Needy at risk as ser­vices stretched

Midwest Times - - NEWS - Adam Poulsen

Some peo­ple im­pacted by ma­jor so­cial is­sues in Ger­ald­ton and the Mid West are be­ing left to fend for them­selves be­cause of a lack of ser­vice ca­pac­ity, ac­cord­ing to Mis­sion Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive James Toomey.

Mr Toomey re­cently vis­ited Ger­ald­ton, Mullewa and Meekatharra to meet staff work­ing with peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing men­tal ill­ness, home­less­ness, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and sub­stance abuse.

“Peo­ple are very much ex­pected to al­most solve their own prob­lems be­cause usu­ally the ca­pac­ity is very lim­ited in some of these small towns,” he said.

“The ser­vices the­o­ret­i­cally ex­ist, but from a prac­ti­cal point of view they’re not ac­ces­si­ble, ei­ther be­cause they’re at ca­pac­ity or they’re too far away and there­fore peo­ple can’t get to them.”

Mr Toomey vis­ited a va­ri­ety of Ger­ald­ton-based ser­vices pro­vided by the Chris­tian char­ity, as well as the Fam­ily and Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Ser­vice in Meekatharra, and the Grand­par­ents Rais­ing Grand­chil­dren pro­gram in Mullewa.

“I think Ger­ald­ton un­for­tu­nately has some of the prob­lems that other bits of Aus­tralia have in terms of is­sues around drug use that are as­so­ci­ated with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” he said.

“Meekatharra has ex­actly the same chal­lenges around do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, al­co­hol use, and so­cial prob­lems in town . . . that you see in other ar­eas.

“But it just seems to be so much more con­cen­trated and dif­fi­cult be­cause you’ve got a small com­mu­nity liv­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere.

“It’s a very thin ser­vice ca­pac­ity, not just for our or­gan­i­sa­tion, but for oth­ers as well, and it’s quite easy for the de­mand to out­strip sup­ply.”

Mr Toomey said the move to­wards digi­ti­sa­tion of ser­vices was also pre­sent­ing chal­lenges in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.

“In some of these ar­eas, in­ter­net is essen­tially not re­ally a re­li­able ser­vice. So ex­pect­ing peo­ple to be able to in­ter­act with ser­vices us­ing dig­i­tal plat­forms isn’t the an­swer,” he said.

Peo­ple are very much ex­pected to al­most solve their own prob­lems. James Toomey

Pic­ture: Mis­sion Aus­tralia

Mis­sion Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive James Toomey with staff and clients in Meekatharra dur­ing a visit late last month.

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