These are the amazing people in your neighbourhood

By Mitch Gaynor

A NEW book that details the rich history of the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre has been described as an “astounding piece of work” in its telling of the 30-year history of the organisation.

Members and guests of the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre were invited to the launch of  “The Story of the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre”, where they were told the two-year project started with just a few “are you sure about that?” moments.

But MNC President Ian Demack said the end result was a perfect tribute to an organisation that began in 1992 in response to some of the growing social issues in the area.

“They’ve turned it into this absolutely gorgeous book that we see here, that exceeded any expectation I had of what the history of the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre would look like,” Ian said, adding he hoped the past efforts of members would provide some guidance for future volunteers.

“We are temporary custodians of the aspirations of the entire community,” he said.

“It will be fascinating to see how the centre evolves.”

Author and historian Neil Byrne said he was initially unsure about taking on the project, asking “why me?” but rapidly became absorbed in the Centre’s history.

“I liked the idea that the Neighbourhood Centre was an organic thing and shaped itself according to the needs of the community,” he said.

Thirty years ago those needs were all too evident and while the book dives into the history of the MNC, it traverses the deep and sometimes disturbing social history of Maleny and the Blackall Ranges.

The book recalled that today’s ‘Magical’ Maleny had left scores of victims in its wake.

“Isolated elderly couples living on family farms valued too highly to access government assistance, low wage earners slipping further and further into debt and the town’s invisible homeless,” Neil wrote of Maleny 30 years ago.

Among the issues a particular “violent death buy suicide” of a school student prompted deep soul searching among residents, and resulted in a packed public meeting from which emerged concerns about youth issues including unemployment and mental health.

At that time in 1993 social worker Howard Buckley, who was at the book launch, played a key role in the development of a youth committee to address the issues.

The book gives context to the centre’s role at pivotal moments in Queensland’s and Australia’s history, from Sorry Day to Cyclone Oswald and the growing scourge of domestic violence.

The book is available for $30 at the Neighbourhood Centre and the Maple Street Kiosk.

Main image: Ian Demack, Lisa Price, Howard Buckley and Jim Straker

Leanne Dodd and Greg Williams
Rick Paget
Wendy Oakley and Neil Byrne