Transcript - Kempsey press conference

LIZ CAMPBELL

Well, thank you all for being here and more importantly, thank you to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, for joining us here today and our Federal Member for Cowper, Patrick Conaghan. This is a fantastic day for Kempsey to be able to see the plans, to see what’s going forward for the Kempsey Community Hub and Community Centre. This has been a long time in the planning, and we just welcome you all [inaudible].

PAT CONAGHAN

Thank you, Liz. Well, welcome everybody and thank you for coming along, Michael. And one of the reasons we’re here today is because I went to Michael late last year after we missed out on some essential funding for this specific project and I said to Michael, we need $6.5 million to provide emergency accommodation to youth and at-risk adults in this community as well as all the supporting services that go with it. And that’s exactly what happened. So thank you very much, Michael, for making that happen, for that $6.5 million. And acknowledgement to the State Government as well for their $500,000 and to Crown Lands who donated the old ambulance station. So it was a partnership between local, state, federal and Crown Lands, but it’s so important – so important – that we have these resources for our communities, for vulnerable people and recognising that. So it’s a great effort and another reason we’re here today is because we have made progress. We’ve had the planning done and we’re about to start and hopefully – hopefully – before the end of the year we’ll have shovels in the ground and this will go up and it will be a legacy. And I’d like to also thank Deb Kuhn, who’s been integral in this, and also acknowledgement to Mark Morrison. So, everybody, thank you very much for being part of this project. It’s really important. Father James, thank you very much. Thank you to the Grafton Diocese, who’s going to effectively – through St Agnes – run this and I know they’ll do it well because they do everything well.

DEBORAH KUHN

Well, it was a total honour to work through this project starting back in 2018. I’ve spent a lot of time with Liz’s Council and her workers were brilliant to work with on the ground, the general manager just never stops, sort of, working on it from the beginning. But the people of this community is what got this going. It’s the people of this community who realised that the number of youth suicides could not keep happening and that’s why Mark and others [inaudible] college and when I met Pat and saw his dedication and Mel’s to the community, it was pretty easy from then on. So, we will look forward to this being a vibrant centre. Mark is going to bring the education model here. We’re going to have employment, we’re going to have a café. There’s going to be emergency and conditional housing, all of what communities like this need. And we want to start this and grow it. So hopefully, Deputy Prime Minister, we can encourage you to look at this and bring you back and keep you involved through Pat and there’s more of this around New South Wales.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, thank you very much. I’ve never been to a media conference where I’ve seen a family pushing a stroller walk straight through it, but as the Mayor said, we are in Kempsey. But that almost brings home to bear why we’re here, because it is about family. It is about community and it’s about the community having this hub as an integral part of their community, as Pat Conaghan has just told us. And we want this old ambulance station restored. It has done its due diligence, it’s done its job for the community since 1947 up until a couple of years ago. And we’ve seen how the building has sadly deteriorated just in the last few years since it’s been no longer in use as an ambulance station. But the community built this. The community funded this and now through the State Government, through indeed, the local shire council, the Kempsey local government area, we’re going to revitalise this corner, this busy thoroughfare, to make it a community hub, to make it somewhere where people feel safe to come to, whether they’ve got mental health conditions, whether they’ve got a domestic violence situation, whether they need a refuge, whether they just need that love, care and support that Kempsey is so renowned for. And I commend St Agnes for the role that they will play in the future. I commend Pat Conaghan for having the foresight, for having the vision, for having the advocacy to get $6.5 million of federal funding for this most important project. And I commend Cara as well, because I’ve known Cara for many, many years, I’ve worked with her in building everything from bridges down in the Murrumbidgee Shire right through to these important community hubs in Kempsey and she knows just how important a part this is going to play for the community in the future. So, I can’t wait to come back here and see the finished project. I appreciate it’s going to take that construction phase, I appreciate that we’re going to obviously go out to tender and get contractors and get local workers. And that’s what it’s all about, too. It is about building better. It is about building our community. It is about those jobs for the local community. And that’s what Pat Conaghan is all about. When you’ve got somebody like Pat Conaghan who’s seen firsthand the struggles that some families have in his previous profession as a lawyer, in the one before that he had as a police officer. He knows just how important these community hubs are. He’s worked to get one for Kempsey. I admire him for his advocacy, for knowing what the community wants, needs, expects, deserves and is now getting.

MARK MORRISON

I think one really beneficial element of it being an ambulance station is the fact that young people and people within the community, elders within the community, have all trusted this site. And because it’s already a trusted site and it’s a site that people are happy with and it’s a place where they look forward to being associated with, the people who work there, you know, all the ambulance staff, the paramedics who’ve been here before have done a great service to the community and continue to do that. This will now be venturing into its next service but is still looking after community, still looking after the young people, still being valued by the elders in the community, still being celebrated by everyone who wants to donate, everyone who wants to volunteer, people who want to be involved. And they can access that during the daylight hours and then there’ll be some after-care programs running out of here, which is what is really needed within the community. So thank you very much to everyone who’s involved.

JOURNALIST

Can you give us an update on this project, where it’s at and how much funding’s been contributed from both the federal, state and local government?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, I know the Federal Government has contributed $6.5 million dollars towards this important project, but I know it’s about $7 million in total. But what we’re going to do here is have a community hub. What we’re going to do here is have a facility for domestic violence, for those situations where it’s very difficult for women and their children in difficult situations to know where to go. Well, they certainly will have a hub, a refuge, to go to in Kempsey in the future. It’s also going to be here for other things – for mental health and for other important community health updates, provisions. This is going to be such an important provision. Kempsey Shire Council is working with us. I know how hard Pat Conaghan has worked to get this funding – $6.5 million dollars of federal funding. It’s going to make such a difference for this local community.

JOURNALIST

Have architectural designs been drawn up yet? Where is the project, I guess, at the moment?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, there is a plan. Cara Dale has worked very hard to make sure that we’ve got those plans ready for contractors to come in. It’s going to be a three-storey development. So we’re going to have ground floor and then two storeys which is going to provide such important health services for the community of Kempsey. And, of course, what we want to make sure of is that there are local contractors, local small businesses, being involved in the construction phase. And, of course, it’s also going to provide ongoing jobs for locals, for Indigenous people. It’s going to be a facility that is going to attract a number of community health outcomes and it’s going to make such a difference for Kempsey.

JOURNALIST

Pat, when can we expect construction to start?

PAT CONAGHAN

Well, look, we’re expected to start before the end of the year. Not sure how long the construction will take, but it’s just really great to know that we’ll have shovels in the ground by the end of the year to provide this really essential service.

JOURNALIST

And do we know how many jobs it’s going to create in total or a rough estimate?

PAT CONAGHAN

Look, we’re expecting anything between 10 or 15 jobs. What we’ll have here is not only emergency accommodation but we’ll have a full-time caretaker, we’ll have a café. Obviously, people will be employed in the café, but there’ll also be training facilities and the support services for people who are going through tough times.

JOURNALIST

As you know, youth crime is a massive issue, especially in the Kempsey Shire. Do you think this will actually be, you know, a positive step forward in trying to tackle that by giving them, you know, access to counsellors and mental health support?

PAT CONAGHAN

Definitely. This is a cog in a big machine, but it’s a really important part of that machine. People need to know where they can go to feel safe. People need to know where that centre is that they can get the help that they need. Even if it’s just to talk to somebody, it’s a start. And that’s exactly what we expect from this hub, from this centre. You know, it’s going to provide that safe place for people, for young children, for mums and for a better community.

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