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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7917

Ms LEY (12:41 PM) —I would like to bring the House’s attention to a situation in Broken Hill, in the west of my electorate. The Broken Hill Multicultural Women’s Resource and Information Centre have recently been denied funding by the Department of Health and Ageing, under the Community Partners Program. They have received this funding for the last two years and now they will be forced to close. How much funding? Just $70,000. That is really a drop in the ocean and we are so disappointed. It is beyond comprehension that the government could not see their way to provide this small amount of money for an organisation which, in turn, assists residential aged-care homes and provides community-care resources for migrants as they age. Broken Hill is a town that was built on migration. At least 12 per cent of the population are older migrants. Their children have left and they are, in many cases, without support and without resources. This program has previously been delivered in Broken Hill. It has been a huge success in assisting service providers with culturally specific training on the difficulties that face migrants as they age.

The Community Partners Program funding was advertised as giving regional areas priority. I saw it myself on the website but the outcome, as we often see, is completely different. The only regional area, apart from Sydney and the Illawarra, receiving a grant is Lismore. No areas west of the Great Divide are to receive funding. Lismore, Sydney and the Illawarra were lucky enough to get funding under the Community Partners Program. They all deserve the money they got. I do not suggest for one moment that funding should be withdrawn from the coast, but why advertise a program as looking after regional areas and then not provide the money?

The centre has been running for 22 years. It has assisted migrants, particularly women with issues facing them due to relocation in a new country and the isolation they experience in an outback city. The inability to access this funding will probably mean the centre will have to close. It is an untenable situation. It will mean the closest migrant services will be in Adelaide and Dubbo—that is, 756 kilometres to Dubbo and 512 kilometres to Adelaide. As I said, Broken Hill was built on migration and these people are ageing. It is more important than ever that we assist them. I ask the Minister for Health and Ageing to review this decision and to give consideration to the circumstances of this outback mining city. It has become apparent to me that, too often, there is a lack of comprehension by this government of the issues faced by rural and regional Australia. The distances are getting no less but, time and time again, I hear of a decision made by a bureaucrat based in Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney, which is then approved by their city based minister. They seem to think it is okay; well, I don’t.

I spoke this morning to Eleanor Blows, who is the coordinator of the Broken Hill Multicultural Women’s Resource and Information Centre. She painted a picture of what that centre does. What hurt her the most was that the response it got from the department was, ‘You’re really just a social group.’ How absolutely incorrect. The department knows what this centre does because it has been funding it for two years. The department is providing only $70,000 but it has been funding them. They are not just a social group. They have monthly meetings and they link in this frail older group of migrants with important people in the community. For example, the local doctor will come and talk to them in a non-threatening session and, likewise, the local pharmacist. Yes, there are social aspects to this group but that follows on from the real work of integrating migrants into residential aged care and helping the local health service and local doctors provide them with what they need.

I have often seen migrant ladies sitting in a corner of a residential health facility, unable to communicate and possibly suffering from dementia. To have that resource there perhaps to provide these ladies with music in their own language or the nursing staff with a book of words that they can use to help them understand these people is, I think, important. There are Italians, Germans, Filipinos, Afghans, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Lebanese and Russians in Broken Hill and they all deserve this support as they age.

Residential aged-care facilities are good but they need additional support when migrants are moved into them. The local area health service is struggling desperately with funding—anyone who is acquainted with New South Wales knows that—and so this resource becomes more important than ever.