Sally Millard wants to give underprivileged children and families a taste of the country life and a chance to partake in 'camel therapy' on her Mount Lonarch farm but council delays are thwarting her plans.
Since 2019, when she partnered with the Father Bob Maguire Foundation to create the Father Bob's Lourdes Camel Sanctuary, Ms Millard and husband Mick have been working toward building a camp kitchen and camel yards on the 220 acre farm to provide basic facilities for guests.
But delays with Pyrenees Council approvals have seen a planning application Ms Millard submitted at the beginning of December, withdrawn last week.
The sanctuary, 9km west of Lexton, is designed to be a place of education, animal therapy and reconnection with nature for those the Father Bob Maguire Foundation supports in Melbourne and other welfare groups.
"We want to put up a camp kitchen and some camel yards," she said. "We've got all the CFA plans, bushfire ratings, draft plans, we don't want to destroy anything ... just put up a shed for kids to visit," Ms Millard said.
A series of delays, inspections, staff holidays and unanswered requests for a fee waiver because of the group's charity status caused Ms Millard's frustration to grow and culminate in her deciding to withdraw the application last week to resubmit it at a later date.
But she's concerned for the children and families at risk who are missing out on a fun day out and a chance to relax and experience something different.
"Our main aim to have underprivileged kids come here on a bus trip, a day trip, and enjoy some camel therapy. We are the only camel therapy farm in Australia," she said.
"Kids can come, single mums in domestic violence situations, we want it to be a sanctuary for all not just a sanctuary for camels ... to come here, have shelter, a good feed and a good day out.
"Getting people over the humps of life is our motto."
The sanctuary was recently donated a 23-seater bus from a supporter in NSW to help make transport to the farm easier.
They also hope to eventually offer overnight camping trips and an adventure playground for visitors to the sprawling property which is currently home to 11 camels, a mob of Brahman cattle, turkeys and peacocks as well as native wildlife.
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"There are so many underprivileged kids that need something like this," she said.
The sanctuary is also struggling to raise the funds needed for the expansion, and in desperation Ms Millard has written to many well-known philanthropists offering to sign over the land to them for the funds needed to finance the infrastructure in return for allowing them to stay on the property and run it.
There have been no takers.
Ms Millard is also running a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising enough to help develop the sanctuary.
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