Preschool land will finally be theirs
"It's amazing. It's just the best news. It's hard to describe how excited we are."
Kulai Preschool director Julie Carey was reacting to the news they've finally secured the title to the land the school stands on at Myuna Pl.
The preschool is the first of its kind in NSW and was established in 1961 - before indigenous people were formally recognised as Australian citizens.
The matter had been raised by Coffs Harbour City Councillor Sally Townley in November last year but was rejected.
The preschool was fighting a four-fold increase in rent and Cr Townley argued it was time to grant the preschool autonomy after operating successfully for almost 60 years.
"The land cost Coffs Harbour City Council just $1, and we haven't had to spend a cent on it," Cr Townely said.
A staff report warned councillors against the move saying it would set a dangerous precedent.
"It should never have come to council - it was purely politically motivated - perhaps to build a profile before a Federal election," he said.
This time it was Cr Paul Amos who raised a motion urging fellow councillors to once again consider granting the title of the land to the preschool organisation.
"Six months ago I voted against it. At that stage I felt it was the responsible thing to do but now things have changed and I feel we need to give proportionally on a needs basis," Cr Amos said.
He spoke of a change of direction for council in relation to cultural and educational facilities - a thinly veiled criticism of the recent decision to forge ahead with the $76.5m Cultural and Civic Space. He has spoken out against the project and continues to raise the matter in the council chambers.
Thursday night's motion was amended slightly to include a clause stating the preschool would need to pay for any legal fees and stamp duty associated with the transfer of the land from council ownership to Kulai.
This hasn't dampened Ms Carey's excitement in the slightest, with the Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council offering to assist.
When the amended motion was put to councillors they voted unanimously to transfer the land.
"It's a big thing to know it was unanimous and to see that much support from the councillors and they should be recognised for their foresight in making this possible," Ms Carey said.
"I applaud councillors for the way in which they addressed the matter - they really were all on board. There were questions asked but those questions needed to be asked."
She says the stability of knowing they own the land will be invaluable for the future of the centre.
"We've got a lot of long term goals for the preschool and now we can go back to the drawing board and look at them all again. It's wonderful to be able to plan for these long term goals and for the future."