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THE cutting of a red ribbon marked the official opening of the $19.8 million Stage 2 of the IWC Health & Wellbeing Complex in Bundaberg by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

“This is real progress for our communities here in the Wide Bay Burnett,” said IWC CEO Ara Harathunian as politicians, business leaders and Traditional Owners and Elders milled around the new 4816 sqm expansion.

It comprises two storeys of facilities with some surface and underground car parks.

He said: “This expansion is bringing a new level and type of services to all, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, without discrimination.”

Stage 2 is directly connected to Stage 1 of the complex, which opened in 2014 and has quickly become a landmark in the region, winning awards for both design and construction.

IWC is Aboriginal community-controlled and a registered charity, with a focus on Indigenous, disadvantaged, at-risk, vulnerable and frail people.

“We are committed to Reconciliation in Action and building the capacity of our communities,” said Mr Harathunian. “Providing a wide range of services which are directly responsive to grassroots needs in an accessible, inclusive and safe environment is a key component of this,” said Mr Harathunian.

The official opening started with a Welcome to Country by IWC Director and Traditional Owner / Elder Aunty Cheri Yingaa Yavu-Kama-Harathunian.

“We are blessed to stand together before Stage 2 of the IWC complex today, which means the continued growth of holistic services for all in our communities,” said Aunty Cheri.

“Lives are being transformed every day through the IWC model of whole-of-person care, and we thank our communities for the respect and trust they show IWC’s staff as we work for the highest good of all people.”

A traditional Smoking Ceremony with clapsticks and didgeridoo followed the Welcome, delivered by Byron Broome of the Taribelang Cultural Aboriginal Corporation (TCAC).

IWC has around 13,000 clients, and growing, and delivers 107,000 Episodes of Care through its medical and health, family and community and cultural services.

IWC GM Wayne Mulvany said: “Stage 1 of the complex has 2787 sq m of space, excluding car parks and gardens, so Stage 2 more than doubles its size. We are pleased to have included important disaster management facilities – a pair of Isolation Suites, which can be put into action in the event of a major contagion in the region, and a 350kva generator that will keep the power on within Stage 2 during and after natural disasters.”

Other additions to the services at the IWC complex include:

  • An accessible health and wellbeing lifestyle gymnasium including steam rooms (Turkish baths) and massage chairs.
  • Expansion of Allied Health services including:
  • Exercise Physiology (on way).
  • Physiotherapy (on way).
  • Occupational Therapy (on way).
  • Speech Pathology (on way).

Mr Mulvany said: “Projects such as this are vital for our regions. While the primary objective of the Stage 2 development for IWC is to maximise delivery of health, wellbeing, family and community services to the high-needs communities in which we operate, there can be no denying that the hundreds of jobs this project has created, and will create going forward, are crucial to strengthening the pillars supporting a community in need.

“We need more projects like this, and we call on government to work with innovative business operations such as IWC and others to make them happen. Infrastructure is not a negotiable – it is an imperative need to make opportunities happen, by meeting service needs in this area of high socio-economic disadvantage, and making jobs happen in this region of high unemployment.

“There needs to be less of the red tape, talk-fests, and more real action on the ground.”

The IWC Stage 2 development also brings a major cultural first for the region – an 80m-long pictorial representation of the Traditional Owner stories of the region as handed down by the Ancestors. There are 11 screens, each up to 7m long by 3m high and formed from high-tech laser-cut aluminium panels designed to stand up to all weathers.

“These screens bring our Aboriginal history to life, for all to see and to share in,” said Aunty Cheri.