Federal Budget / Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service / Medical cannabis

Kelly Vincent interviewed by Andrew Reimer on 5AA

Andrew Reimer: When it comes to those drive-ins, I wonder how many people are here on this Earth as a direct result of their biological parents going to the drive-in, I wonder [laughs]. Kelly Vincent, how are you?

Kelly Vincent: Until you put that image in my head I was fine thanks Andrew.

Andrew Reimer: you had a nice day, a nice Mother’s Day?

Kelly Vincent: I have not long been back from dinner with my family.

Andrew Reimer: you’ve got lots of things to talk about this evening, haven’t?

Kelly Vincent: I certainly do but before I forget let me wish a very happy birthday to one of your listeners, Rebecca

Andrew Reimer: Okay, now you want to talk about the Federal Budget.

Kelly Vincent: Yes there are a number of things that the Dignity Party are of concern with regard to the Federal Budget particularly the move that the Federal Government has mooted to take away eligibility for the disability support pension for people who have disabilities caused by drug use alone.

Drug use is not something that’s commendable, it’s not something that you want anyone that you love to get into, however we think this is a very narrow-minded move which really doesn’t understand the underlining reasons that many people turn to drugs, which can include underlying mental health issues and trauma. We’re very concerned while of course people need to get supported to move away from drug use, absolutely, my concern is that that’s not going to happen if you’re taking away people’s primary source of income, how are you meant to stay on your feet while you’re seeking treatment for drug dependency?

The other one is of course the extension of the cashless welfare card in the Ceduna area, this is something we’ve stood against for a long time now because it’s very restrictive, we don’t necessarily disagree with it for people who have a proven history of financial mismanagement or who have struggled to manage their finances in some way to roll it out on the basis of a geographical area based on some pretty stereotypical views of the people who live in that area we think are completely wrong, it’s having a very damaging impact, but particularly that stigma for example if you go out for a coffee with a friend or out for a meal with friends you go to put in to pay for it, you have to put it on that cashless welfare card then all your friends are aware that you’re on this cashless welfare card all the stigma that comes about we think a blanket rollout is very concerning.

Andrew Reimer: All right, also you want to update about the situation at Oakden as well?

Kelly Vincent: Yes. Last I spoke to you about the Oakden situation we were saying the Dignity Party was seeking to have the Joint Parliamentary Committee into Elder Abuse, which we were instrumental in setting up, extended so that we could look at issues relating to Oakden. Now the Government have in the last sitting week of Parliament agreed to extend the terms of reference for that committee to look specifically into Oakden and particularly we’re pleased to see that it will include issues around staffing and the hiring procedures that went on there.

This is something that the Dignity Party in particular did raise and I did in the Parliament because there were a lot of cases where, well one case I’m thinking of in particular, where a 99 year old woman with Alzheimer’s was physically abused by a man who was exhibiting some pretty obvious signs of mental illness at the time. It’s almost a double tragedy in a way Andrew, in that this obviously very vulnerable 99 year old woman with severe illness was depending on this worker who by the sounds of it wasn’t fit to be in that workplace in the first place. So we’re very pleased that the Government has come to common sense on this and extended the terms of reference of the committee.

We’re looking forward to looking into those issues very deeply around what happened at Oakden so that we don’t repeat the very tragic things that have happened there, but also that we keep abroad in terms of looking at preventing all forms of elder abuse no matter where they occur.

Andrew Reimer: now also medicinal cannabis.

Kelly Vincent: Yes, a couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune of meeting Ben Oakley who’s a young man from interstate and he became quite well known as a medical cannabis advocate when he started using it to treat his Stiff Person Syndrome, which is a syndrome that causes him to have seizures or very like seizures for a very, very long periods of time.

It has some very severe impacts on his life and he now uses a wheelchair where before he was not having to do that, he has had a lot of relief from that syndrome from using medical cannabis, again just another test that shows that I think we’re really behind the times on this and we need to catch up with this research, catch up with the anecdotes, that are showing us that this is a necessary medical resource for many, many people out there in the community.

While we now have at the federal level technically it’s legal to use medical cannabis because it is up to the States to prescribe who can use it, what forms of medical cannabis can be used, we still have some catch up to play. To the best of my knowledge only one doctor in the state so far has been officially given the authority to prescribe cannabis as a medical treatment.

So it’s all very well and good to have it allowable legally but if there aren’t the people out there who are aware of how to prescribe it and able to prescribe it then we’re not really practising what we preach in the law. So we’ve got a long way to go and Dignity Party and myself in the Parliament will continue to make sure we get there so that people who really rely on it, not only for quality of life but often even for their lives to continue in some severe cases, can have access to that very important medicine.

Andrew Reimer: I’ve heard some very good things about medicinal cannabis, but there are doctors out there who are saying it’s not the magic bullet that many people would like it to be.

Kelly Vincent: Oh look. It’s dangerous to think that any treatment is going to work for every single person, every single condition but that’s why it’s so important that we have people out there prescribing who deeply understand the different types of cannabis that can treat people, the different compounds and so on and the way that they can interact differently with different people with needs and different conditions, there will always be people and certain conditions for whom it’s unfortunately not an option, but I mean there are plenty of medicines now that don’t work properly, we still prescribe them, so I think this does need to be just another option on the table.

Andrew Reimer: Have you heard how Jenny Hallam’s going, the medicinal cannabis oil producer who has just been before the courts just recently?

Kelly Vincent: Look I did have the chance to catch up with Jenny at that meeting where I met Ben, we were having a bit of get together just to show support for her and make sure that she’s doing okay. Under the circumstances she’s doing incredibly well. She’s a very courageous and strong woman, she is aware, just as I am, that unfortunately what she has done is still not under the scope of the law but again that’s exactly what we’re trying to change so that people can get access to this safe and easily accessible medicine.

Andrew Reimer: Always great to talk to you Kelly Vincent from the Dignity Party.

Kelly Vincent: Thanks Andrew

Andrew Reimer: you have a great week and catch up soon.

Kelly Vincent: Same to you, thanks.

Andrew Reimer: See you Kelly, thanks, bye.