WHENEVER you leave a place it should be better than when you arrived.

It's a statement that health campaigner and activist Jim Agnew has definitely lived up to; in fact for those who know just how much he has achieved for the Lower Clarence community it seems like an understatement.

Yesterday, he saw more than a decade of hard work come to fruition with the official opening of the Jim Agnew OAM Community Health Centre.

Jim Agnew unveils the plaque to open the Yamba Community Health Centre, named the Jim Agnew OAM Building
Jim Agnew unveils the plaque to open the Yamba Community Health Centre, named the Jim Agnew OAM Building Adam Hourigan

"When I first met Jim I was mayor of Maclean and he came to see me and he had a mission," Clarence State MP Chris Gulaptis said.

"His mission was to have an ambulance station for Yamba and I said to him Jim, there's no way in hell you're going to get an ambulance station. And of course Jim being Jim ... was determined and went about his way."

Through tireless persistence and lobbying, the retiree saw Yamba's ambulance station open in 2003.

He has also been a driving force behind the widening of the bridge into Yamba, the extension of carpark and construction of a wheelchair ramp at Maclean Hospital, and the realisation of Yamba's community health centre, his crowning achievement.

The centre has been operational for close to a year and provides services for up to 20,000 local residents.

"Without people like Jim in our community things don't get done and as much as we look to government for help, help often comes from the grassroots and it's grassroots champions like Jim that make such a difference in our community," Mr Gulaptis said. Too choked up to speak at the opening, Mr Agnew handed the microphone to his grandson, who on his behalf thanked the many people who took on the project to help get it over the line, and the "knockers" who spurred him on to prove them wrong.

Among his supporters were Federal Labor candidate Jannelle Saffin, former State MP Steve Cansdell, secretaries, Chris Crawford, Maclean Hospital staff and auxiliary, and the community.

"When I called for volunteers... the community were the ones who worked on the gardens at the ambulance station, assisted with petitions and did all other voluntary jobs over the years," his grandson said.

"Without this community I would not have been able to achieve what I have in this area."

Jim Agnew OAM (centre) is congratulated by his daughters (l-r) Robyn Brouff, Jan Wilde and Kay Bennett at the opening of the Yamba Community Health Centre - named the Jim Agnew OAM Building.
Jim Agnew OAM (centre) is congratulated by his daughters (l-r) Robyn Brouff, Jan Wilde and Kay Bennett at the opening of the Yamba Community Health Centre - named the Jim Agnew OAM Building. Adam Hourigan

The opening came just in time - on Sunday Mr Agnew will leave the place he has called home for 30-odd years to go back to his roots and family in the small township of Warren, north west of Dubbo.

It will be a bittersweet move for the 91-year-old and his wife Grace, who have been married more than 70 years.

"I'm an emotional man, as you can see," he said.

"I'll be disappointed but also happy for having this great honour. I'm very happy with what I've done."

And while he has ruled out any lobbying projects in Warren, Mr Agnew isn't ready to cut ties with Yamba altogether.

His house, which he has given to his daughters, was on the market for just two days before it was decided it would be used as a holiday home for the family.

"When I come back for a holiday one day I'd love to be able to walk into this place and see a doctor," he said.



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