On Sunday 27th February 2022 Mission Australia’s Patron the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General David Hurley, Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey and Chair Ken Dean, Mission Australia staff and community members attended the official opening of Mission Australia’s newly completed Mission Australia Centre and adjacent social and affordable housing units on NSW’s Mid North Coast.  

The charity’s Mission Australia Centre and neighbouring 40 one-bedroom social and affordable units on Duke Street in the heart of Coffs Harbour’s CBD were built within 12 months by local construction company Lipman and project managed by Signature Project Management. The Centre was designed by Boffa and Associates and the residential building designed by Become Architects. In late 2021, the project won Power Housing’s Built Form Development Award for best practice and leading innovation.

The project aims to address local needs and was developed in partnership with local stakeholders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, clients and local organisations. 

Funded entirely by donations with supporters contributing more than $2.4 million alongside a NSW Government infrastructure grant towards the community area interior fit-out, Coffs Harbour’s new Mission Australia Centre is a community hub that provides local people and families with access to a variety of support services under one roof.  

The services provided at the Mission Australia Centre include Mission Australia’s housing team and community services staff providing services including the new Duke Street Youth Housing Service that supports young people living in the residential units, Family and Carers Mental Health Program, Tailored Support Coordination Program, ParentsNext and Together Home. A new Mission Australia Centre coordinator and community chaplaincy services are also based onsite.  

The Centre’s design and fit-out reflects feedback from community stakeholders. The two-storey community hub incorporates trauma-informed design principles so all spaces are welcoming, safe and accessible and includes an inviting foyer, local commissioned Indigenous artworks, workshop areas, consultation rooms, culturally safe spaces and space for a variety of community activities. 

Next door, the residential complex is designed to suit the needs of residents and shaped to be a welcoming, positive environment with maximum fresh air and sunlight for all units. Each self-contained unit includes the latest passive energy designs with controllable solar access and natural ventilation for low energy usage. The building includes communal rooms and community gardens to foster wellbeing and connection between residents. 

Ten of Mission Australia’s 40 studio residential units are exclusively for young people aged 18-24 years who need a safe, secure place to call home in response to the community’s growing need for youth-specific accommodation. The remaining 30 studio units are for adults who are eligible for social and affordable housing; with 15 units available to tenants from the growing social housing wait list and 15 units allocated to those requiring affordable housing such as workers on low incomes.  

To support their journey to independence, all residents will have access to support services offered at the Mission Australia Centre and will have opportunities to stay involved and connected with the local community. 

Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said: “We are thrilled to open the doors of our new Mission Australia Centre and social and affordable homes in Coffs Harbour. Both buildings are part of Mission Australia’s enduring commitment on the Mid North Coast to ensure that people have access to the services and safe and secure homes they need to thrive, and is part of our goal to end homelessness on the Mid North Coast.  

“We’ve prioritised engaging local voices and community input every step of the way to help ensure the Mission Australia Centre is a safe, welcoming place where people and families can seamlessly access a range of programs and services tailored to local needs in one convenient location. 

“Together with local stakeholders, we’ve created an inclusive environment with heart designed to nurture safe opportunities for social connection with the wider community and created spaces where local service providers, individuals and organisations can get together and collaborate for the benefit of the community. 

“Construction of the Mission Australia Centre has been made possible thanks to donations from supporters and we thank everyone who contributed to the Centre for their generosity.   

“The 40 new social and affordable homes fulfil Mission Australia’s commitment to providing 177 new social and affordable housing dwellings in the region. Overall we now deliver more than 1,400 social and affordable homes right across the Mid North Coast, which includes more than 1,100 in Coffs Harbour.   

“Residents who live here will now have a home and be part of a community where they can feel secure, welcomed and can thrive. The residential building has been designed to be a tranquil place to live, with fresh air and sunlight, opportunities for connection and hope. 

“We are proud to be boosting the supply of homes here on the Mid North Coast where we know there remains a shortage of affordable homes, and to be working with the community to ensure vulnerable people can thrive. These new units will provide much needed homes hand-in-hand with opportunities for people to connect with services, activities and each other – because we know this is an important part of the journey to long-term independence for many people we serve.  

“Our staff have been working tirelessly on the Mid North Coast for almost 20 years and we’ll continue to be a strong, dedicated local presence for many years to come. Our vision for our work in Coffs Harbour is one where we can contribute to strengthening and investing in the social fabric of the community and ultimately, to end homelessness here.  

“We’re working towards a place where families and people of all ages, backgrounds and incomes have a safe, secure and welcoming place to call home and access to the services and spaces that they need. Where adults are empowered and independent, children are protected and nurtured, young people educated and encouraged, and older people connected and contributing to their community.” 

The Mission Australia Centre and units are designed to meet local needs, with 2016 Census data showing a 15% increase in the number of people who are homeless in Coffs Harbour since 2011 – a rate higher than the national average – which is anticipated to increase with 2021 Census figures. Cowper, which takes in Coffs Harbour, is the 10th top federal electorate in Australia for rental stress with 7,698 households experiencing rental stress. On the Mid North Coast there are 2,912 households on the social housing waitlist and there has been a 73% drop in private rental vacancies. (according to CHIA NSW’s analysis of the NSW Department of Communities & Justice’s social housing waitlist and private rental vacancies between 2019 and 2020).   

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