Bega Valley Shire Council will attempt to prevent cases of racial and religious intolerance by using a $133,000 grant to upgrade its public security.
The infrastructure grant was from round five of the Australian government's Safer Communities Fund, which funds crime prevention initiatives aimed at reducing crime, anti-social behaviour or other security risks driven by racial or religious intolerance.
Council will use the money to upgrade its public buildings with improved CCTV, lighting, security, alarm, public address, intercom and swipe access systems, particularly the Bega Valley Shire Complex in Bega and the Bega Valley Regional Learning Centre in Merimbula.
"Council has experienced some anti-social behaviour, including property damage of public buildings, verbal abuse of staff and the community using those sites, in Bega and Merimbula," a council spokesperson said.
"Some is targeted towards the more vulnerable people in our community and some is linked to racial intolerance."
For example, the spokesperson said, council's Welcome Refugees and Asylum Seekers signs have been damaged or stolen a number of times over a prolonged period.
The sign in Bega was replaced in February 2019 after being damaged by vandals and the sign in Eden was stolen that same month.
Also, the Bega Valley Regional Gallery (BVRG) reported damage or theft of marketing collateral associated with the Shivanjani Lal exhibition that featured works of art from Asian and Middle Eastern artists, as well as the Weapons for the Solider exhibitions which comprised of a collection of art from Indigenous peoples.
"Once the upgraded security infrastructure is installed, it will increase the safety of these buildings and its tenants, and will benefit the Bega Valley community by reducing anti-social behaviour, increase the communities feelings of safety and contribute to greater community wellbeing and resilience," the council spokesperson said.
"Council believes overwhelmingly that we live in a tolerant community that welcomes and appreciates diversity.
"Many of our programs and projects are designed to strengthen those values and highlight the contribution we can all make based on our varied backgrounds and experiences.
"Our commitment to fostering an inclusive community is deep and highlighted not only by these security upgrades but more so by our social and community services."
The council complex in Bega consists of the BVRG, library, civic centre and main council office, while the regional learning centre in Merimbula has several permanent tenants within the building that offer support and services to the shire's most vulnerable people.