Multicultural communities in inner-Melbourne Labor electorates were given the biggest building grants in the lead-up to last year’s state election, according to the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s annual report.

The largest grant — $15,000 — was made to COASIT Italian Assistance Association, a group for Italians and Australians of Italian origin, in the marginal seat of Melbourne, the report reveals.

The former safe Labor seat has become increasingly marginal and was targeted by the Greens in last year’s state election. Former Education Minister Bronwyn Pike held it in a hard-fought campaign swung by the Liberal Party’s recommendation that voters preference the Greens last.

The top five building grants, totalling $58,000, were made to ethnic community associations based in state Labor seats in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, the report said.

They included $12,000 to the Greek Cypriot Parent and Youth Club in Sunshine, which is in the state seat of Derrimut, held for Labor by Telmo Languiller, and an $11,000 grant for the Italian Social Club in Altona, represented by the ALP’s Jill Hennessy.

Other communities in Labor-held seats to benefit from the biggest grants included the Australian Croatian Senior Citizens’ Club in Bundoora and the Calabria Club in Bulla.

But Michael van Vleit, grants manager for the Victorian Multicultural Commission, denies local politics in an election year had any influence in deciding which communities should receive grants.

“They enhance multicultural Victoria. It is not about politics at all. All parties support the grants,” he said.

A spokesman for the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Nicholas Kotsiras, says he does not believe the grants have been politically motivated.

“Groups from all over Victoria can apply,” the spokesman said. “The selection criteria are based on the relevance and quality of the projects proposed.”

However, the biggest grants were made to well-established Italian and Greek communities, despite the Commission’s website stating that its grant program exists to support “Victoria’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities, especially new and emerging communities to develop and sustain local community organisations and programs”.