‘Back fairness this election’, Wimmera organisations tell pollies.

People in rural and remote parts of the Wimmera are being denied the services they need and dramatic change is needed, local social service bodies have warned.

In a united call to all parties ahead of the state election, leaders from multiple agencies have urged candidates to address inequities and support organisations that are working to combat discrimination and disadvantage.

The organisations include Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership, Women’s Health Grampians, Grampians Disability Advocacy, Grampians Community Health and the Warracknabeal-based disability organisation Woodbine.

Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership‘s Emily Anderson said the region’s health workforce is suffering.

“There are gaps in specialist expertise, inadequate resources and training opportunities and considerable staff turnover,” she said.

“This has lead to worrying levels of uncertainty and instability across the sector and compromised patient outcomes, particularly in rural areas”

Marianne Hendron, CEO of Women’s Health Grampians, warned of growing disparities in pay and leadership, and the over representation of women in unpaid or poorly paid roles.

“This is compounded by reduced access to important services, including family violence support and sexual and reproductive health services,” she said.

“Strategies to address inequities in these and other areas need to be sustained, meaningful and well targeted.”

Grampians Disability Advocacy‘s Deb Verdon also backed the call, saying Wimmera people with a disability face significant barriers to full community participation.

“At every turn a person with a disability is asked to provide medical evidence about their situation, be it by Centrelink or the NDIS,” Ms Verdon said.

“Reports from GPs are no longer good enough. Support agencies demands a report from a specialist, but where are the specialists to be found?”

Greg Little, CEO of Grampians Community Health, says policymakers and political leaders need to realise that “rural and remote” is not the same as “regional”.

“People in small rural communities have the same right to access services as those in metropolitan or regional communities,” he said.

“The tyranny of distance, poor digital connectivity and a lack of public transport require government to ensure local services can extend into these areas.”

“This can be achieved by adequate funding that measures the outcomes for rural people not just how many people come through the door.”

Woodbine CEO Bernie O’Connor nominated a chronic lack of suitable accommodation for people with disabilities as a major concern for the region.

“Woodbine receives ongoing enquiries from increasingly desperate guardians who are seeking suitable accommodation for vulnerable people and those with particular support needs.

“The uncertain status of accommodation for people with a disability has been reflected in the absence of investors and new designs. Where once the support funding was the significant hurdle, under NDIS it seems that it is now the absence of appropriate infrastructure.”

The joint call is part of the organisations’ membership of the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), the peak body for the state’s social and community sector.

VCOSS CEO Emma King said policymakers and political candidates must listen closely to the voices of regional communities.

“People in local communities are best placed to identify local challenges and develop local solutions,” she said.

For further information on this story or comment, please contact:

VCOSS media enquiries: Ryan Sheales

ryan.sheales@vcoss.org.au

0418 127 153

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