Construction of Ballina’s long-awaited Aboriginal Child and Family Centre is set to begin next month after leasing arrangements for its location at Porter Park were approved yesterday.
Supporters in the packed public gallery applauded Ballina Shire councillors after they voted 6–4 to approve the Porter Park lease.
Ballina was chosen as one of only nine locations in NSW and one of 38 nationally for the establishment of such centres, which aim to improve health and education outcomes for Aboriginal children and families.
The Ballina centre will provide child care, parenting programs, family literacy initiatives, and potentially a range of initiatives such as oral health, immunisation programs and family counselling for Aboriginal families.
Mayor David Wright told Echonetdaily that while all councillors supported the establishment of the centre in Ballina, a minority opposed the Porter Park location.
‘But it was too late for a change of location,’ Cr Wright said.
Crs Sharon Cadwallader and Jeff Johnson, who had previously opposed the siting of the centre in Porter Park, and new councillors Keith Williams and Ken Johnston, voted against the plan.
The decision was welcomed by Bev Stoch, manager regional strategies for Community Services, who said securing the site for the vital community facility had been a ‘long and challenging journey’.
‘With the lease approved, we can now proceed with the construction of this innovative centre at Porter Park in October,’ Ms Stoch said.
‘While Aboriginal children aged nought to five are the main target group, this centre will provide support to all children, especially those from disadvantaged families.’
Ms Stoch said Ballina was chosen because of the expected population growth of Aboriginal children in the local area and the strengths currently demonstrated in early childhood services.
The centre manager, Bunjum Aboriginal Cooperative, is delivering early childhood and community outreach services from the centre’s interim premises in River Street, Ballina.