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Byron Shire
September 29, 2022

Lismore Council backs library and Magpie Centre

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Magpie! Photo David Lowe.

There were two beacons of light emerging from another tumultuous Lismore City Council meeting last night, with broad support for a temporary pop-up library in town and a community and youth centre in Goonellabah.

There were strong depositions from the public on both matters at the start of the meeting.

Goonellabah community leader Bradley Walker spoke first, about Cr Elly Bird’s motion, which emerged from the Aboriginal Advisory Group. Mr Walker said the idea of the ‘Magpie Centre’ was a place where black and white could come together, as had happened at the previous facility of that name in Goonellabah, twenty years ago.

He said a new community centre would give local youth something to do on weekends, generating jobs with lawn work and ‘a lot of respect around community’.

‘I want to give the youths opportunity and show them the right way,’ said Mr Walker. He talked about his own history with drugs and alcohol but said he had since turned his life around and become a teacher.

‘This is what I want coming out of the Magpie Centre, for our youth to come up here and to be speaking, and be leaders in their community. Without that they are going down the path of no return.’

Mr Walker said he was actively engaged with his community and knew what was needed. He reminded councillors that it was the season of the magpie, and that magpies protected their young. ‘We’ve got to protect the next generation,’ he said.

Lismore is missing its beloved library. Photo supplied.

Pop-up library

Lismore community member Colleen Reibel then made a deposition to request that council find a venue in the CBD for a pop-up library until the Lismore Library was able to re-open (expected some time in 2023).

She said the library had ‘always been a safe space to learn, to be entertained and to connect to the community. It has not only provided the traditional access to books, DVDs and puzzles, but it has also provided a variety of activities for children, of all ages, events that have allowed children and their parents to meet, learn and feel connected to one another.’

Ms Reibel said the library was also a vital resource for senior citizens, such as herself, particularly by providing access to new technology, and education about how to use it, which was more important than ever during a time of flood recovery.

‘It is undeniable that the library has been an essential service in our community,’ she said, ‘one of the places that make the heart of our wonderful city beat.’

She urged councillors to back the pop-up library idea, ending with a quote from Albert Einsten, who once said ‘the only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.

‘So esteemed councillors, please make it easier for your constituents to know the location of our library. The community needs this service in the CBD as soon as possible to get our resilient city back on its feet and its heart beating once more.’

Lismore Cr Elly Bird. Photo David Lowe.


Cr Elly Bird spoke to her motion about the Goonellabah youth and community centre. She said she’d looked at the history and was aware that the former Magpie Centre was a ‘well-loved resource in the community – and it was a loss when it was closed.’

She said the next stage was for council to host some meetings with external stakeholders in order to shape up a possible funding proposal. Cr Bird emphasised that what was being discussed was not another GSAC.

‘It doesn’t need to be a huge centre that’s going to require a huge lot of resourcing,’ she said. ‘The previous Magpie Centre was a house and it could be as simple as finding a house that the community can use to deliver and engage in community activities.’

Cr Electra Jensen asked why the old centre was closed. Cr Bird said the funding had been withdrawn ‘despite strong community interest.’

Mayor Steve Krieg then spoke in support of the idea, acknowledging the passion and experience of Brad Walker, who he described as ‘an outstanding role model’ for the youth of Goonellabah.

GSAC Lismore. File photo.

Cr Big Rob then spoke against the motion, saying the proposed Magpie Centre should be incorporated into GSAC. ‘We don’t need to reinvent the wheel so I don’t understand it,’ he said. He foreshadowed an alternative motion to this effect.

Cr Darlene Cook then said it wasn’t her impression that a new building would be built and established. Cr Bird confirmed that was unlikely, and said GSAC might be part of the solution. ‘This is just about establishing a committee that looks at how we can realise a youth and community centre of some sort in Goonellabah,’ she said.

Cr Krieg added, ‘It’s nothing grandiose at all. It’s more about community pride and giving the youth something to do and strive for.’

Community driven

Cr Bird then said, ‘It’s not about telling people what the solution is… it’s about establishing a committee that can look at possible options and have the conversations, and it’s about us providing that support, to have the conversation, to bring the stakeholders into the room to host the meetings.

‘It’s not about us going “thou shalt move into GSAC and have a Youth and Community Service Centre at GSAC,” because frankly, I don’t think that GSAC is necessarily what’s being looked for here.’

When it came to the vote, the motion to proceed with the community centre concept found the support of all councillors except Cr Rob, so his foreshadowed motion did not eventuate.

Lismore Cr Darlene Cook. Photo David Lowe.

Back to the library

The suggestion to advance a pop-up library for Lismore was supported by Cr Darlene Cook. ‘Each week our staff are being repeatedly asked, “When are you coming back to the CBD?” I’m constantly getting emails and questions about this too.’

She said council had the opportunity to provide ‘a much needed and loved service’ back to the CBD by enabling the general manager to sign a lease for a temporary library space.

Cr Peter Colby said he fully supported Cr Cook. Cr Big Rob questioned the potential cost. Speaking for staff, GM John Walker said, ‘In our view, it’s an essential service that needs to be delivered and we will find the way to make the cost work.’

Cr Elly Bird agreed that the library was an essential service. ‘Let’s just make it happen,’ she said.

The motion to sign the documents to progress the pop-up library then passed, with only Cr Big Rob opposed.

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