Magpie sisters devastated


GOONELLABAH residents Rose and Louise Walker just want to be heard.

The sisters, who have dedicated their lives to supporting youth activities in their suburb, claim the sudden loss of their only community centre is having a devastating impact.

For years the Magpie Centre, in Shearman Drive, has been the focus for community activities and a gathering place for black and white families.

Now it is boarded up and residents have been informed by the NSW Department of Housing it is being converted back into a rental house.

Louise and Rose have been fighting hard to have it reopened after its closure weeks ago, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

"There is a lot of media attention focused on the trouble in Goonellabah, but when we try and do something positive to help keep the kids off the streets and actively learning, we get no support at all," Louise said.

"We have a group that has been operating for years, Koori Works Inc, with well-developed ideas and programs for kids, but now we'll have to try and run them from our kitchen tables, using our own resources.

"We have put in a proposal to run the program from the Magpie Centre, but it has been rejected by the DOH."

The DOH yesterday claimed they had approached community groups to run the centre.

"However there was no interest," a spokeswoman said.

"While the department has provided the cottage for community use, it does not take on the management of community centres.

"The decision to convert the cottage is based on the limited response from community organisations after an expression of interest (EOI) to manage the centre was advertised.

"As the community centre has been heavily vandalised on numerous occasions, and had no managing organisation, the department had little choice but to convert the cottage back to public housing."

But Louise Walker said she was astounded that the department claimed there was no interest in running the centre.

She produced the EOI Koori Works submitted, as well as pages of letters supporting the submission from community leaders.

Those supporting the EOI included: Ian Causley, Member for Page; Mr S. Lowndes, prin- cipal, Kadina High and Mr B. Farrell, deputy principal; Jesse Wone, indigenous programs manager North Coast ACE; Kerrie Ellis, co-ordinator, New Careers for Aboriginal People; Dr Judy Atkinson, Professor of Indigenous Australian Studies, Southern Cross University; Anne Meagher, assistant regional director, Department of Juvenile Justice; Wendy King, administration officer, Kurra- chee Co-operative Society.

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