AFTER a massive downpour, the heavens parted, the commonwealth car pulled up, the Australian national anthem began playing and NSW Governor David Hurley walked into the O’Brien Centre.
It was all thanks to volunteer and committee secretary Tania Naven who talked with a stranger in Sydney about her community work at the centre in Orange.
She certainly knows who that stranger is now and could barely contain her excitement and awe about the visit to the O’Brien Centre on Saturday by Governor Hurley.
“I’m a bit nervous now,” she said.
General Hurley said he jumped at the opportunity to see the place during his scheduled trip to Orange, where he planed to go to the 1/19th Battalion association dinner, because he wanted to shine a light on mental illness during his tenure as governor of NSW.
“It’s addressing mental illness at the community level,” he said.
“It’s a very loving and warm place.”
Committee chairman Peter Fotakis said he hoped the governor’s visit would encourage permanent funding to come the centre’s way so that it could open and run more than once a week.
“I’ve lived the experience myself and it’s good [the governor] is here to shine the light on mental health.
“The O’Brien Centre is a place where people with mental illness can come and be in a team environment with peer support.
“The health department acknowledges how important the service is but we’re yet to see any funding.”
Governor Hurley said it would not be appropriate for him to lobby on behalf of the centre but he said he “tells people in Sydney” what he sees and hears.
Western NSW Local Health District director of nursing Adrian Fahy said the team of volunteers at the centre did amazing things with the shoestring budget they operated with.
“When you’ve got a long term illness it is very hard to get the opportunity to get out and socialise,” he said.
Clients attend the centre one day a week to do art classes, garden, cook and make friends.
The centre was started years ago by a man named Jim O’Brien who approached the health service about using the old stables and storage facilities at the Bloomfield campus for people with mental illness to come together.
It might be a tin shed but it is full of opportunities for those who would otherwise miss out.
To volunteer or donate call 63698981.