It's been a long time in the making but a respite care facility for Queanbeyan is one step closer to reality, helping to realise the dream of a passionate community campaigner, the late Yvonne Cuschieri.
The first sod was turned on Friday on the facility, named Yvonne Cuschieri House, with construction due to start early next year and the building opened by late 2024 or early 2025.
The six-bedroom facility in Ross Road will provide respite care for people aged 18 to 60 with a terminal or chronic illness.
Respite Care for Queanbeyan chair Paul Walshe has lived and breathed planning of the facility since Mrs Cushieri first approached him in 2017 with the idea.
She and her friends then set up a stall at the Riverside Plaza and collected 2000 signatures in favour of a respite care facility.
A charity called Respite Care for Queanbeyan was set up in December 2018 to fundraise and lobby for grant monies.
Mrs Cushieri had lost her son Steven to brain cancer in 2013. She wanted a respite facility, that she never had, to help other families. Mrs Cushieri sadly lost her own battle with lung cancer in 2021, unable to see the construction of the facility finally start to happen.
"It's hard to believe this day has come. There's been a lot of hard work and so many people to get us where we are today," Mr Walshe said.
The facility would allow people aged 18 to 60 with terminal or chronic illness to receive professional respite care in a purpose-built facility rather than be placed in an aged care or nursing home. At the same time, their carers would be given a break, allowing them to re-energise and refocus.
"This was Yvonne's dream," Mr Walshe said.
Mrs Cushieri's sons Todd and Roger helped to turn the first sod on the site.
"Super-proud that this day has come, super-proud of mum, super-proud of Paul Walshe, the committee, the community," Todd said.
"It's something that's desperately needed and to be part of it here today, it's a really special thing for both of us."
Roger said his humble mum "wouldn't be happy" the facility was named Yvonne Cuschieri House.
"But it's a nice contribution for what she's done for the community in Queanbeyan," he said.
Mr Walshe said the facility was being built on land owned by the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council through a 30-year lease. The back half of the block was being developed into a community park by the council.
Construction of the facility is being funded by $750,000 from the federal government, $1.35 million from the NSW government and $250,000 from the John James Foundation.
Hands Across Canberra, the Snow Foundation and the Aspen Foundation also donated a combined $25,000.
Despite being scheduled for construction, Yvonne Cuschieri House does not have ongoing funding yet guaranteed.
The federal government has allocated $1 million towards its first year of operation, confirmed by Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain at the sod-turning.
"We still have a way to go, not only to build Yvonne Cuschieri House but to develop a sustainable funding model to run it," Mr Walshe said.
"But today is a celebration to mark the next stage to deliver Yvonne's dream."