Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


Teen Challenge Tasmania: Home of Hope, Hillwood Berry Farm

8:19 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak about two local organisations that I've had the pleasure of visiting in the last few weeks. They are both world leaders and making an impact in my home state of Tasmania: Home of Hope, in Meander, and Hillwood Berry Farm. They are two very different but equally successful organisations. The first Tasmanian organisation I want to speak about tonight is the development Home of Hope, in Meander in Northern Tasmania, which has been facilitated by Teen Challenge Tasmania. I would particularly like to place on record my thanks to Executive Director Tanya Cavanagh and Director Peter Ferrall for their warm hospitality and their willingness to share their vision with me.

Teen Challenge Tasmania is seeking funding and support to develop the former Meander Primary School site into the Home of Hope, a 28-bed non-denominational 12-to-18-month residential alcohol and other drug rehabilitation home. The objective of the home is to provide women with children, pregnant women and single women suffering from addictions access to a safe, stable environment. Home of Hope isn't just about the addiction; it's also about rebuilding self-image, personal skills and relationships. There currently isn't anything like this in Tasmania and the community would greatly benefit from this initiative.

Teen Challenge Tasmania has an agreement to lease the property in its current form from the owners, the Meander Valley Council, for 15 years. They also have permission to upgrade the facility to meet their needs so they are able to deliver these much needed services and supports. But they must cover the entire refurbishment of these premises. Quite frankly, the school does need a lot of refurbishment. But they're up to the challenge. They also have wide community support.

The Home of Hope, though, faces some other challenges. As usual, there are arguments around whether or not it is advisable to have an addiction rehabilitation centre in one's community and the fact that it's faith based. Some people in the community would prefer to see that site transformed into a community hub around cafes, doctors and the like. There is unfortunately a very small minority objecting to this project, and one person in particular who owns the land around the school is objecting to this project because of his own self-interest. As always, these things do tend to come down to money. With drug and alcohol addiction on the rise, there most certainly is a need for this facility in Tasmania. It is vital for women to have access to evidence based and tailored rehabilitation support like Home of Hope. It doesn't matter that it's faith based—it's non-denominational, and there is no-one else, as I said, stepping up to the table to provide these services.

Once Home of Hope is completed, it will follow the structure of the highly successful Global Teen Challenge program, which was originally established in New York in 1958. There are currently 1,400 Teen Challenge centres in 128 countries around the world. The program that they will be instigating, ensuring that it follows the Global Teen Challenge program internationally, has a fantastic success rate of 86 per cent. That is staggering. As we know, there are always those people who have to act as mentors. I'd like to mention the fact I was able to meet Jeremy, a young man who had been through the Teen Challenge himself. He has been through one of their rehabilitation programs and he is now giving back to the community. He said, 'I want others to learn from my mistakes.' That's why he's being a mentor in Meander.

But this would not have even got to this stage without the driving force of Mrs Christine Chilcott. She is so well known in Northern Tasmania, particularly in the Meander and the Deloraine communities. She is such a strong advocate for her community, and it was fantastic that she was able to make herself available to meet with me as well. The passion I see that she has for this centre will carry this, I think, so that ultimately the Meander and surrounding community will be fully supportive of this. Again, I would like to place on the record—because it is not easy to go into a community and establish such a centre—my congratulations to Tanya, to Pete and, in particular, to Jeremy; and of course to Christine Chilcott.

The other organisation that I met with, as I said, was the Hillwood Meander berry farm. Tasmania has always led the country in agriculture because it has the world-class soil and climate necessary for producing high-quality natural produce. Tasmanian farmers and primary producers have made quite a name for themselves, and, it doesn't matter where you travel in the world, people know Tasmania for our fine food and wines and our pristine environment. Meander Valley and Hillwood berries are no exception.

Meander Valley Berries and Hillwood Berry Farm were two separate entities, up until two years ago, when Meander acquired Hillwood. I was fortunate to meet with the man behind Meander Valley Berries and now Hillwood berries, Simon Dornauf, to talk to him about the business model, and the opportunities and challenges that he faces. Businesses like Meander Valley Berries and Hillwood in rural areas of Tasmania are often not given credit for the contribution that they make not only to agriculture but by employing local Tasmanians and giving opportunities to others to have that experience. But they are also community leaders and they are essential to our rural and regional communities.

Tasmania's agricultural sector is booming. It creates lots of local jobs. It has opened up Tasmania's doors and has the potential to increase our global exports. There is currently a $150 million farmgate turnover in berries in Tasmania per annum. That is $150 million just in Tasmanian berries. Agriculture is a key pillar of our economy and will be an important driving force in Tasmania's future growth. There is no denying that there are still big opportunities there. We now have international companies that are investing in our agricultural industries. Most people in this chamber would recognise the brand Driscoll's. When you're eating your next handful of berries, whether they're blueberries, strawberries or raspberries, there's a strong likelihood most of them have been grown in Northern Tasmania.

We know that the Dornauf family is well connected when it comes to the berry industry. Those who have visited the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, at Elizabeth Town in Northern Tasmania, know the success of that business. They have turned that from growing and producing into a tourism icon for the north of the state. The innovation that has been shown by Simon in his development shows the sort of innovation that is so apparent in Tasmania. But what they need is more support. Just this year, $3 million has been invested in that business. When you consider that there are over one million plants on the property which have to be watered and tended to every day, it does create local jobs. In addition, the farm received a grant of $300,000 as part of the regional revival scheme which assisted with the crucial investment the farm needed to expand its operations.

There are issues around getting people that want to work in this sector, and we do rely on people coming in from Pacific islands, predominantly Tonga and East Timor. Even though there are still some challenges with pay and being able to get enough local people to work in the sector because it is only a six-month season and it is labour intensive, it is invaluable to the Tasmanian community. But I wanted to tip my hat to Simon Dornauf, a young man who has shown that innovation and energy will make a successful business, no matter where you are. I commend him for the work that he's doing for his company. The amount of money that that's generating within the local community can never be underestimated. Congratulations. I wanted to share with the chamber just two of the wonderful organisations that are proving to be successful in Tasmania.