Kelly Vincent – ABC North & West Interview on State Government funding for Changing Places toilet facilities

Paul Culliver: The South Australian Government will contribute $200,000 to build five facilities called ‘Changing Places’. They’re basically toilets for disabled adults with room for a carer, a table and an electronic hoist. South Australia is the only state or territory in the country that doesn’t yet have these facilities. Leesa Vlahos, what’s the importance of having these facilities in the state?

Leesa Vlahos: Well, the most important thing is that people who are living with a disability and their family want lead full and active lives within our communities. The alternatives are at the moment changing on the floor of a public toilet block or staying in soiled clothing when they go out to a public venue or a shopping centre. The opportunity for us to co-partner with councils and large shopping centres and other public facilities to have five of these around the state will really allow for people to get out and live their lives. And we’re in a changing space with the arrival of the NDIS and this is another important part so people can be included in the community and their families can get out and enjoy their lives.

Paul Culliver: South Australia is a big state. Why only five?

Leesa Vlahos: Well at this point in time this is – we’re having a sounding round where we’re talking to the community about where they’d like to have these sites and we’re asking for people to contact us by Your Say and identify preferred locations for the first five Changing Place facilities and as we introduce these facilities and work with say local councils and the other people who want to partner in this space, we’ll consider the options moving forward. But this is the first important step; it’s $200,000 has been allocated in the State Budget to fund the partnerships to build the first five Changing Places facilities for people living with a disability and for the aged who may be in a wheelchair in our state. So it’s an exciting time; it’ll give people more opportunity to participate in society, have more independence and more dignity.

Paul Culliver: What are the chances that any of them will be built outside of Adelaide?

Leesa Vlahos: Well the most important thing is for people to get involved and join the conversation and encourage people to visit the Government’s Your Say website and provide their thoughts and ideas. There’s a range of ideas, features that are not available in standard accessible toilets like the height adjustable, adult sized change tables and tracking hoist system, non-slip flooring and these things need to be worked up. So we need to have the lived experience of people living with a disability and their families about the sites that they would like to see brought into line. I know Kelly Vincent’s very keen to see one at the new RAH and maybe the Oval and Rundle Mall, but we want to hear what the whole state has to say about this so it would be great for people living in country and regional South Australia to tell us their views by going to the www.yoursay.sa.gov.au website before the 23rd of September so that we know where people would like to have the opportunity to participate more. It’s not just about Adelaide.

Paul Culliver: The Royal Adelaide Hospital, the new one does not have these facilities built in or in their original design?

Leesa Vlahos: There is a small – there’s been a test site toilet at the Central Markets. It doesn’t have 100% of all of these features but we do know we’ve got one at the Central Market that meets some of these standards. But what we need to do is move forward in making sure that this is a universal design feature that all public buildings and high frequent areas, that we start thinking about these issues in a better way.

Paul Culliver: Why is South Australia the last state or territory to get them?

Leesa Vlahos: We’ve been working towards a number of challenges in the disability and meeting demand for services and this is one step forward towards including people and stopping people from being isolated in their homes. So this is an important $200,000 to start us moving in the right direction so that people can be included in the community and live active lives.

Paul Culliver: When you mentioned that there’ll be partnerships in the rollout, what kind of partnerships will be involved?

Leesa Vlahos: Well, we’ll be looking towards planning with local councils and shopping centres and other public places who want to build the facilities together. The facilities actually cost between $100,000 and $143,000 each depending on the design chosen. So they’re expenses pieces of a public utility that we need to design with partners and that’s why we’re doing a stepped up approach of five to start with and we’ll work with the community organisations and local governments to talk about how we continue to fund these moving forward.

Paul Culliver: You are asking for submissions and if you get to the stage where you identify say 50 sites that would be appropriate for this and would be used enough to justify it, at what point would you say ‘let’s just go with it and build all of them’?

Leesa Vlahos: Well that’s a matter that the Cabinet would have to deal with and the Treasurer and I would have to have a conversation. Let’s see what people think the most important thing is living experience, so we need to know what people living with a disability and their families and carers want from these facilities and where they’d like them. That’s the most important thing we need to do now is listen to the people who need these facilities and then we’ll set about a plan forward.

Paul Culliver: Minister Vlahos thanks for your time today.

