Winter 2017

The other side of paradise – Queensland Sunshine Coast

John Forrest

 

Beach vista.
Coolum Beach, Queensland Shineshine coast.

The Society’s Queensland State President John Forrest has access to one of the best views on the Sunshine Coast. Idyllic scenery aside, the Society retains an important presence in the area.

John lives just north of Mount Ninderry, on the Queensland Sunshine Coast.

In winter it’s not unusual to be greeted by mid-20 degree Celsius temperatures at his home, where views of the coastline and cane fields add to the idyllic scenery.

‘I also overlook a 15-megawatt solar farm built by the local government council which looks like a 50 acre lake in the middle of the cane fields,’ John says.

A short distance away, the regional towns of Montville, Mapleton and Flaxton ensure a regular stream of tourists, and this is supported by a number of high profile triathlon and other sporting events across the coast. When the Australian boxer Jeff Horn defeated Filipino boxer and politician Manny Pacquiao at the WBO world welterweight championship in Brisbane on 2 July, some of the overseas tourists who watched the tournament stayed on in a number of resorts across the coast.

‘Tourist resorts and local restaurants have had their best takings in a long time,’ John says.

‘They were really struggling, up until a couple of years ago, because we had a couple of wet years in a row.

‘Some of them went broke. The ones that are there now—they have really made a go of it. And they are doing well.’

The booming tourist sector also means accommodation options are scarce for low income earners.

At Coolum, where John is a conference member, people queue at the offices of rental agents for properties in the $300 to $400pw range. Even properties in the $400 plus range are in demand.

‘While it is hard to quantify, it is estimated that up to 1600 people have no fixed address or stable accommodation and 200 plus are homeless along the Sunshine Coast,’ John says.

‘Aside from the car sleepers, some even sleep in the sand dunes.’

In response to this challenge, a number of programs have been established. The Society’s Cornerstone Homelessness Services program in Nambour aims to, whenever possible, transition people straight from homelessness into stable, long-term housing, with support provided when necessary to sustain the tenancy. There’s also Mackillop Village, which the Society opened in late 2013. It comprises of 17 two-bedroom and 24 one-bedroom apartments.

Additionally, for children of low income families at Coolum State High and State Primary Schools, members from the Society’s Coolum Conference provide merit-based scholarships and other practical school assistance.

‘There are lots of kids at school who don’t go on any of the school excursions. Their parent(s) can’t afford them,’ John says.

John Forrest has been an active member of the Society since 1991. Before he became Queensland State President, he had been a conference, regional and diocesan president, and chaired the Property and Finance Committee, and the State Centres Committee. He will be representing Queensland’s Sunshine Coast at the October congress in Adelaide.

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