Rent hike forces charity to close
A VOLUNTEER-run group for hearing impaired people has folded after 20 years, after it was forced to leave its rented premises.
Since 1994, Better Hearing has leased two rooms at Bundaberg Regional Council’s Volunteer House on Woongarra Street, where volunteers teach Signed English and lip-reading for four hours a week.
But when the council passed a resolution to reclaim the rooms earlier this year, the not-for-profit organisation was left searching for another venue.
“The council did try to help, but the alternatives they offered were not affordable for us,” volunteer Pam Barry said.
Mrs Barry said holding meetings at a new venue would have cost them more than $500 a year — far beyond the group, which charges just $25 per member a year.
Allana and Shane Burgess took their three-year-old son Ethan to the sign language classes every week to help with a condition called speech dyspraxia.
“Before, he just used grunts and gestures — now he can tell us what he wants,” Mrs Burgess said.
The family chose to learn Signed English because they could all learn together at the same pace.
But now the family will have to travel to Maryborough or rely on books to continue the lessons, as there are no other options to learn the language in Bundaberg.
“It’s very sad to see the end of the group,” long-term teacher Dorothy Bullpitt said.
“If they can find a new room, I will be the first one there.”
Better Hearing had paid a nominal rent of $270.63 per year for full-time access to the rooms.
But at a Bundaberg Regional Council general meeting in September, a motion was passed to take over the rooms and turn them into record archives.
After discussions about the group’s needs, the council offered two rooms for a similar price.
But the meetings would have to be held elsewhere, at a further cost of more than $500 per year.
Bundaberg Regional Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch said the council had gone out of its way to help the group.
“We believe we found a space that would have been a suitable alternative,” Cr Pyefinch said.
“The group’s numbers have been declining and I don’t think rent was the only reason to disband. Most of the members are elderly, and the range of other services for hearing-impaired people in Bundaberg has improved vastly since it began.”