Coming together to rebuild ‘heart of the valley’

Paul Dooner, postmaster of the Rock Valley Post Office.
Paul Dooner, postmaster of the Rock Valley Post Office.

WHEN the Rock Valley post office burnt down last September, the community didn't sit on their hands and wait for a saviour.

Rock Valley Hall committee president Betty Olivieri was enjoying the long view over Loch Ness in Scotland on her first ever overseas trip at the time. By the time she got home, plans were already in motion.

"It seemed the community made up their mind that it was going back up again," Mrs Olivieri said.

"The following Saturday there was a sausage sizzle organised, and within a week there was $5000 raised."

The community ended up raising some $10,000 through donations and raffle tickets.

Among Rock Valley locals, the post office is affectionately known as "the heart of the valley".

Mrs Olivieri recalled the generosity of people both in Lismore and the wider community keen to help out.

"Even if they've only driven past once or twice and thought it was cute," she said.

They even had donations from a Yamba man who had once taken photos of the post office, and gave the money to a Lismore friend who delivered it to the Olivieri residence in person along with his own donation.

The design plans for the building were donated by a local architect, which allowed a DA to be submitted quickly to council. Also donated were paint, roofing and the plumbing work.

A crucial moment came in March when the community found out they had been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Royal Agricultural Society.

The grant enabled the post office to be completed in a single stage and afforded quality elements in the fit-out such as timber window frames, plus a disabled access ramp and parking space.

Former hall president Gordon Dooner said Mrs Olivieri deserved much of the credit for her tireless co-ordination of the project.

Two smallest post offices

AUSTRALIA has two post offices competing for the title of the smallest, and guess what - they're both right here on the Northern Rivers, less than an hour by car from each other.


The Empire Vale Post Office may not the glamour of its hinterland rival, but it certainly looks the part, sitting on the side of the road not much bigger than an outback dunny.


And if we count the size of the veranda, Rock Valley is much bigger, especially now it has verandas on three sides. It's also no longer a licensed post office (LPO), meaning while it has a contract with Australia Post to deliver mail, it is not a "full-service" post office.

But a cursory Google search still gives Rock Valley the title, and it was officially named so in a 1995 article in the Australasian Post magazine.

It seems as long as one goes by popular imagination, Rock Valley will continue to be etched into our consciousness as the smallest post office in the land.

Topics:  rock valley post office

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