Far North Queenslanders affected by cancer will now be able to access additional support services to improve their quality of life following the official opening of the COUCH Wellness Centre in Cairns this week.
Representatives of the Carpentaria District Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland were among those in attendance to celebrate the opening of stage one of the development.
The milestone was particularly special for the Masonic fraternity as Hand Heart Pocket, in consultation with the Carpentaria District Freemasons, had provided a half-a-million-dollar Significant Grant towards the initial stage of construction for a large conference pavilion and an amenities block.
Once complete the health precinct, which is the first of its kind for the Cairns region, will deliver services that provide a holistic approach to cancer care, to improve the quality of life for people living with cancer (and beyond) as well as their carers. The services will include allied health and complementary therapies, as well as a focus on skills and education on how to live with cancer, group support and other well-being and beauty services.
District Grand Master Henry Condon said it feels like it was only yesterday that they were at the sod turning.
“We are so excited to be on this journey with COUCH to ensure people impacted by cancer in the region can access holistic support to improve their overall health and wellbeing,” Henry said.
“For the first time they will be able to remain close to home while receiving the care and support that they need in a unique rainforest environment. The local Freemasons couldn’t be prouder to be associated with this regional initiative,” he said.
The vision to develop a wellness centre in Far North Queensland was first spearheaded by the Woodward family, back in 2006 when Charlie and Pip Woodward founded the cancer carer charity COUCH. Two years later, the wider Woodward family donated a 2.5-hectare property on Reservoir Rd, Manoora. For over a decade COUCH has rallied the government, wider community and private donors to get behind the project.
COUCH Chair Ron Holden said that the opening of the COUCH Wellness Centre facility demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together.
“We would like to express our sincere thanks to all those that helped to get this project off the ground to enhance the lives of people impacted with cancer – particularly the Carpentaria District Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket.”
Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark explained why they took an interest in supporting the initiative on behalf of the Freemasons of Queensland.
“In 2017, we came on board to provide a hand up with the COUCH Wellness Centre because their goals aligned with our long-term charitable focus, in terms of alleviating suffering and empowering people to lead better lives,” Gary said.
“Also, Gordon and Jack Woodward and their father Charles (Snr), were instrumental in the early development of the Carpentaria Freemasons’ Homes and Woodward Retirement Village in the 1970s and 1980s, both formerly owned by Masonic Care Queensland – so it a way for us to continue supporting Masonic charity in the District.”
“We were moved to see the Centre in action and are confident the families that walk through these doors in the years to come will be in the best hands,” he said.
Photo: COUCH Chairman Ron Holden, COUCH Co-founder Pip Woodward, Carpentaria District Grand Master Henry Condon, Carpentaria Deputy District Grand Master Raja Chohan, Rani Chohan, Helen Sims, Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark, Carpentaria Freemason Alan Sims and Hand Heart Pocket Board Member Spencer Christensen.