Work begins on family centre
CONSTRUCTION is scheduled to start this month on the Ballina Aboriginal Child and Family Centre at Porter Park, West Ballina.
A turning-of-the-sod ceremony was held on Monday for one of the most controversial projects in the shire in recent times.
Mayor David Wright, while referring to the "unpleasantness" of the past debate, said now was the time to be looking forward.
"Today and the future is what we are all about," he said.
"The whole community will eventually embrace the centre.
"In time, the controversy of the past will fade."
The centre is an initiative of the National Partnership Agreement to "Close the Gap" on indigenous disadvantage.
Chairperson of the Centre's Local Reference Group, Lenkunyar Roberts-Hickling, said the purpose-built facility would be a hub that would enable parents and families to access a range of culturally appropriate services, in the one place, to give their children the best start to life.
"This centre will be an asset not only to the Aboriginal community but also for the wider community within the Ballina shire," Ms Roberts-Hickling said.
"Aboriginal children aged 0-5 are the main target group, however the centre will also provide support and services to all other children, particularly those from disadvantaged families. There has been a lot of debate and discussion about the centre's location but the focus is now on the future and we are looking forward to getting the centre built so we can start improving health and education outcomes for local Aboriginal and disadvantaged children in a permanent location.
"I also want to focus people's attention on the fact that the Bunjum Aboriginal Co-operative Centre is already delivering interim services while construction of the new centre takes place."
The NSW Department of Family and Community Services is responsible for establishing the centre in Ballina, as well as eight others across NSW.
Ballina was chosen as a location due to the size and needs of the Aboriginal community in the region.