Canberra so you keep each pocket of Canberra alive and keep the economy alive, and it's a particularly important part of Tuggeranong,'' she said.

Lynne Harwood, chief executive of Communities@Work, said it would do great harm to an area already disadvantaged if the department was relocated. ''To take away a workforce of that size from an area, you're also taking away the buying power and the spending power of the area, so it's not just about the immediate jobs, it's about the whole impact that would have,'' she said.

But Woden Valley Community Council deputy chairman Mike Reddy said he would like to see more public service jobs in his area to fill empty office space and support local businesses the town centre.

Hyperdome centre manager Jodie Marques said Tuggeranong was experiencing stagnant population growth and a decline in public service jobs in the town centre could see existing residents leave the area.

She said the Hyperdome had good business from department employees and she expected strong support for the petition when she distributed it within the centre and to other local businesses.