Jul 20, 2023

Feros Byron Bay residents claim another victory as they avoid eviction

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Dubbed the tenacious ten, the last Feros Village Byron Bay residents are taking a stand against their home’s impending closure. [Source: Facebook]

There’s good news for the ten remaining residents at Feros Village Byron Bay as the aged care provider has not forced any evictions despite reaching its intended closure date of July 19. 

It means the determined residents have claimed a second successive victory over Feros Care after forcing them to extend its initial closure date, which was set for June 23. 95-year-old resident Kate Smorty, who has led the push to stay in her beloved home, said she felt sorry for those trying to force the relocation.

“I just sort of feel sorry for the people who are trying to move us out, because we’re staying,” Ms Smorty told ABC News

Key points

  • Five months have passed since the Feros Care Board first notified 40 residents of its intention to close the Byron Bay site as it was no longer fit for purpose
  • Despite announcing the closure, no plans were in place for redevelopment, although the provider intended to seek approval for new accommodation on the same site
  • Residents would not leave without a fight and they were joined by friends and family in Byron Bay who opposed the plans to shut down the residential care village

However, Feros Care remains committed to closing the facility as they feel it would be highly irresponsible to keep it open. In a statement provided to HelloCare, Feros Care reaffirmed it has to close as it no longer meets Government requirements and residents could receive quality care if they moved elsewhere.  

“The Byron Bay facility was built 33 years ago as a low care hostel and was not designed or built to the standards or requirements of a residential aged care site. Put simply, we cannot provide the full spectrum of care required under the Act at Feros Byron Bay Village,” Feros Care said.

“It is highly irresponsible for people to suggest we continue operating the facility without compromising the safety and quality of care, something that the Board is not prepared to do. The future of this site is for affordable seniors accommodation, which is a much needed asset for the community.”

Feros Care said a number of other accommodation options are available, including high-care homes that would better suit residents with growing needs. 

The difficult decision to close the Feros Byron Bay Village in its current form has been made as a result of the increasingly complex regulatory and legislative environment for operators of Commonwealth funded Residential Aged Care Facilities,” they said.

“For example, the Aged Care Act obligates Feros Care to guarantee a resident will not be required to move to another facility if over time they need a higher level of care, such as increased nursing care.”

With ten tenacious residents remaining and an aged care provider who has acknowledged they will not forcibly evict them, the two sides are in a stalemate. Feros Care can operate the village until its licence expires in May, 2024, although it does not plan to run indefinitely. 

Local lawyer leads the way

This fight doesn’t just belong to Feros Care residents; local lawyer and Byron Shire councillor Mark Swivel has been defending the residents, who he said are in limbo with no resolution in sight. 

“We have written to everyone. Every part of Government; to find the best way forward. But no one person or part of Government holds the key to unlocking this situation. The details of the dispute are now absurdly complex. An aged care sector in flux. Developing crown land. Conflicting stories abound,” Mr Swivel said.

“But the real issue is simple. The story of these ten people, and the others they used to live with, asks us all a really simple question: how should we look after each other? And who gets to decide how that question is answered. With aged care homes closing all around the country, we have a crisis on our hands.”

“I hope the decision makers involved consider these ten people and their welfare – and the value of their home to the community – as a village and as an example to all of us.”

As no new closure date has been announced, uncertainty remains over what happens next. It is possible for someone else to step in, including the Federal Government or the Crown Land, although it’s difficult to say if and when that could happen. 

Speaking to The Echo, Mr Swivel said all of this could have been avoided had Feros Care been more transparent or provided 12 months’ notice for resident movement. 

“Let’s not forget, there is no development application let alone an approval in place for the redevelopment of this site,” Mr Swivel said.

According to a recent ABC Radio interview, Feros Care stated an architect is currently drawing up plans for a new residential aged care home in Byron Bay.

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