The mayor of Port Stephenshas declared that the future of a women’s refuge in Raymond Terrace named after him is “bigger than Bruce MacKenzie”.
The Port Stephens councillor says he will remove his name from the new domestic violence refuge following uproar over his admission of the assault of a partner in 1997.
Port Stephens Council resolved last week to officially name the unit, which is yet to be complete, The Bruce MacKenzie Centre for Victims of Domestic Violence.
However the move has drawn widespread condemnation due to the fact that Cr MacKenzie appeared before Raymond Terrace Local Court in November 1997 charged with assaulting his then de facto partner.
CONTROVERSY: Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie will remove his name from a women’s refuge in Raymond Terrace following reports of his 1997 court appearance in which he pleaded guilty to assault. Picture: Simone De Peak
He pleaded guilty and was ordered to enter into a 12-month good behaviour bond.
The magistrate found the offenceproved but did not record a conviction.
“Forget the name, the name’s gone,” he said on Monday.
“I don’t want to jeopardise the future of the unit. It’s bigger than Bruce MacKenzie.”
Cr MacKenzie said that the establishment of the short-term crisis accommodation centre in Raymond Terrace had been a long-term personal passion of his.
“It’s been in the pipeline for 12 months but I’ve had the idea for years,” he said.
“It’s been left to local government to get it done: federal government’s done nothing, state government’s done nothing.And if I’m still around next year after council amalgamations, I’m going to look into all this youth homelessness.
“It’s a blight on society.”
Port Stephens Council supplied the building for the crisis accommodation and Port Stephens Police LAC has been instrumental in the hands-on renovation and refit with many officers donating their time and skills.
Once completed it will be managed by Port Stephens Family and Neighbourhood Services which has been lobbying on the issue for years.
Representatives from both the police and the support service centre would not be drawn on the recent controversy, stating they would prefer the focus to remain on the refuge and its impact on tackling domesticviolence.
However, on a visit to the Port on Monday,Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald touched on the issue sayingthecouncil had taken “real initiative” to establish a refuge but calledfor greater sensitivity.
“Everyone in the provision of services like these has to be verysensitive about the impacts of certain decisions on domestic violencevictims and their families,” he said.
“Naming any centre after someone who has a record in this area is notbeing empathetic.”