Stirloch Group – the construction company building the new APVMA offices – is benefiting the local Indigenous community, Armidale Aboriginal Health Services board member Tom Briggs believes.
"[Stirloch] certainly has helped us to address [issues in health and unemployment],” Mr Briggs said. “We’re fighting for equity outcomes in all those areas.”
Mr Briggs was speaking at the Pat Dixon Medical Centre, 100 Taylor Street, on Tuesday morning, where Stirloch’s Wayne Loechel had just donated $5000 to the Armidale AMS.
“We sincerely appreciate the gesture by Wayne and the Stirloch company,” Mr Briggs said.
“This is certainly a positive step – the first footprint towards our relationship here. He’s given us a positive feeling right across the whole organisation and our broader community.”
“We’re very pleased about helping in any way,” Mr Loechel said. “They’ve been very helpful to us.”
Stirloch is building the government agency’s offices at 102 Taylor Street, next to the Indigenous health centre. The two organisations have become close neighbours over recent months.
“This is partly to say thank you for that,” Mr Loechel said. “We always try to engage with the local community – and there’s no-one more local than the Indigenous community anywhere you go.”
The money will help to re-establish the Pat Dixon Medical Centre, and will be spent on programs now running, such as cultural activities for children in the school holidays.
“This funding will assist our youth program in moving forward,” Mr Briggs said. “Notwithstanding it’s only a small amount of money, in the big picture of things it will really have a cascading effect.”
The centre has been through some turbulent times in recent years, after Armajun Health moved out in 2016.
The board looks forward to a brighter future.
“We're here with good heart to make this work,” Mr Briggs said. “We're long-term public servants, but people within this community. We're here for our community."
A dentist and doctor’s surgery are in the pipeline, and expected to be in the centre by the end of the year.
“To have 50 or 60 of our people here working in specialist areas through a community-controlled service like this here, it really has meaning,” Mr Briggs said.
“It's about us controlling the healthspace here, and engaging meaningfully with our families and clans within in our town, and trying to Close the Gap targets in our town."
The medical centre was named after former deputy mayor Pat Dixon, who died in 2001.
She was the first Aboriginal woman elected to local government in Australia, only the second Indigenous deputy mayor in NSW, and was standing as the ALP’s first Aboriginal woman candidate at the time of her death.
Mr Briggs expects the new APVMA offices to create local jobs, reduce unemployment, and transform the east end of Armidale.
Because APVMA will hire locally, there may be opportunities for Indigenous traineeships in the agency.
Stoechel is also employing a young Indigenous man as a labourer on the site.
“This sends out a very positive message to our community,” Mr Briggs said.
The Armidale AMC was seeking support, Mr Briggs said, and would be happy to talk to other organisations if they wanted to make donations.
"Maybe other entities, or agencies, or people in town, the big end of business, might be able to give us a hand to make a donation, to move things forward.
“We are part of this community. This is about our town; this is about us – this particular building here, and we just need to make it work for the benefit of our town."
The Pat Dixon Medical Centre will hold cultural activities for children in the second week of the school holidays, on Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 October. For more information, call 0490 916 023.