MELBA Support Service has held an upbeat grand opening to celebrate its relocation to Swinburne University’s former Lilydale campus.
Amid much fanfare last Thursday, about 250 guests descended on the new site to mark the occasion.
The entertainment included a performance from the Mount Evelyn Primary School choir, while guests included people with disabilities, their families, local businesses and supporters, and many community leaders.
Victorian Deputy Premier, James Merlino, headed a strong contingent of supporters.
These included Yarra Ranges Shire mayor, Cr Maria McCarthy; fellow councillor Len Cox; and Melba Life Governor, Pauline Jones, OAM.
In delivering his speech, Mr Merlino reiterated the Victorian Government’s commitment to Melba.
“The work that is done here, the difference you make, is crucial to a good society, a society in which everyone is valued,” he said.
“The care and respect you show here at Melba, the understanding of the inherent dignity of every human being, changes the lives of people who benefit from the support you provide.
“Melba plays such an important role in the community.”
Mr Merlino said he couldn’t wait until the facility was fully utilised.
“This new location ticks a lot of boxes, it will be incredible when we fully load up this base with life, activity and education,” he said.
“Having Melba absolutely connected with students, teachers and community activity on this beautiful site will be amazing.”
Mr Merlino praised the board’s management in ensuring the relocation could happen.
Melba last February sold its former Mount Evelyn site, which had been deemed a high bushfire risk.
Named after Dame Nellie Melba, the organisation provides support services to about 300 people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Melba chief executive officer, Glenn Foard, described the opening as possibly the most significant day in the service’s history.
“We are thrilled to be providing support services from this site,” he said.
“It is a perfect location and a great building, accessible for people who use wheelchairs and with sufficient space to expand our capacity and meet local needs.”
Melba President, Dr John Annison, said he was grateful to Swinburne University for making one of the buildings on campus available for use, while acknowledging the bi-partisan government support.
Life Governor Pauline Jones, OAM, who has been with the organisation since inception, was exceptionally moved.
In 2014, Mrs Jones received an Order of Australia Medal for life-long service to people with a disability and their families.
“It is absolutely overwhelming to think that such a large and well-respected organisation has developed from such a humble beginning,” she said.
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