Long-awaited Ballina Aboriginal child and family centre open
A FOUR-YEAR dream came to fruition for the wider Ballina Bundjalung community on Saturday when the Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre was officially opened.
And the smiles on the faces of hundreds of both indigenous and non-indigenous families illustrated the sense of achievement in realising their dream.
Building of the $3 million Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre BACFC on 3800 square metres of land donated by council at West Ballina's Porter Park was funded by the Federal Government, and is administered by the NSW Government Department of Communities and Services.
Following the Welcome to Country, Aunt Bertha Kapeen spoke of her pride in the hard fight to get the BACFC established.
"I am very honoured and very proud to be a Bundjalung Aboriginal today," she said.
BACFC Local Reference Group chair Lenkunyar Roberts-Hickling said the centre would deliver improved outcomes for vulnerable families in the community.
Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative general manager Nita Roberts proudly said 70% of the staff at the centre were Aboriginal.
"Our centre is a place of belonging for our jarjums (children) and their families," she said.
Those at the opening heard from Member for Ballina Don Page and Ballina Mayor David Wright about the processes of federal, state and local government coming together to deliver the much needed facility.
"This facility will make a profound difference to the lives of the children who attend over the coming years," Cr Wright said.
BACFC director Tanya Stuart said the state-of-the-art centre could accommodate 59 children each day, with current enrolments at more than 60% of capacity.
She said Aboriginal culture was embedded throughout the centre's educational program, which also offers after school care and pre-school programs
"Everyone who walks through the centre is in awe of how amazing it is," she said.
"Being educated at the centre gives the children a sense of identity and the confidence to grow."
The rocky road to the Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre
2009 - A Local Reference Group is established to consult with community about the BACFC.
July 2010 - Planning begins for the BACFC at Porter Park
November 2010 - West Ballina residents begin a campaign to save Porter Park
July 2011 - Council agrees to reclassify 3800 sq m of Porter Park for the BACFC
March 2012 - The Australian Human Rights Commission investigates complaints of racial discrimination against West Ballina residents.
June 2012 - A Ballina man accused of creating a racist pamphlet against the BACFC front court.
September 2012 - Council votes to lease the Porter Park land to the Department of Family and Community Services.
November 2012 - Work begins on the BACFC
June 2013 - Ballina man has charge of racial vilification over anti BACFC pamphlet dismissed.
July 2013 - Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative claims there are defects in construction of the BACFC
February 2014 - BACFC launches childcare service.