In early 1986, Gold Coast resident Pat Flaxman had a vision. Pat was a survivor of bowel cancer and had a colostomy. At that time, Coast residents with similar conditions were serviced with their essential appliances, goods and associated services by the Queensland Colostomy Association situated in Brisbane. The distance along with other factors, posed obvious difficulties for the Coast’s ostomates.
Pat’s vision, to establish an independent association on the coast to benefit and facilitate the provision of a more direct and accessible service for locals. However, the obstacles were formidable, assessing local reaction and response to such a venture, acquiring suitable premises from which to operate, setting up a constitution, obtaining federal government approval for a new ostomy association pursuant to the controls of The Stoma Appliance Scheme.
Pat remained steadfast in pursuit of her vision, and with determination pressed forward. On the 8th February 1986 and with solid support from local Stomal Therapy nurse Dot Sinclair, they staged an initial meeting of interested ostomates at the Gold Coast Hospital. Some 117 enthusiastic ostomates turned up and with commitment, agreed that the Gold Coast association concept had much merit and should be pursued.
The journey had commenced, an inaugural Executive Committee meeting was formed and it was no surprise when Pat Flaxman was appointed president. The other members of that pioneering committee were Betty Pratt, Davina Fitzsimmons and Brenda Nichalls.
To chart and progress the future of the new Association, a planning committee was established and headed by Pat’s husband Ron. Its charter being to solicit funds, find suitable premises and obtain Federal Health Department consent for the new organisation. Ron was capably assisted by Charles Pratt, Ben Bluestone and Joan Swift.
Health Department approval was the first task, seeking and obtaining federal government approval for the creation of another ostomy association, one not all that distant from the Queensland Colostomy Association in Brisbane. Perseverance coupled with strong support from ostomates and the Gold Coast medical and nursing fraternities, convinced the Health Minister of the day Mr Neil Blewitt, of our pressing need. Our Association was authorised to commence operating under the auspices of the Stoma Appliance Scheme.
Premises: Locating suitable premises for an operational base and with an almost nonexistent budget, proved no easy task. An interim arrangement was agreed, Pat and Ron’s son Rod Flaxman, generously provided suitable space in a corner of his Labrador, Gold Coast business. The low rental allowed the Association to build a modest bank balance by means of raffles, street and market stalls.
This was our home for six years at which time our fortunes took a positive turn when, after much lobbying and representation, The Gold Coast Council in February 1991, granted the Association a thirty year low rental lease of land in Dunkirk Close, Arundel. The location formed part of a proposed community precinct for welfare and other needy organisations. Council’s favourable consideration included two demountable buildings to serve as temporary premises.
The grant was conditional upon the Association paying an $11K contribution towards the development of local infrastructure comprising roads and services.
The vision was quickly becoming a reality when in 1991, after a concerted project proposal together with intense negotiations with Jupiter’s Casino Trust; it approved a $92K grant for the creation of new buildings on the Arundel site. Development progressed and in February 1992, much rejoicing announced the opening of our new headquarters.
Fittingly, the premises were named the Pat and Ron Flaxman Centre as reward for their inspiration, dedication and commitment in seeing The Gold Coast Ostomy Association come of age. Indeed, Pat’s relentless efforts (deceased May 2004), have been acknowledged countless times at community and state level, including the Premier’s Award in 1993.
However, Pat and Ron did not act alone in the realisation of their vision. Over the years help and support flowed from many quarters, the dedicated workers and volunteers and other members, successive officers and committees, medical and nursing personnel have all played a significant part in the maturity and success of the Gold Coast Ostomy Association.
From a desperate financial need in its formative years, the Association is now financially independent and well managed.
From very humble beginnings in 1986, Gold Coast Ostomy Association has evolved and now cares for the needs of well over one thousand members. Our services entail provision of monthly stocks, counselling and other associated services. The Association is also a member of ACSA (Australian Council of Stoma Associations), the representative body for all Australian ostomy associations.