SOCIAL welfare agency ac.care is “crossing the bridge” and consolidating its services for the region in the heart of Murray Bridge.
The not-for-profit country agency will close its main office on Kennett Road and relocate to 29 Bridge Street, improving access for people seeking help from the organisation.
Meanwhile, staff from ac.care’s Aboriginal services building on Adelaide Road and Nairne office will also be based at the new site, bringing diverse programs, including foster care, family support, homelessness services and other initiatives under one roof.
“We want to make it easier for our diverse client base to access our services and connect with all our programs at one location,” ac.care chief executive Shane Maddocks said.
He said the existing Kennett Road site had long posed many challenges, including for clients without vehicles struggling to access the site to collect emergency food relief packages.
“People will be able to drop in to the new office while in central Murray Bridge for other reasons as the site is close to various government department offices and service centres,” Mr Maddocks.
“Having all staff based at one easily accessible, central location will make ac.care more visible so clients know support is available and it will enhance our holistic approach by allowing people to more easily access services from across our range of programs to better meet their needs.”
A key feature of the new Murray Bridge office will be a community space where people can seek support and information in a welcoming and non-judgemental space.
“Similar centres we operate in Mount Gambier and Berri have provided a safe place for people to get out of the elements, meet with our staff and fellow clients to not only seek services, but also a sense of connection, which is vital for wellbeing,” Mr Maddocks said.
The area will include emergency food relief, WiFi, phone charging and communal computer facilities to allow clients to access essential services while visiting the centre.
Mr Maddocks said ac.care would also continue to support existing central facilities, such as the Murray Bridge Community Centre, while working in partnership with agencies to expand availability and accessibility of services.
The agency’s consolidation of its office space and resources will also provide a more sustainable economic model and long-term savings for ac.care to focus on service delivery.
“There is a lot of excitement within the agency and our program partners around consolidating our three offices at one site so our more than 35 staff can work more closely together to service the Murray Bridge, Murraylands, Adelaide Hills and Fleurieu Peninsula areas via the central hub and through outreach programs,” Mr Maddocks said.
He said the large office space on Bridge Street would also provide flexibility for growth into the future and potential for expanded service delivery to meet growing community needs.
“Social issues such as the need for more safe homes for children in state care and rising homelessness rates are sadly not going away, but by better positioning ourselves to serve the region, we hope to increase our impact in line with our mission,” Mr Maddocks said.
“We want all country people to have a safe home, enough money to live on and strong, positive relationships.”
The new Murray Bridge ac.care centre will also be designed to celebrate the region’s rich Aboriginal heritage and be a welcoming space for people of all cultures and abilities.
Rural City of Murray Bridge mayor Brenton Lewis welcomed the announcement ac.care would consolidate its services in a currently vacant building in a central city location.
“We are very pleased to welcome ac.care into the CBD of Murray Bridge,” he said.
“Moving into a prime location on Bridge Street will not only ensure the services provided by ac.care are now more accessible for those in need, but will also add to the business and services mix on the street.”
Construction work is expected to take around eight weeks and be completed in November to allow for opening of the new site at the start of December.
Existing solar infrastructure on the building and a fit-out with sustainability as a priority will also be a focus of the relocation project in line with the agency’s environmental vision.