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“It may not seem like much but [the park bench] is our first public facility (if we don’t count the footpath),” says Community Facilities for Gulmarrad’s Grace Westara. Image: Contributed

Gulmarrad community: no thumb twiddling here

Geoff Helisma |

In June 2017 a group of Gulmarrad residents began a campaign to establish community facilities in their rural residential settlement.

Calling themselves Community Facilities for Gulmarrad, the group started by surveying 639 houses to raise awareness.

The results of that survey, which 12.36 per cent of households and 26 per cent of Gulmarrad public school students completed, revealed that residents desired the establishment of: a park/playground with barbecue facilities; connected trails and walkways; sporting fields; a community centre; and, a dog friendly area.

Since December last year the group has held several public events/workshops, made a presentation to a councillor workshop and gained in-principal support from Clarence Valley Council (CVC).

The Maclean Lions Club is working with the group, too.

At the September 18 CVC meeting, councillors unanimously supported the provision of a “letter of support to the Lions Club of Maclean to assist them with their funding application to finance the acquisition of a property in Gulmarrad, which is to be converted into a community facility for local residents”.

The letter of support, however, does not commit CVC to any spending.

Mayor Jim Simmons advised councillors that the group’s lobbying of CVC “to provide community facilities in Gulmarrad adjacent to, or in the near vicinity of, Gulmarrad Public School … was not supported” in determining CVC’s 2018/19 budget.

The Lions’ letter states that CVC’s “support will in no way implicate CVC to be offering any financial expenditure in Gulmarrad, as the acquisition, improvements and maintenance of the desired property will come from Lions sources and the property will remain a Lions asset.

“…The dwelling would be adapted so that it could facilitate the following types of activities: a community run op shop, to connect locals and provide income to cover maintenance, administration costs and improvements; various art, craft, sporting and community groups; health workers subsidised by NSW Healthy Towns and Indigenous health projects; and, the added children’s playground would include picnic facilities.”

Meanwhile, the community now has its first park bench, a very bright, red seat.

While awaiting the outcome of the proposed property purchase, the group’s spokesperson, Grace Westara, put it this way: “In the meantime, with the help of community groups such as Maclean Lions Club, Gulmarradians are not sitting on the bench twiddling their thumbs.

“The aim is to improve physical and mental health by acquiring parklands, a playground and a community centre, but in the meantime, a park bench is a good start.

“It may not seem like much but it is our first public facility (if we don’t count the footpath).
“More importantly it has been acquired by the community for the community.

“Maclean Lions Club have given their help, by taking the Gulmarrad community group under their wing to provide insurance and support, and it was the Lions who suggested the park bench, to get the ball rolling.
“Stay tuned for more to come and keep in touch via Community Facilities for Gulmarrad’s Facebook page.”

The 2016 census counted 1,601 people at Gulmarrad and 890 people at nearby Townsend; Maclean’s population was 2,648.

There were 532 families in Gulmarrad and 445 people aged 19 or younger, comprised of 84 people aged four and under, 110 aged five to nine, 141 aged 10 to 14 and 110 aged 15 to 19.