Make the Murray Mallee Mighty – Dignity for Disability Launches Regional SA Policy

A lack of essential services in the Murray Mallee is a major focus of Dignity for Disability’s regional policies, which were released today.

Stretching up from the River Murray and incorporating the Riverland, the Murray Mallee is some of South Australia’s most productive farming land. But, Dignity for Disability Party Leader Kelly Vincent MLC says the contribution of the Murray Mallee community to South Australia is poorly rewarded with patchy provision of services.

“It is not good enough for us to look at South Australia and use the spread-out nature of the population as an excuse to treat some people as less important than others,” said Ms Vincent. “There is a particular lack of services in the Murray Mallee region for people with mental health issues and children with disabilities.”

Specialist education facilities for children with disabilities are clustered around Murray Bridge and Berri, leaving children in smaller townships such as Pinnaroo stranded.

“It is a one-and-a-half hour drive from Pinnaroo to reach a school with specialist provisions for supporting a child with disabilities,” said Ms Vincent. “Three hours of travel each day is just not feasible for any child or their family. This means children with disabilities in the Murray Mallee’s smaller townships are usually educated in a mainstream environment, often by a teacher with no specialist training who is already working with kids across a range of year levels and abilities. This is unfair for the children and the teacher, and often results in the child with disabilities falling behind and not fulfilling their potential.”

The provision of mental health and disability services is similarly confined to the major centres around Berri and Murray Bridge.

“Effectively, access to essential services in SA is a postcode lottery – and if you live in the Murray Mallee you’ve lost,” said Ms Vincent. “Dignity for Disability is calling for a new way of looking at regional service provision, with significant investment to be made in putting health, education and disability services no further than 45 minutes drive away from every South Australian.”

The rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will provide support to the SA Government in achieving this goal, said Ms Vincent, but shouldn’t be seen as a magic bullet.

“The NDIS is an opportunity for South Australia to get regional service provision right, and to give every South Australian with a disability equal access to support,” said Ms Vincent. “However, the rollout will take five years – and that will be five years too long for some. We need to act now to secure a better future for South Australians living in regional areas.”