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Thursday, 23 June 1994
Page: 1977

Senator REID (11.33 a.m.) —Most reasonable people would think that by the time one had turned 90 years of age, one would be able to live life peacefully without having to go to a local senator to get redress of a matter. I raise this matter this morning, which was brought to me by the son of the woman concerned, in the hope that I can attract the attention of the Minister for Veterans' Affairs (Mr Sciacca), who has not yet replied to the letter I wrote to him on 20 May this year pointing out what had occurred. I shall tell the Senate this story as briefly as I can. My constituent is a war widow and lives in a retirement hostel in Canberra and, as I said, is over 90 years of age. This is a matter for the Minister for Veterans' Affairs as this woman, being a war widow, has certain entitlements.

  In May of last year she was told by her doctor that she needed a specially made pair of shoes because of her difficulties. She put in the appropriate application to the department for the shoes to which she would be entitled. When she received the shoes, they did not fit. They were returned to the maker to be refitted and stretched, or to have something done to enable her to wear them. When the shoes came back, they still did not fit.

  The doctor then suggested that it would be in her interests to have a pair of sports shoes—running shoes with a soft sole. He felt that might make it easier for her to overcome her difficulty in getting a pair of shoes made to fit her comfortably. So an application was made to the Department of Veterans' Affairs for a pair of sports shoes. She was advised to return the other pair of shoes for refitting and repair.

  The doctor said that the shoes made for her were still totally unsatisfactory and repeated his suggestion that she would be better off with a pair of sports shoes. Of course, sports shoes would be the cheaper option. The custom-made orthopaedic shoes would cost about $300, or even more if they needed to be adjusted several times while the sports shoes are in the vicinity of $90 to $120, much cheaper.

  To date, the shoes which she cannot wear have been refitted four times, all of them unsuccessful, but the department still will not purchase for her, or provide the funding for, a pair of sports shoes which she could be fitted with quite easily and wear comfortably. As a result, she has had to wear slippers. Slippers have their place in life. At times, nothing is more comfortable than a pair of slippers, especially when they go with a nice open fire. But I believe it is very demoralising and depressing to have to wear slippers all the time, which she should not have to do because it is not necessary. She would be comfortable in a pair of sports shoes, would have more self-respect and feel better dressed but she has been forced to choose between a totally uncomfortable pair of shoes, if she wants to be dressed in that fashion, and slippers.

  As I said, on 20 May I wrote to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs telling him that I regarded the story as unacceptable. I asked him to personally look into the matter, as I believe it is a matter of urgency, certainly for my constituent. So far I have not had any response. After checking this morning with my constituent, I find she still does not have appropriate shoes to which she is entitled as a war widow. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Resources (Senator Sherry), who is present in the chamber, will take up the matter with the minister.

  I hope that he sees it is a matter of urgency and will urge the minister to see it likewise, The minister should use his discretion to say to the department, `Get this woman a pair of appropriately fitting sports shoes within a week.' This matter would then be resolved.