Woodbine to construct new facilities

A DISABILITY care agency who plans to build state-of-the-art accommodation facilities is seeking federal funding in Warracknabeal to commence construction. 

Woodbine Chief Executive Officer Bernie O’Connor  with representatives from the community met with Federal Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster yesterday to discuss their plans to build what will be the biggest woodbine development in history. 


The plans are to build behind the original Woodbine facility, Harrop Lodge, on Craig Avenue. Once the facility is completed they plan to refurbish Harrop Lodge and relocate five clients to the new facilities. 

Harrop Lodge was built in 1954, as the oldest Woodbine facility is in need of refurbishment to meet current standards of living for people living with a disability. 

Total costs of construction and refurbishment is expected to be $2.1 million, Woodbine has enough funds to put $1.3 million into the project. 

The facilities are set to be a platinum level of disability specialised accommodation, the highest level of accreditation. 

Woodbine with the help of the Yarriambiack Shire Council will put in applications, seeking funding as apart of the Building Better Region Funds before December 19. 

The refurbishment of Harrop Lodge to incorporate five modern staff quarters is also expected to assist workforce attraction by providing accommodation.


Dr Webster said she is prepared to support Woodbine in advocating for funding the project at a federal level. 

“I will be supporting this project because it’s very important for the community, I look at the holistic services Woodbine provides and they’re obviously a key employer in this district. They ought to be proud of what they’ve achieved and I hope that they are successful,” Dr Webster said. 

After witnessing the condition of Harrop Lodge Dr Webster said providing up to date facilities should be made a priority. 

“Clearly it’s provided excellent service over the years but with the white ant damage that I’ve seen today (Yesterday) and the age of the structure and modelling might have worked decades ago, it’s time it’s upgraded,” she said. 

“I think whether we’re aged, whether we have a disability or whether we  have any other kind of challenge that we live with in our lives there needs to be dignity and respect. I think a modern facility that meets those needs and ticks all those newer standards that we have is very important.” 


The Yarriambiack Shire Council has previously secured funding through BBRF, which provides to over 128 drought affected communities across Australia. 

After consultation with the Yarriambiack Shire Council, Woodbine has been able to start the grant application process. 

Woodbine CEO Bernie O’Connor said these plans have been in the works for nearly three years. 

“This has been in the works before we even knew about the grant, we’ve looked at every option,” Mr O’Connor said.

He said constructing an entirely new building was the most viable option to meet the demands for clients. 

“We looked at a house on Dimboola Rd and doing that up, it wasn’t going to cut it. We also looked at buying a house in Warracknabeal, we couldn’t get anything that suited the standards. We looked at refurbishing the current one. We even looked at Swan Hill to get transportable home here,” he said. 

Woodbine provides support to 120 clients and is one of the largest employers in the shire and community with over 180 staff members. 

They are currently still trying to fill 10 of these positions.

Mr O’Connor said attracting employees to Warracknabeal is difficult, however this project aims to provide housing for staff once completed. 

“In the meantime the tech part of the project is to cater to the demand of the people in Warracknabeal when they were put on the waiting list, there are 15 people on the waiting list,” he said. 

“We’re going to meet some of that demand but also at the same time address the problem of lack of accommodation in Warracknabeal by building staff quarters. So we have to kill about three birds with one stone with this massive project.

“But it’s more of a humanitarian nature, to provide people with a disability the absolute best living conditions we can provide. We’re conscious a lot of houses aren’t built to suit the system and the staff, and not built to suit people with a disability.” 

Yarriambiack Shire Council Chief Executive Officer Jessie Holmes said supporting this project made sense for council to assist meeting the demand in the community. 

“Rural communities that have people with disabilities in them deserve the same kind of access to services and accommodation provisions that anybody does,” Ms Holmes said. 

“Traditionally council goes for BBRF funding. We thought this was a great project for a number of reasons, there’s the jobs it creates because of the build and the ongoing jobs will be created for caring positions.”


Ms Holmes said in drafting the plans Woodbine went through a rigorous consultation process to be able to provide the highest level of care. 

“It’s designed to be the best modern facility. They’ve gone and looked at facilities in Ballarat, the clients families have been involved in the design. They included an occupational therapist’s input, the amount of consultations that has gone into the design has been very comprehensive.” 

The construction phase of the project is expected to employ up to six people for a duration of six to nine months. 

According to Woodbine demand for disability is continuing to grow; they hope these facilities will provide a safe place for their clients, which stimulates their development and prevents isolation. 

There is currently a substantial waiting list of clients seeking specialist disability accommodation. 

Woodbine supports clients from Echuca, Birchip Warracknabeal and Horsham; they run across nearly all the types of services including accommodation, short-term accommodation, day activities, supported employment and running their own commercial enterprises. 

Without this project, the likelihood would be that stage one would proceed but not for quite some time to the detriment of the current clients in Harrop Lodge.

Stage two would then be an additional time frame away, therefore not addressing the large waiting list of clients needing care arrangements.