 

Kelly Vincent, Dignity MLC (ABC NORTH & WEST 16.25-16.31) State Government funding for Changing Places facilities

Paul Culliver: Having a look at this new funding the State Government has put up, $200,000 to build five facilities called Changing Places. Kelly Vincent, are you welcoming this contribution the State Government is making?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely given that I on behalf of the Dignity Party have been lobbying for Changing Places to come to South Australia for many years this is a great step forward. And I’m pleased to hear the Minister say that this is only the beginning because certainly we would love to see these roll out all across the state and not just in Adelaide either.

Paul Culliver: Without these facilities, what kind of indignity are people facing?

Kelly Vincent: At the moment the estimate is that there are about 14,000 South Australians across the state who need this kind of assistance with toileting, so an adult sized change table and a hoist, and without the facilities in the state at the moment their options are very, very limited in terms of where they can go or often they’re forced to change on the floor of a public toilet, which I’m sure I don’t need to explain comes with its own issues in terms of hygiene and dignity and privacy. And often they are, as the Minister mentioned, forced to remain in soiled clothing if there just isn’t a facility available to them to allow them to change with the assistance that they need. So given that we already have 14,000 people across the state that need this help and that number is only going to increase as our population ages which it is doing rapidly, this is a welcome investment but it’s just the beginning.

Paul Culliver: What’s your understanding of the experience of other states and territories that have got these facilities?

Kelly Vincent: Well certainly other state and territories have beat South Australia and done a great job at that. For example Victoria has one at major facilities like the Melbourne Cricket Ground and we think it’s a real loss that they aren’t already in places like the Adelaide Oval and the new RAH and we would love to see them implemented. Given that these are such large investments, large facilities we think it’s a real oversight that they weren’t built into the planning and I think this goes to show how far we’ve got within Government and within the broader community too about thinking about how we build facilities not just for people who have particular access requirements now but those who’ll need them far into the future.

Paul Culliver: It sounds like it’s up for grabs in terms of where these might actually get built. There are obviously people living with disabilities in regional areas. How loud do you think their voices need to be heard to get one of these facilities built in a town near them?

Kelly Vincent: I think very loudly. Given that our regions play such an important role in our society and our economy we really can’t underestimate the contribution that they give and therefore the support that we need to give back to them. And I was in the Riverland just recently and certainly disability access is something that is very much on the mind of those residents, particularly again with an ageing population. And so I would certainly encourage people all across the state to make sure that their voices are heard, but even if it does happen in metropolitan South Australia we will keep lobbying to make sure this is just the beginning because in the scheme of things this is really such a small investment in making our society and our community accessible to everyone as we grow and change.

Paul Culliver: It probably wasn’t actually a particularly long time ago that there was probably a fight in this kind of conversation just for disabled toilets in the first place. How are we going with access just at that basic level?

Kelly Vincent: I think that’s a really interesting point and one example that springs to my mind and it was only the ‘70s or so that female toilets were brought into Parliament House. So these things certainly do happen slowly but once they do happen, I think by and large we all see that they make very good sense and that it is worth the time and the investment. So I’m very much expecting that that will happen here. We know that we do have a long way to go and that’s why I’ve been really happy recently to have some success in changing our state’s planning law to implement universal design which basically takes existing disability standards and flips it on its head. So rather than saying ‘how do we avoid getting sued’ – it’s actually about how we think about who’s going to be using this facility, whether it’s an oval or a community centre or a theatre – who’s going to be using it and how can we prepare the building for that audience whether it’s parents with prams or elderly people or wheelchair users or people with different disabilities? We all benefit when we properly invest in accessibility because when done rightly it really does have universal benefit.

Paul Culliver: What about State Parliament, how does that go in terms of disability access?

Kelly Vincent: It certainly is a lot better than before I got into parliament myself. It actually takes someone getting appointed to the parliament for the conversation to start about how do we make the people’s building accessible to more and more people? So it’s certainly something that should have happened long ago but I’m glad that it has happened and is continuing to happen gradually. Everything from the increasing build of accessible toilets to the fact that there’s now at least one desk in the chamber for a wheelchair user that isn’t up on one of the big steps like the other MPs’ desks. But certainly I hope one day not to be the only MP with mobility needs because our parliament should be diverse and representing the great diversity in our community, so I’d welcome another one of those desks in the chamber. So we have a way to go but certainly things are improving.

Paul Culliver: Kelly Vincent, thank you.