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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1645

Senator GILES —Can the Minister for Community Services say whether any decision has been reached on the proposal to close the residential block of the rehabilitation centre at Melville in Western Australia?

Senator GRIMES —The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service is to wind down and eventually close hostel-type residential facilities at the major treatment centres and replace them with a more appropriate range of residential options for its clients, and that includes the residential facility at Melville in Western Australia. Over the past few years the demand for this type of accommodation, provided for disabled people from country and outer suburban areas who need to attend the centres on a daily basis or for those who require close medical supervision, has decreased considerably and will continue to decrease. At the present time residential facilities at Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service centres are currently underutilised by about 65 per cent. We intend to discontinue the service and replace it with non-institutional, community-based accommodation, which is consistent with contemporary rehabilitation principles, which recognise the rights of people with disabilities to live with dignity and a minimum of restrictions. It also recognises the importance of normal surroundings to the habilitation and rehabilitation of people with disabilities.

In Queensland and South Australia a number of alternative forms of accommodation have already been successfully used, ranging from independent flats on centre to various types of accommodation. One would hope that by the end of December 1985 or thereabouts alternative accommodation which satisfies these criteria will be developed elsewhere. The closure of these blocks will mean that staff currently employed in those areas will no longer be required for that purpose. In accordance with Public Service provisions relating to redeployment and retrenchment, every effort will be made to arrange alternative employment for those staff.

This has already been occurring in Queensland where work trials have been arranged with the Department of Veterans' Affairs for staff no longer required at the Taringa Rehabilitation Centre. The unions affected by this decision will be consulted throughout this process, in particular about the securing of appropriate alternative employment for their members. Investigations will be undertaken, in co-operation with the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services, into the possibility of alternative usage for the residential blocks. This form of accommodation, as I said earlier, has been dramatically under-used in recent times. This represents not only the actions of those who are involved in rehabilitation but also the preference of those who are being rehabilitated. I am sure that the alternative arrangements will be much more satisfactory for all concerned.