John and Ann McLean - the coordinators of the Iluka Ambulance Action Group - will continue to fight for the station.
John and Ann McLean - the coordinators of the Iluka Ambulance Action Group - will continue to fight for the station. Adam Hourigan

'We aren't going away': Iluka's dynamic duo

The 300-strong crowd that gathered at the Iluka Bowling Club had emptied save for the two people who started it all.

"How good was that?" Ann McLean said, checking over attendance sheets.

Ann along with husband John McLean, founded the Iluka Ambulance Action Group two years ago, and said they couldn't be happier of the response to meet with the deputy premier on Friday.

"To look out and see the amount of people that came to support the cause we're going is wonderful," she said.

"And it's all about Iluka, it's not about us, it's about Iluka needing an ambulance station."

Iluka Ambulance meeting: John and Ann McLean and the hundreds of people who attended meeting talk to deputy premier John Barilaro, and give them something to remember the town by

Their journey began two years ago, when Anne had to call an ambulance for John, who was suffering an aortic aneurysm.

"I had this horrific pain, and I thought that was the end of the story, because you know what happens if it bursts," John said.,

"Ann called the ambulance and it took 45 minutes, and on the way over I thought we really need an ambulance station."

Determined, on election day in 2016 they approached the polling booth organisers and began to gather signatures at the booth.

"We did everywhere, we went around to Grafton, Yamba, Maclean, Evans Head, Woodburn, Lismore, Casino Ballina, and we put the petitions in shops," Ann said.

They've had their fair share of naysayers along the way, with people wondering why they'd go out of area for a local issue.

"We said because these people will come to Iluka, and the people who signed are the ones that would come," Ann said. "Every time we went to Grafton, and we'd go once a month we'd pick up 500- signatures. Grafton was great.

"We'd walkaround the markets of Iluka and people would tell us that they'd love to live in Iluka, but we didn't have the medical facilities."

And while the petition was growing, there were still doubts around.

"They'd say to us people have already tried, why are you bothering, you're wasting your time."

 

Now armed with a promise from deputy premier John Barilaro with a commitment to return before Christmas, John said one person who he'd changed his mind on was local member Chris Gulaptis.

"When we started this about two years ago, I probably said some nasty things to Chris, and I think they were warranted," John said.

"But after the last meeting, and particularly this one, I've changed my whole attitude towards him. He's a fair dinkum man. He said he would do something for us, he said it again today, we asked them some hard questions and they were ready for it.

"It wasn't us that changed their minds... it was the community who told them."

"I think they'll come back with the chequebook. I've got confidence in listening to John and moreso Chris."

Just in case, the pair said they wouldn't stop the work in the meantime.

"We aren't going away," Ann said. "I'll go back and write an email to Mr Barilaro and thank him for coming today and ask when he's coming back."

"I told them I'm going to be a thorn in Chris and John's side until the day they dig that first bit of dirt out," John added. "The day they dig that then I'll be convinced and I can sit back and relax.

"I'm not a drinker, but if that happens, I'll buy them a beer."