On Tuesday to the relief and joy of dozens of Lismore folk, Farrelly House, the home of Red Inc. and the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS), reopened on Magallan Street.
When John Barnes OAM bought the building in Lismore in 2016 he did substantial modifications, including the installation of a lift, a new entrance, toilets, an altered office configuration, a new air conditioning system and carpeting. Mr Barnes has had to redo much of that work since March this year after devastating floods in the town.
The 2017 flood vs. the 2022 event
Mr Barnes says that one of the reasons he bought the building was because the ground floor is largely a 10-vehicle parking area. ‘The 2017 flood did not seriously damage it – it only went into the car park. However, since the 2022 flood was some 2.5m above all previous floods it went well into the first floor and seriously damaged the lift, carpeting, plaster walling, insulation, the switchboard and other electrical fittings, furnishings and doors.’
Tuesday’s celebration began with choral/signing rendition of From Now On from the Greatest Showman, sung and singed with gusto by the Red Inc. community before Mr Barnes spoke about the rebuild and introduced the speakers.
Mr Barnes said though it was a small occasion, it was somewhat pivotal to those that have been associated with it.
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin and Lismore City Mayor Cr Steve Krieg joined in with a large group who came to see the ribbon cut.
Connecting with community
Red Inc. CEO Marie Gale said being in the CBD is very important Red Inc. ’It enables people with a disability to connect with their community and to feel that they have an opportunity to build meaningful relationships – to feel included.
’It’s also really important for the community as well as it creates that sense of belonging and everyone feels that they have a place in their community.
Ms Gale said the 2017 flood was a complete disaster. ‘Although that’s quite relative now – we would much rather have had 2017 flooding. ‘Obviously, it’s really critical for us to have somewhere to put all of our equipment, our servers, our computers, we’ve got a lot of important client and staff data on file.
‘We did look for somewhere where we could get all of our administration above flood level and the opportunity came here after John did such an amazing job of renovating it and putting in a lift, which is a game changer for us a lift – and hallelujah! It didn’t go under. And we were able to come back as soon as the power was restored.
’It was fabulous to be able to come back and get started and help people get back here.’
Grateful on behalf of the community
Mayor Steve Krieg said that the two organisations whose home is in Farrelly House are very close to his heart. ’Red Inc. obviously does an amazing job – I am very grateful on behalf of the community for all the work that they do, but also the Rural Financial Counselling Service.
‘My father has played a big role in establishing the RFCS across the country and all of the people wearing that badge on their shirt come up and say “How’s your dad going?” He would never forgive me if I wasn’t here at the opening of this building – they play an absolutely critical role.’
State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin wanted to say a big thank you to John and the whole team for not only the rebuild that they did, but for deciding to rebuild and do it in a timely way. ‘Everybody says everything’s too slow, but really, it’s been done quite quickly, given the odds that were stacked against him to do it.
Heart and hope
‘It not only provides a home to Red Inc. and to the Rural Financial Counselling Service, two organisations dear to my heart, but it also provides heart and hope to the CBD and to our business community and that’s what we need right now more than ever so.
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said that he wanted to echo the thanks and to acknowledge that looking around the CBD every day is a reminder that there is a very long journey ahead.
‘It’s one that is quite traumatic for all of us. The community out there needs stories of hope right now and this is a beacon of hope right now – today. That’s important. It brings people back.’
The reconstruction was largely supervised by builder, Jim Barnes. Repairs and replacements on Farrelly House have so far cost John about $300,000 and the lift costs are still outstanding. John says he has applied for the advertised government financial assistance, but to date has not received a reply.
Spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm
’It’s been a big job, but I will say that the rebuild was done in the spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm between all the various tradies and the tenants. It was a very stressful time. People wanted to get things done, there was a big problem with the supply of materials, supply of labour, and all sorts of domestic disruption beyond the workplace, but it was achieved – the only thing that’s not operating is the lift’
‘I would like to thank you all for coming and express a very big thank you to all those involved because there was a very healthy spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm to get it done.’