4 September, 2019

On a cheerful and sunny afternoon, Mallee Rose Cottage – the ADRA Community Centre in Macquarie Fields – officially opened its new Zen-sory Space and Play Area.

For the past six years, Mallee Rose Cottage has been a refuge for families in Macquarie Fields. With services ranging from counselling to food parcels to support groups, the Centre has cemented itself within the hearts of locals as a place of support and acceptance.

With both young and old visiting the Centre, the need for a play area for children to have fun in a safe space became apparent.

“In 2017 we applied for a grant, the Social Housing Community Improvement Fund,” says Melissa Baleilekutu, the Community Centre Manager. “And we were successful.”

Two years later politicians, volunteers, community members and ADRA staff turned out on September 2 to witness the official opening of the completed Zen-sory Space and Play Area. “It’s a play on words,” Melissa says. “Zen, and a sensory space.”

Pastor Terry Johnson, the President of the Greater Sydney Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, cut the ribbon at the ceremony, officially opening the Zen-sory Space and Play Area.

Pastor Terry Johnson cutting the ribbon to officially open the Zen-sory Space and Play Area

Pastor Terry Johnson cutting the ribbon to officially open the Zen-sory Space and Play Area

Anoulack Chanthivong, the State Member for Macquarie Fields, wrote a letter of support in 2017 to help secure government funding for the garden. Two years later, he addressed the crowd at the opening, expressing his praise for the Centre. “The things that Mallee Rose Cottage does for our community is really just remarkable,” Anoulack says. “Getting kids and parents involved, and getting our community involved, they are the things that actually matter – building community spirit.”

The garden was completed in collaboration with funding from Ability Links NSW, a program within the Support Services of St Vincent de Paul Society. The play area is not only accessible, but approved for autistic children. A team from Ability Links NSW, including Carolyn Koch and Sarah Murphy, was present to celebrate the opening of the Zen-sory Space and Play Area.

Also in attendance was the Federal Member of Werriwa Anne Stanley, the Federal Member of Macarthur Dr Mike Freelander, Councillor Margaret Chivers, ADRA CEO Paul Rubessa and Conference ADRA Director Malcolm Rea.

People and Playground

From left to right: Melissa Baleilekutu, Pr Sitiveni Teaupa, Paul Rubessa, Carolyn Koch, Pr Terry Johson, Dr Mike Freelander, Anoulack Chanthivong, Sarah Murphy, Anne Stanley and Margaret Chivers.

Pastor Terry also blessed the opening, emphasising the importance of Christians being in their community, making a difference: “As Christians we think about the kingdom of heaven being here, now. What is it that we can do to actually make a difference in people’s life, one person at a time?”

Paul commended the work of Melissa and her team of volunteers for creating a safe and positive space for adults and children alike in the community of Macquarie Fields. “Things don’t happen from offices like mine, they happen right here on the ground,” Paul says. “Thank you so much to our volunteers who make this possible. This is where the real change is happening.”

Volunteers at Mallee Rose Cottage, Macquarie Fields

Melissa acknowledging the hard work of the volunteers at Mallee Rose Cottage, Macquarie Fields, at the event

In addition to opening the Zen-sory Space and Play Area, a garden created in memory of a long-time attendee of the Centre, Patricia, was unveiled. Pat’s Corner was revealed by Patricia’s best friend and attendee of the Centre, Sue.

Pat's garden with ornamental butterflies

Pat’s Corner

To learn more about the work of the ADRA Macquarie Fields Community Centre and to donate, visit https://www.adra.org.au/project/macquarie-fields-community-centre/.