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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1799

Mr MARTIN(10.37) —Tonight I wish to raise the issue of the rights of pensioner residents in institutions established for the care of elderly and intellectually handicapped people. My attention has recently been drawn again to the operation of a halfway house cum boarding house for intellectually handicapped adults in Bargo within my electorate. I wish briefly to describe the circumstances of this establishment. Some years ago, a woman by the name of Shane Pisani started such an establishment in Bowral. After a period in which she had not received a licence or a permit, she eventually closed that establishment down and moved to Bargo. She bought out an old motel and moved into that motel 27 intellectually handicapped adults. Those 27 people, comprising 25 women and two men, occupy these motel units.

The day that I attended to have a look at the place for myself, after having first contacted the owner to ask whether it would be all right if I were to do so, I was shocked to find that the units were all locked and the 27 residents of that establishment were walking around outside or sitting on the steps of the establishment. The weather in that part of the electorate has been appalling over the past two weeks. It was raining on the day I was there, yet these people were locked out of their rooms.

Since my visit I have had the opportunity to discuss further the whole operation of this halfway house with both the Department of Social Security and the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services. I am advised that the establishment, firstly, does not have a licence; secondly, does not even have a permit; and thirdly, has been under investigation for a period of over 12 months. No decision has been made at this point; however I notice that the Minister for Youth and Community Services in New South Wales, Mr Frank Walker, has finally made a decision that certain criteria have to be met within a 30-day period by the operator of this establishment or it will be closed down.

I also understand that in the last couple of days the operator of the establishment has put on her staff someone who has a nursing certificate and, I understand, has some experience in looking after intellectually handicapped people. That is a start, because when I was there the operator of this establishment told me she had five members on the staff, all of whom were only domestics or handy people. They had no experience in dealing with handicapped adults. They certainly had no experience in the nursing sense and if there were any problems they would not know what to do.

My great concern about this whole issue is one that I have raised previously; it is the concern I have for the rights of people that go into similar establishments. I am speaking of circumstances where people who, because of their age-there were some fairly elderly people amongst the residents whom I interviewed-and probably because of the economic circumstances of their families, do not have the opportunity to go into better quality or more expensive institutions.

I firmly believe in the findings of the Richmond report brought down in New South Wales that said that where possible these sorts of people should be integrated back into the community. I believe that that is a fair and reasonable thing. However, if they are to be integrated back into the community appropriate measures should be taken to ensure that their rights are protected and, indeed, that they are getting value for their pensioner dollar. In the case of these people at Bargo, I understand they receive about $216 per fortnight on full invalid pensions. That entire amount of money is taken by the operators of that establishment and used for the upkeep of those people. As I said, in my investigations and my personal inspection of the property I did not see any forms of therapy activity being undertaken. Therefore, the $216 multiplied by 27 gives a sizable amount of money to the operators of this establishment to use during a fortnightly period. I expected to see some further evidence of how that money was spent.

My great concern is that there is a greater need for liaison and policing of these establishments between the Department of Social Security and the Department of Youth and Community Services in New South Wales. Concern has been expressed by the regional office of the Department of Social Security about the running of this place. As I have indicated, the Department of Youth and Community Services is also greatly concerned about it. I anxiously await the outcome of the 30-day report on this establishment that the Minister will receive. I intend to raise this issue with the Caucus welfare committee and I have also taken the opportunity to raise it with the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe) and the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes). I hope that with the passage of time we will see the improvement of establishments such as this.

Madam ACTING SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.