Elder of the Butchulla tribe, Aunty Joyce Smith plants the shovel into the soil where the new Kal'ang Respite Care Centre is being constructed.
Elder of the Butchulla tribe, Aunty Joyce Smith plants the shovel into the soil where the new Kal'ang Respite Care Centre is being constructed. Robyne Cuerel

Healing a frail nation

IT WAS a rare moment that invoked thousands of years of Fraser Coast history.

Butchulla elder Aunty Joyce Smith, dressed in a striking red coat, stabbed a spade into soil on a block of land in Hervey Bay.

It was a symbolic way to recognise the site as place for her tribe and marked the official beginning of construction of a valuable new facility for the region.

In just a few months time, the patch of dirt struck by the shovel will sit under the $1.9 million Kal'ang Respite Centre - a project five years in the making.

It's a project Butchulla people have wanted since a respite service was established on the Fraser Coast 16 years ago to help elderly and disabled indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Jackson Martin, Aunty Joyce's nephew, covered her spade in 3D Aboriginal artwork - a modern take on ancient forms but created with the same intent.

The art includes hands to represent the help Kal'ang gives to its clients; Butchulla totems of dolphin and turtle; blue for water; and circles - complete ones for the spirit of those still here and half ones for those who have passed but remain in memories.

Local Butchulla elders gathered with community leaders yesterday on the proposed site for a symbolic turning of the sod, officially launching construction.

Once complete, the $1.9 million development will be a place to provide domestic assistance, transport, social support and centre-based respite for indigenous and non-indigenous members of the community.

Win Construction won the tender for the project, which is expected to be completed by January, said Win chief executive officer Daniel Poacher.

"It's going to be a good looking building," Mr Poacher said.

"The architectural elements in the design of it, things like the shade sails and the different feature finishes on the outside of the building, are going to make it smart looking. It will be really pleasing to the eye.

"Being one of the biggest 100% locally owned construction companies, we're just so proud to be involved in projects in our home base."

He said the framework would arrive next week and then people would begin to see the shape of the building at its Denmans Camp Rd location.

Kal'ang Respite Centre co-ordinator Del Howden, who took part in yesterday's events, said the centre would be the service's first real home in 16 years of operation.

"It's going to be a base we can call our own," Ms Howden said.

"For us, having this, it's like winning the lotto, it really is special."

Ms Howden said funding for the project came from a number of government sources and the council leased Kal'ang Respite Centre land.



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