Hope was a real community effort
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Hope was a real community effort

The announcement last week that the Hope Restart Centre, a drug and alcohol residential rehabilitation facility, will be built in Bairnsdale, is a great example of what can occur with community backing.
This is not just my view, but that of the current Labor Minister, Martin Foley.
Since last year I have had a number of meetings with the Minister to push the reasoning as to why the Gippsland facility that both sides of politics had agreed to building – should be in Bairnsdale.
It is fair to say that initially, Bairnsdale was not on the radar when discussions commenced, but over time – due to the great support received – it developed into a situation where it could not really go anywhere else.
Minister Foley commented to me in Parliament last week after the announcement was made that it was a real credit to the entire community.
He said the ability of the community to pull together and present such an overwhelming case in favour of the project was the key determining factor in him visiting Bairnsdale last week to make the commitment. He is right!
This was due to a number of factors, which included:
• Obtaining agreement on the proposed site.
• Gaining the support of Odyssey House, a very respected deliverer of residential rehabilitation services, under the leadership of Stefan Gruenert.
• A Federal commitment of $3million by Darren Chester for the project if established in Bairnsdale (as well as a matching philanthropic donation), and
• Obtaining East Gippsland Shire planning approvals.
There were of course many other elements, but being able to go back to the Minister at various occasions and explain we “now have this”, started to present an overwhelming case.
Then there was the vast community support.
As has occurred in other areas of the state, there is often some high level of community opposition to such a proposal, this did not occur in this case to any degree.
While some community members raised various concerns, it was done in a balanced way and mainly related to simply to seeking further information on the proposal. There was generally overwhelming support.
This no doubt was in part due to the proposed location being terrific with so much to offer in relation to program delivery and the number of people in our community who recognise the greater good such a facility would deliver.
When Peter and Margaret Down came into my office - a couple of years back now – and I know they did with my Federal colleague Darren Chester as well, they simply had an idea to discuss.
From then, their ability to bring together a committee, including their lieutenants Richard Rijs and John Glynn and other dedicated members, paid dividends as the jigsaw pieces came into place.
All kudos to the committee, but also to the many other individuals and agencies who got behind the project (too numerous to mention).
As a result we will now have a facility that will serve our most needy when they need that level of assistance to overcome the challenges they face. Without that support it would not have happened in East Gippsland.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018