by Paul Clark
The Wayside Chapel officially reopened yesterday after an $8.2 million redevelopment. Official guests at the ceremony included Wayside Ambassador Claudia Karvan, Lord Mayor Clover Moore, NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner, and Federal MPs Tanya Plibersek and Malcolm Turnbull.
The redeveloped facility retains all the facilities and services of the original Wayside Chapel, established in Hughes Street in 1964. The services and facilities include a café, low cost clothing shop, community spaces, the chapel and an information centre. A rooftop garden has been added to provide an additional recreation space.
Ian Martin, Chairman of the Wayside Chapel Board, said the Wayside Chapel had been on the verge of closure before the redevelopment. “Seven years ago the Wayside Chapel was nearly broke. Expenditure was far exceeding revenue and cash reserves had reached a critical point,” he said. Tanya Plibersek, Federal Member for Sydney, said the services offered by the Wayside Chapel had been constrained by the poor state of the infrastructure. “The spirit was healthy, but the building was looking the worse for wear,” she said.
Mr Martin said that thanks to the generosity of donors, the redevelopment was now fully paid for. The Wayside Chapel operational cash reserve remains low, but Mr Martin said that this should improve soon because of the improved operating efficiency of the new building. “The building is all paid for, we have no debt,” he said.
Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Member for Wentworth and private donor to the rebuilding program, said that the cost of the new building had been lowered by the pro bono provision of some services, including architecture and project management. In his opinion, the redevelopment represented good value. “The cost per square metre is much lower than comparable buildings built by governments,” he said.
Mr Turnbull said that it was important to recognise the value of contributions, in terms of money or time, from individuals as well as from governments. “The time and generosity that comes from individuals brings with it a commitment of love and affection which no government can ever convey,” he said. “Every person who supports this organisation is tied to the Wayside Chapel with a thread of love.”
Mr Martin said fund raising for the redevelopment had experienced a difficult start, as it began during the global financial crisis. “It’s hard enough asking people for money at the best of times, but it’s particularly hard when they’ve just lost a bundle,” he said. Mr Martin said that the former NSW Labor government had given the fund raising effort much needed impetus by making an early commitment of $2 million. He singled out former Premier Nathan Rees for his personal efforts to make the state government commitment possible.
Jillian Skinner, NSW Minister for Health, committed the NSW Government to continued support of the Wayside Chapel. She said it had an important role to play in providing care for those who were in danger of developing dangerous addictions. “This is an organisation that provides a range of services to those who may be at risk. The NSW Ministry of Health will continue to support this process,” she said.
The Uniting Church of Australia also reaffirmed support for community action in the inner Sydney area. Reverend Dr Andrew Williams, representing the Uniting Church of Australia, said that the Church needed to continue to take practical action as well as spiritual. He said that the Uniting Church would continue to support the Kings Cross medically supervised injecting centre and the Wayside Chapel as the Church sees both projects as important to support social welfare in Sydney. “Where we stand determines what we see,” he said. “Depending on what part of the Cross you are in determines what you see as important.”
Wayside Chapel in 1964, would be proud of the redeveloped facilities. Reverend Long said that the work done by volunteers since 1964 was the key to what the Wayside had achieved. “The volunteers are the heroes,” he said. “This is their achievement and I am proud of them.”
The Wayside Chapel café operates from 9am until close 7 days a week. The Community Services Centre is open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm, and 9am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.