Byron Shire Council has handed responsibility for managing the new community services hub, being created at the Old Byron Hospital, to a major not-for-profit organisation based in Lismore, overlooking a bid from the Byron Community Centre.
Following a discussion conducted entirely behind closed doors at last week’s Council meeting, councillors voted unanimously to award the tender to Social Futures.
Based in the centre of Lismore, Social Futures is a major provider of services across regional Australia in the areas of homelessness and housing, youth and family, and disability support.
It is also the main provider of Local Area Coordination services for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, making it one of the largest service providers in the state.
The details of Social Futures’ pitch to Council is not known because its tender application was made confidential.
The organisation will now have a broad range of responsibilities in relation to the new community services hub at the old hospital.
These include putting arrangements in place for the management and occupation of the former hospital, such as deciding which organisations will be given tenancies at the site.
It is intended that these organisations will cover the area of health, education and other community-related services, with the hub to officially open in early 2023.
During the public access section of last week’s meeting, the President of the Byron Community Centre board, Helen Hamilton, made a final pitch to councillors in favour of her organisation’s bid.
‘Byron Community Association [Also known as Byron Community Centre] is a strong contender for the management of this endeavour’, said Ms Hamiton, who was also the Shire’s 2020 Citizen of the Year.
‘We have the history, the skills, the experience and the passion for this important community project’.
‘We believe we are the people’s choice and look forward to a favourable decision.’
These entreaties, it seems, fell on deaf ears.
Councillors voted in favour of the Social Futures bid during a confidential session that all members of the public and media were excluded from.
No details have been provided to the public regarding the basis of this decision.
The justification for this was the commercially sensitive nature of the matter.