Territory Stories

Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)



Parliamentary record : Part I debates (11 November 1986)


Debates for 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 4th Assembly 1983 - 1987




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Tuesday 11 November 1986 Mr Speaker, imagine the situation for families with severely physically handicapped children who are also intellectually impaired. The lack of respite facilities means that their care is virtually a life sentence for the family. The cost of respite is approximately half that of residential care. The nationally-accepted annual per capita cost for residential care is about $35 000 per annum. Respite is a key element in the prevention of long-term residential care. It allows the families to cope longer. We must recognise this fact and help these people care for their own for as long as they are able. Without respite at adequate levels, the problems will be exacerbated for both the handicapped people and their families. The Harry Giese Centre can only provide respite accommodation for up to 12 persons yet the old Darwin Hospital has remained empty and vandalised for 4 years. It is now being turned into another glamour project. The Harry Giese facility caters for children only. What, then, is available for adults? The answer is absolutely nothing. That demonstrates a total lack of planning. In the Northern Territory, we have groups of people who are in no-man's land. Young adults who, as time goes by, will become mature-aged people, have no place to go for respite or residential care. The situation is worse outside Darwin. We have not yet had the foresight to plan for the needs that will develop eventually in Palmerston, Tindal and isolated communities. If the statistic of 1 in 1000 persons needing care is accurate for the Territory, and that is a nationally-accepted statistic of persons who need care though it could be higher in the Northern Territory, then Palmerston alone will require facilities for 90 people if the rural area is included in that general Palmerston precinct. We have 4 or 5 kids there now who need residential accommodation urgently. Where shall we place 90 more? We cannot keep pace with current needs, let alone increased or changing needs. Mr Speaker, I can assure you that if we just ignore this it will not go away. Where to begin is with the families. The right to family integrity is something that we take for granted. However, it must be considered that that involves not just stress for parents but also the siblings. Violent or behaviourally-disturbed young adults are a danger, not only to themselves but to other members of their families. Caring for 1 such child would be enough, but protecting other children and living in constant fear of tragedy places unimaginable stress on a family. It is not occasional; it is constant. As the child becomes older, the situation worsens for the family. Occasional care so that a parent can go shopping is not respite. We have no extended families. Our population is young and, therefore, grandparents and other relatives cannot give a parent a break within the comfort of the family network, with the trust and care that they can give. After a recent visit to the Territory, the Office of the Disabled reported that our parents are an extremely desperate group. This was believed to be due to dissatisfaction with the level of service available. And what about the single parent families, Mr Speaker? About 25% of families with handicapped children are single parents. It does not take much imagination to comprehend the stress that those people must go through. The extra cost associated with raising a handicapped child must place single parents in personal hell. At best, for 2 parents to manage a budget on a single income must be extremely difficult, given the hidden costs involved with this care. Here we have the poverty trap at its very worst, and the pressure just to survive, both emotionally and financially, pushes people inevitably and inexorably over the brink. 791