RSL LifeCare has refused to meet with the Eden community about the future of the disused former aged care centre Nullica Lodge.
Nullica Lodge was first opened in 1995 as a home for elderly people who were no longer able to live at home. It was built on a 40-year Crown Lease, granted in 1992, and transitioned from community management to Anglicare and then RSL Lifecare.
In 2021, RSL LifeCare announced that it was no longer financially viable to operate the facility and it is now vacant, with 10 years remaining on the lease.
The Eden Recovery and Resilience Alliance (ERRA) organised a meeting on the evening of December 6 for the community to discuss potential uses for the lodge with representatives from RSL LifeCare.
RSL LifeCare declined to attend that meeting.
They claim they offered to meet with community members earlier that day; ERRA said they were told RSL LifeCare would only meet with individual representatives of community groups.
It is understood when representatives of the ERRA attended Nullica Lodge for a meeting at 1 pm on 6 December they were unable to find any RSL LifeCare members to speak with.
An RSL LifeCare spokesperson said they did meet with Bega Valley Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick on 11 December.
“RSL LifeCare representatives had a very positive meeting with Mayor Fitzpatrick, including a tour of Nullica Lodge and an opportunity to discuss the future of the lodge,” the spokesperson said.
“We look forward to remaining in communication with the mayor and the local community on the future of Nullica Lodge.”
The open meeting on the evening of 6 December was attended by more than 100 residents, organisers say.
They heard the 27-bed facility, built largely from funds raised by the people of Eden and surrounds, was an asset with potential to be returned to community control as a means of addressing the lack of affordable housing options for seniors and people with disabilities in the region.
Speakers at the meeting held at the Eden Memorial RSL Hall included Councillor Joy Robin, Mick Brosnan of the Social Justice Advocates of the Sapphire Coast, State Member for Bega Dr Michael Holland and Mayor and Liberal candidate for Bega Russell Fitzpatrick.
ERRA chair Carina Severs said the meeting had been called to update the community about the status of Nullica Lodge and to begin community-driven consultation with local people about the options for its reopening.
“ERRA facilitated the meeting in response to concerns expressed by community members about Nullica Lodge,” she said.
“We are disappointed RSL LifeCare decided in the end not to participate.
“We fully understand the organisation is faced with challenges in determining how it should best proceed with the use of the facility. However, this was an opportunity to share those challenges with the community to create better understanding.
“Nullica Lodge lies empty during a terrible housing crisis. ERRA’s aim is to facilitate open dialogue between the community, RSL LifeCare and any other interested parties including state and federal governments and other housing providers.
“The building was originally built as a low care hostel providing affordable accommodation for seniors and, later, supported accommodation for people with disabilities. That’s exactly what is needed now, more than ever.”