ACON has come under fire from some western Sydney HIV/AIDS service providers and other stakeholders following the closure of its Wentworthville office earlier this month.

They believe ACON has failed to consult adequately before closing the office and that services will suffer now that ACON West is based in Surry Hills.

They also said Wentworthville was an inappropriate location for ACON’s western Sydney office, and that the facility was under-used because it was not easily accessible.

But ACON has defended its decision to close the office, saying it engaged in sufficient community consultation and that services to Western Sydney will not decrease.

Last year, ACON held a series of three meetings for western Sydney HIV/AIDS stakeholders to discuss the proposed closure of the Wentworthville office.

But people who attended those meetings say there was little opportunity for consultation.

Basically it was just a forum for them to tell us they were actually shutting the office and moving it all back to the city, Bruce Hall, a member of the western Sydney positive community who attended ACON’s meeting for service users, told the Star.

The meetings for volunteers and service providers were better attended, but still offered little opportunity for consultation, sources told the Star.

The idea of it being a consultation was a total sham, Gerry Tobin, a volunteer at HIV/AIDS service provider The Western Suburbs Haven who was at the volunteers meeting, said.

One western Sydney HIV/AIDS service provider, who asked not to be named, said western Sydney’s needs were different from the city’s and could not be properly serviced from Surry Hills.

Pat Kennedy, coordinator of The Western Suburbs Haven, agreed an ACON presence was needed in the west.

An ACON office there would at least give people choices, she said.

Kennedy said the ACON West office was not easily accessible by public transport and ACON could have found a less costly option.

She said ACON could have found a western Sydney office in a more convenient location that cost significantly less than the money spent in Wentworthville.

ACON denied suggestions of limited consultations and dropping service levels, although president Adrian Lovney admitted the three consultation meetings were not well attended.

But ACON had raised the proposed closure before that point and the organisation had gone out of its way to hear from people, he said.

There won’t be any reduction in the services that are provided to the region, he said.

As for the suitability of Wentworthville, Lovney said ACON consulted with 40 to 50 people after its Parramatta premises burnt down four years ago, and there was support at that time for the new location.

The suggestion now that it was in a bad location -¦ doesn’t match up with what we were told in the original consultation process.

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