Labor makes $1 million pledge for Queanbeyan respite trial

Labor candidate Kristy McBain has promised a federal Labor government would fund a trial year of operation for a respite centre for young people in Queanbeyan.

A group of locals have been pushing for a respite centre for young people with terminal or chronic illness for years, and have so far gained promises from the federal and NSW governments for capital funding and land from the Queanbeyan-Palerang Council.

But without a commitment of ongoing funding, the project won’t move forward.

In the final days of the campaign Ms McBain has made the promise to the founders of the push for $1 million of trial funding.

Paul Walshe, one of the board members of Respite Care for QBN, said that would be enough to open the doors for six beds for a year, possibly with the need to fundraise some additional costs.

Yvonne Cuschieri has been campaigning for a respite centre for Queanbeyan ever since her son Steven died while he was in an aged care facility after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

Mrs Cuschieri believes that while her son had a terminal diagnosis, he could have lived longer and had a better experience if the right care had been available to him.

“I had to let him go to the nursing home because we were exhausted,” she told The Canberra Times this week.

“We used to go every day, twice a day, because we didn’t like where he was. We didn’t think it was suitable but we didn’t have that help.”

Mrs Cuschieri says she has seen the difference the right care can make at the end of someone’s life, with her daughter able to be cared for at Clare Holland House before she died.

This latest announcement was good news, but Mrs Cuschieri is still cautious after years of promises.

“You don’t know which way to go, whether to celebrate, but at the same time you’re excited in your stomach at the prospect of all this happening.”

Both Labor candidate Kristy McBain and Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs have met with Paul Walshe in recent weeks to hear about the project, and both have committed to campaign for the project with both state and federal government and to break down bureaucratic barriers.

Ms McBain said she had committed the funding because the project had potential to be rolled out in other areas.

“Care is more than just a building,. Care means experienced staff, dedicated training and operational support,” she said.

“This funding will give the centre its best chance to demonstrate how its model will work to help younger patients and their families.”

The group has been pushing for a respite centre for people with terminal and chronic illnesses who often fall through the cracks of the NDIS, and have nowhere else to go other than aged care for respite.

Architectural designs have also recently been completed, showing how the facility can have six rooms with the potential to expand to nine.

The group estimates there are more than 4500 unpaid carers in the Queanbeyan-Palerang region.

Published in The Canberra Times on 2 July 2020