Babinda Bargain Centre

BABINDA BARGAIN CENTRE

The Babinda Bargain Centre’s fundraising achievements commenced, back in the days of the poliomyelitis epidemic, when the North Queensland Society for Crippled Children, encouraged the formation of a network of sub committees in towns all over North Queensland.  The objective of these sub committees was to raise funds to support the Crippled Children’s nursing home in Townsville, which provided care, treatment and accommodation for children suffering the effects of polio. 

The first fundraising activity organised by the Babinda sub committee in 1967, was a white elephant stall, which after a great deal of hard work, raised $26.00.  However, they realised that too much hard work had gone into organising this stall for little return, but recognised the opportunity for a second hand clothing and furniture store in Babinda.   It was then, that it was decided to open a second hand shop and encourage volunteers to assist with the running of the store.  They believed this would be a great avenue for the Babinda sub committee to raise the much needed funds for the ongoing support of the children’s nursing home.      

The first Babinda second hand clothing store was established at the local CWA hall where a nominal rent of $5 per week was paid.  The coat hangers for the clothes were made out of tightly rolled up newspaper, and the counter was a board lying across two drums.   Under the passionate and influential leadership of The Centre's first President, Audrey Costa-beber , the store, manned by a small team of volunteers, profited well, until it was wiped out by Cyclone Winifred in 1986. 

Determined to succeed and continue supporting the crippled children through funds raised from the store, a second store was opened  in 1994.  However, due to the lack of room and expansion, this store had to be relocated to its current site in April 2002.  At this time, The North Queensland Society for Crippled Children identified the new store as the “Babinda Bargain Centre”.

In 1991, the North Queensland Society for Crippled Children, changed its name.   The word “crippled” was no longer accepted in the community, and in addition a lot of the children were now adults.   The organisation then became the Cootharinga Society of North Queensland – named fittingly after the original name of the iconic mountain in Townsville – Mt Cootharinga (now known as Castle Hill) as the children’s nursing home was located at the base of this mountain.   Just as names change, so did demands placed on Cootharinga’s services which expanded to include people with a range of physical disabilities resulting from eg cerebral palsy; muscular dystrophy; spina bifida and trauma who receive support from Cootharinga’s services.  Sadly Audrey died in July 2007, and the second President, of the Babinda Bargin Centre, Marg Moller was elected to the position.

Marg continued to run a tight ship and added to the wonderful success of the Centre.  Unfortunately, Marg resigned in 2011 due to a relocation and thankfully Vicki Dewis stepped in as acting President!   Today, our wonderful group of volunteers have grown from 5 in the early days (1967) to its current 44.  The volunteer’s ages range from 50 to 93 years with the majority in their 80’s.   The store is opened six days a week, and the volunteers work on a rostered basis.    It was timely, that Cootharinga has now brought in a paid Store Manager , Kylie Luce, to oversee the daily running of the centre and keep on top of the never ending Workplace Health and Safety Legislation, among many other things. 


The Babinda Bargain Centre has two primary sections:

• Second hand clothing; and
• Used furniture.

The volunteers, who work various amounts of time to suit their own capacity, health and other commitments, all have allocated roles that they are responsible for on a casual basis ie there is a “rag person” who cuts up clothes which are unsuitable for sale, into rags, bags them and sells them.    Many other volunteer roles are co-ordinated daily and include, ironing ladies, a team that mend and sew clothing etc; pricing; sorting; laundering; maintenance of the centre and the collection of goods and furniture from the four collection bins that are located in the surrounding towns.  Although the volunteers work on a casual basis, there is nothing casual about the expectation of them.   They all work tirelessly to achieve amazing results!

The Babinda Bargain Centre is well known amongst the locals for Maisie's creative window dressing which has won many awards over the years.  Without a doubt, the  Babinda Bargain Centre is a unique model, and continues to make a significant contribution per year to support people with disabilities living in North Queensland. 


The Babinda Bargain Centre is a well known icon in the small town of Babinda.  Visitors travel from all over the region, on a regular basis to “grab a bargain.”  Visitors from Melbourne, South Australia, Tasmania and Sydney drop into the Centre each year on their annual trips to North Queensland to say hello to all the gang.


There is no doubt, that the volunteers at the Centre are worth an abundance of whole hearted gratitude and appreciation for the mammoth contribution they have dedicated their life to, over the years.   Their passion and commitment to support people with disabilities is outstanding and enormously recognised and appreciated by Cootharinga North Queensland.