The shock closure of a much-loved horse riding school used by Queenslanders living with disability has forced a community into action.
A plan to resurrect the centre credited as Australia’s first horse riding school for people with disabilities has been hatched after a charity controversially closed the centre earlier this year.
According to a report on the ABC website, not-for-profit organisation Help Enterprises shut the McIntyre Centre at Pinjarra Hills in Brisbane’s west in July, angering many within the local community.
Help Enterprises has since sold the centre’s beloved horses, which have been likened to guide dogs in terms of the level of training they need to work with people living with disabilities.
Peter and June McIntyre started the original horse riding program for people with disabilities at their home in Brisbane in 1964, before it was moved to a 16-hectare site at Pinjarra Hills.
Help Enterprises was gifted the horse riding school in 2017 but according to the ABC has repeatedly refused to share the terms of the Deed of Gift.
Questions remain over whether Help Enterprises intends to change the conditions of the Deed of Gift through the courts, allowing the charity to sell the land, the ABC report noted.
A steering committee to save the centre as a riding school was formed after a recent public meeting and is preparing a proposal to deliver to Help Enterprises – a move made more challenging after the sale of the horses.
Lions Club of Brisbane West president, John Williams, has called on the charity to reveal the terms of the Deed of Gift so the steering committee can address them “line by line” in its business plan. At the time of publication, this had not occurred.
In calling for the McIntyre Centre to be brought back as a community asset, Mr Williams said seeing it empty was like “having the heart ripped out”.
“It was core to a number of groups in our community, not just the disabled riders who would come from all over Brisbane.”
The ABC report noted that since taking over the centre and the running of the riding school six years ago, Help Enterprises had contributed more than $4 million towards infrastructure improvements, maintenance and running costs.
The charity said keeping the centre open had cost a minimum of $70,000 a month, including vet bills, horse feed, farriers, insurance, ground maintenance, staff costs and utilities.
But it said with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding of $86 per session, there was a big gap between that and what it cost to operate the service.
Help Enterprises said the “current NDIS funding model and aggressive inflationary costs” resulted in the “very hard decision” to stop operations at the McIntyre Centre.
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