THE Toora community is all smiles, with news of a reprieve for the local post office.
“We are thrilled to announce that Toora Post Office will continue to be open for business. Our little post office will live on to make its centenary celebrations in 2015!” proclaimed the delighted licensees, Greg and Maree Stewart, and son Chris, on the post office’s Facebook page last week.
The response from the community was swift and excited.
Rhonda Scammell commented: “Congratulations, Greg, Maree and Chris and everyone who fought to keep the post office open.”
Di Walker posted: “That is the BEST news! A fight well fought!”
So thrilled were the Stewarts, and so grateful for the support of the community, they held a sausage sizzle last Thursday to celebrate – and invited the entire community. Scores of people took up the invitation, creating a happy party atmosphere out the front of the post office in Toora’s main street, where only a couple of weeks ago it was all doom and gloom.
“It’s all happened very fast,” said Maree. “But already Greg is back doing his deliveries by bike around Toora. He was welcomed with open arms – literally in many cases, with hugs! He’s known as the whistling postie and I’m sure his whistles can be heard all the way to Foster!”
Maree said that she was delighted to welcome Violet Pattie and Maxine Stevenson back on staff and she is hopeful other staff that she had had to let go would be back, too.
Five months ago the future of the post office lay under a cloud. Australia Post had failed to renew the Stewarts’ town mail delivery contract, awarding it instead to a Melbourne-based company.
“By Christmas we were thinking we would have to close. We were finding we could no longer afford to run the business,” said Maree. “But clearly Australia Post didn’t want the post office to close. They contacted us and over the last couple of months we have been in negotiations. We are very happy with the outcome of these negotiations. We are grateful that arrangements have been made that will enable us to continue operating our business and keep our doors open.”
The Toora mail is now being delivered back to the post office, where it is sorted, once again, by the Stewarts as licensees.
Maree said it had been a very hard and stressful five months of fighting for the survival of Toora’s historic post office. Throughout, she said, the community had been wonderful.
“We cannot thank our little community enough for their help, support, petitions, lobbying and endeavours to help us keep the post office open.”
Special thanks, she said, were due to Angela Evans, who established a Facebook page and organised a change.org petition, but many others had made a mammoth effort on behalf of the post office, too.
“We would like to thank the many customers that have gone out of their way to switch from online bill payments to paying their bills at the post office. Your efforts to help keep the post office viable are very much appreciated and do make a difference.”
The Stewarts also paid tribute to the federal member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, and other politicians who, they said, had provided great support.
Mr Broadbent said a deal ensuring the long term viability of Toora Post Office was a big win for the region. He said that while the details of the negotiations remain under wraps, the post office’s licensees had benefitted from their persistence to the cause.
“This is great victory for Toora and for country communities. Regional communities deserve everything that metropolitan communities get, whether that entails proper service delivery from Australia Post or any other government or business provider,”
Mr Broadbent said. “I believe Toora may now offer the benchmark for country communities fighting for services.”As a special thank you to their customers, the Stewarts are running a monthly raffle. Each time a customer performs a banking transaction or pays a bill, they will receive a free ticket to go into a draw to win a $30 gift voucher which can be used to purchase goods (excluding Australia Post products) from the post office.
“Even if you receive your bills by email and don’t want to print them out on a monthly basis, all we need is a barcode to scan. We can scan directly from your iPads or smartphones,” said Maree.
“We are very fortunate to live in such a wonderful, supportive community,” she added.