Kilkivan & District Community Care president Rosie Fitzgerald and treasurer Lyn Sempf with the keys to the former St Kevin’s Church (Photo: KDCCA)

May 14, 2024

Kilkivan and District Community Care Association (KDCCA) has taken control of the 100-year-old former St Kevin’s Catholic Church but has described it as “a bittersweet victory”.

KDCCA president Rosie Fitzgerald said Monday was “auspicious” when the keys were handed over but that any celebration was clouded by uncertainty, frustration and a tinge of regret.

The old timber building is located at 1 Church Street.

It hosted its last Mass in October last year before a large congregation of past and present Kilkivan residents.

The church is surrounded by land owned by Gympie Regional Council tentatively earmarked for Kilkivan’s “ageing in place” project.

For four years, the KDCCA has pushed for a “Rise and Shine” project that would provide accessible rental homes and a share house for seniors on the land.

“We strongly felt the iconic church property could be perfect for a community centre and maybe an enterprise such as an art gallery or coffee shop; lots of options that would fit perfectly with our vision,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

The KDCCA negotiated the purchase and immediately began a fundraising drive to pay for it.

But, despite monthly bingo nights and some generous benefactors donating to a GoFundMe campaign, the target is still 75 per cent short of being met.

The group has been given a loan to cover the balance.

The KDCCA believes the campaign’s slow start could be due to the collective memory that St Kevin’s was originally built and furnished by community donations.

However, finding financial support to buy the church is not the only source of concern and frustration for the group.

“Our integrated Rise and Shine project is addressing huge gaps in services and infrastructure that mean local people have had to leave their homes and community prematurely,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“It’s astonishing that, in a political and economic climate loaded with policy and rhetoric about supporting the ageing population and providing appropriate place-based housing that is within reach of people on all income levels that our innovative concept is not attracting funding and partnerships.”

KDCCA has already set up Kilkivan Care, which co-ordinates home care packages using local support workers to more than 30 clients in Kilkivan, Tansey, Woolooga and Goomeri.

It has also raised funds to buy a bus for community transport, publishes a local newsletter and conducts a senior’s social hub program.

“Our members and the general community are happy and relieved St Kevin’s won’t be demolished or moved away, and we will be marking the (handover) day with a small celebration,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“We are humbled and grateful for the generous donations to date and the sentiment of goodwill around the project keeps our spirits buoyant.

“Holding the keys to St Kevin’s is a tentative step towards a vision that I know is shared by many small rural communities throughout the country, to keep our loved ones close, safe and content.”

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The former St Kevin’s Catholic Church, photographed in November last year … local residents are still hoping to buy the building (Photo: KDCCA)

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