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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 1 Hansard (29 April) . . Page.. 118 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

In passing, I should note the change from the draft of the report, where that was expressed rather differently. That comment was earlier expressed as "mismanagement of this project by the Government". Somewhere that review was sanitised. The Government would not want to take the responsibility. It passed the buck. I have no doubt that it took the kudos for the opening at Macquarie; but it does not want to take the criticism for the delay in opening Fisher.

Having said that, I have some sympathy for the Government, or for the department, in being so severely criticised, and I will tell you why. The key elements of the criticism relate, I think, to the philosophy of the project. I will take some of the words that Kendrick used and abbreviate them very considerably. For example, the best option for accommodating each disabled person was not adopted, going back as far as 1994 - when there was a different government, let me tell you. Another example is that the building, which is a mini-institution, dictates the program design. It becomes a permanent arrangement for residents. It is a building. Also it is not necessarily the best arrangement for each person. The need for each person is for supported living, independence and a location as close as possible to their family and their interests.

Having read some of those comments, I read on, rather expecting a recommendation by the review to demolish the Fisher buildings and to start again. That, of course, is not feasible, and it was not the intention. But the comments are pertinent, because the main thrust of those comments relates to the request by those people who are likely to move in that they not be institutionalised. That seems to be a main argument that they have - that they are moving from one institution into another. It is certainly, in their mind, a better one; but the philosophy should not be to further institutionalise these people. There appears to me to be a dispute, which has been running for a considerable period, between the department and the residents about how the Fisher houses were to be run, how they were to operate, and the fear of those residents that it would be just another institution, albeit a mini-institution. It is probably that lack of resolution, the inability to resolve those issues, that has caused this very long delay.

There was a further argument - a key element of the criticisms - beyond the one I have just mentioned, and that was about the manner of allocating resources for supporting residents. The review argued that the needs of the persons come first, not the institutional model that was proposed. Indeed, what was proposed, it was argued, may not deliver what is needed. In the end, of course, Kendrick recommended that the Fisher and Macquarie houses continue. He did not really debate whether they should or should not; but he recommended that they be just one option for the care of disabled people of the nature we are considering.

After putting aside his philosophical reservations about the project, Kendrick proposed sensible recommendations to improve the outcomes for the disabled and for those people moving into the homes. I note that the Government, or the department - there seems to be a mix here - has, in the main, accepted those recommendations. Now that they have been accepted, they ought to be implemented rapidly, and we should have a quick resolution of the problem. So, I expect that today we will all be in agreement.

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