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September 25, 2008

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (9.54 am)
— I congratulate the member for Franklin, who has just spoken, for her contribution and endorse her comments. I rise to pay tribute to the outstanding men and women in Gippsland who have rallied together to establish Gippsland Rotary Centenary House. I recently attended the second birthday celebrations of this quite remarkable facility and the unveiling of a new pathway and new outdoor areas there. For the benefit of members who have not heard of Centenary House and the service it provides: Gippsland Rotary Centenary House provides a home away from home for patients and their families attending Latrobe Regional Hospital, primarily patients of the Gippsland Cancer Care Centre.

The facility contains six large en suite units and two smaller self-contained facilities, along with a communal kitchen, a dining room and lounge facilities, a children’s play area and a quiet room for family consultation and privacy. But merely describing the bricks and mortar which make up the skeleton of Centenary House fails to do justice to the heart which beats within. This is a house that love, compassion and empathy have built in Gippsland. In addition to funding from state and federal governments and many philanthropic trusts, the community of Gippsland, led by its Rotarians, was successful in fundraising more than $600,000 for stage 1. I say ‘stage 1’ because you cannot stop the enthusiasm of volunteers such as Ken Peake and the manager, Carol Crewe. They are already working hard on stage 2, which will lead to the doubling of services for the people of Gippsland.

It is a sad fact that the demand from seriously ill patients requires the doubling in size of this type of facility, but I have already pledged my support to help the committee achieve that aim in the future. Gippsland Rotary Centenary House has been a complete success, and it is a credit to the vision and hard work of the volunteers, the board members and the businesses throughout the Gippsland region which have contributed to the project. Once the design is finalised and costings are prepared, I will be working with all levels of government and the community to secure funding for the next stage. All levels of government from both sides of politics supported the original development, and now it is time to start building those partnerships again for the next stage of the project. Centenary House is providing affordable and comfortable accommodation for Gippslanders when they are at their most vulnerable. No-one is ever turned away if they cannot afford the $15 a night price to stay. I have no doubt that the friendly and supportive environment which is provided in a safe and secure location is contributing to improved health outcomes for the guests.

There is a separate point that I would like to make. Although Centenary House is located between Traralgon and Morwell, the main beneficiaries of this project come from much further afield, with 82 per cent of the patients travelling from East Gippsland shire, Wellington shire and the South Gippsland areas. It says a lot about the community spirit of the people of Latrobe Valley businesses and the residents themselves that they are the major supporters of a project which helps their neighbouring communities across Gippsland. I pay tribute today to the volunteers and the generous donors who have helped bring this project to life and I wish them every success in their future endeavours.

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