A major milestone in the development of the COUCH Wellness Centre took place last week, with the much-anticipated sod-turning ceremony to mark the start of construction and what is set be a huge turning-point for Far North Queenslanders impacted by cancer.
Representatives of the Carpentaria District Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland attended the event, alongside health officials, members of the Cairns business community and other prominent figures.
The development, which is the first of its kind for the Cairns region, will deliver services that provide a holistic approach to cancer care, to improve the quality of life for people living with cancer (and beyond) as well as their carers. The services will include allied health and complementary therapies, as well as a focus on skills and education on how to live with cancer, group support and other well-being and beauty services. A library, café and dining area, children’s playground and therapy pool will also form part of the precinct.
The Freemasons District Grand Master Henry Condon said it was an honour to attend and witness history being made, knowing that the Freemasons had played an important part in making this happen.
“For the people of our region who are impacted by cancer, they will be able to get the holistic support they need in a unique rainforest environment rather a clinical hospital environment,” Henry said.
“We are proud to support a locally-focused project that will improve cancer-sufferers’ overall health outlook,” he said.
Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland supported the regional initiative by providing a grant for half a million dollars on behalf of its members last year. The funds will go towards the construction of a large double pavilion, the first of the pavilions to be built on the Manoora site, to house specialist and support service providers.
COUCH Chair Ron Holden said the sod-turning ceremony was a wonderful example of a community rallying behind a dream to make it a reality.
“This milestone has been achieved by a most amazing range of dedicated fundraisers, donors, volunteers, and supporters from across the community pulling together and I sincerely thank them one and all on behalf of the cancer suffers in our region,” he said.
The Woodward family donated a 2.5-hectare property on Reservoir Rd in 2008, but it wasn’t until a $500,000 donation from Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland and the confirmation of $1.5 million from the Australian Government that the project could fully get underway.
Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said it was fantastic that stage one of the construction was underway.
“The decision to support the development of the COUCH Wellness Centre was made in consultation with the Carpentaria District Freemasons who brought this initiative to our attention,” Gary said.
“Our values are about alleviating suffering and empowering people to lead more independent lives. We also look to support charitable projects that have limited access to funding and will make a significant impact on the community, so this initiative was perfect for the charity of Freemasons Queensland to support,” he said.
The Woodward family are well known for their commitment to the development of the region, dating back over 100 years. Charles, Gordon and Jack Woodward, were integral in the early development of the Carpentaria Freemasons’ Homes in the 1970s and Woodward Retirement Village in the 1980s, both previously owned by Masonic Care Queensland.
“Gordon and Jack were Freemasons, and the donation is also a great way for us to continue to support the charitable work of Freemasons in the District,” said Gary.
“We are proud to be one of the many supporters of this incredible Centre that will empower families in Far North Queensland impacted by cancer to lead better lives,” he said.
Construction of the $3 million stage 1 facility is now underway, with the opening due in April 2019.
Photo: Members of the Carpentaria District and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland attended the COUCH sod-turning ceremony – seen here alongside COUCH representatives and Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.