Cuts put RAW work at risk

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - NEWS - ROGER HAN­SON and SHAUN McMANUS

A TAS­MA­NIAN well­be­ing and sui­cide-pre­ven­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion work­ing in the Der­went Val­ley risks los­ing out­reach work­ers be­cause of a cut in fed­eral fund­ing.

Rural Alive and Well chief ex­ec­u­tive Liz Lit­tle said be­cause of fed­eral and state fund­ing de­ci­sions, RAW had cut 1.4 staff from its statewide sui­cide-pre­ven­tion out­reach pro­gram since July.

She said it faced mak­ing big­ger cuts to ser­vices next year with the fore­shad­owed with­drawal of Com­mon­wealth funds.

“It’s a ma­jor fund­ing prob­lem. We are look­ing at los­ing more staff be­cause of it and at a time when out­reach is gravely needed,” Ms Lit­tle said.

“We are head­ing to Can­berra on Oc­to­ber 25 to try to sal­vage our fund­ing.”

RAW re­ceives $742,000 from the State Gov­ern­ment to fund out­reach ser­vices, an­other 30 per cent of its fund­ing comes from Pri­mary Health Tas­ma­nia, while pri­vate do­na­tions of $409,000 fund its pro­gram for healthy and re­silient com­mu­ni­ties.

In 2015, RAW had 12 out­reach work­ers to cover the state. It now has fewer than nine.

“This time next year we could be down to less than six and it could be the re­gions of the Tas­man Penin­sula, Huon Val­ley and Der­went Val­ley hit the hard­est,” Ms Lit­tle said

Lyons La­bor MP Brian Mitchell said the Der­went Val­ley could not af­ford to lose an out­reach worker.

“It is in­tol­er­a­ble that an iden­ti­fied high-risk area like the Der­went Val­ley could lose this vi­tal sui­cide-pre­ven­tion ser­vice be­cause of fed­eral fund­ing cuts,” Mr Mitchell said.

Greens Lyons can­di­date Fraser Brind­ley said the is­sue was “a mat­ter of life and death for rural Tas­ma­ni­ans”.

“RAW’s ser­vices are crit­i­cal in more iso­lated places like the Der­went Val­ley and the Tas­man Penin­sula where peo­ple aren’t al­ways able to get to ser­vices in town when they need them,” Mr Brind­ley said.

Tas­ma­nian Lib­eral Sen­a­tor Jonathon Du­niam said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment had guar­an­teed long-term fund­ing for men­tal health ser­vices in Tas­ma­nia.

“Pri­mary Health Tas­ma­nia has ex­tended the fund­ing of RAW to 30 June 2018, to al­low for Pri­mary Health Tas­ma­nia to un­der­take a com­pre­hen­sive needs as­sess­ment and stake­holder con­sul­ta­tion ahead of a ten­der process for sui­cide pre­ven­tion ser­vices to oc­cur in 2018,” Sen­a­tor Du­niam said.

RAW’s pro­gram is avail­able 24 hours a day, seven days a week via a phone hot­line and a cri­sis call-out ser­vice.

RAW’s helpline op­er­ates 24 hours a day, ev­ery day of the week on 1300 4357 6283.

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