New committee to tackle issues for disabled

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

DISABLED residents within the shire now have a direct line to council following the formation of a committee to tackle issues surrounding disability.

Meeting for the first time last month, the committee consisting council staff, mental health advocates, disability workers and persons suffering from a disability, will aim to promote specific issues surrounding the disabled community.

The group will meet quarterly and is chaired by Tenterfield shire councillor Donald Forbes.

Donald Forbes

Mr Forbes said it was an important step made by council to instigate the committee creation.

“I was very impressed by our first meeting and the diversity in the group,” he said.

While the role of the committee is limited, he said they would still be able to apply for grant funding and push issues considered pertinent to disabled persons.

One of the group’s first motions was to push for a main street audit to highlight any issues with the development to date or moving forward.

“It will allow us to identify where there may be shortcomings and see whether access for people with disabilities is an issue,” Mr Forbes said.

Committee members Benjamin Roberts, Michael Harris and Tonya Curry will join council staffer Jessica Gibbins and Director of Engineering Services Stephen Bell in undertaking the audit process.

A key issue that is often tossed into the ‘too hard’ basket is mental health and committee member Diana Giles said it was important council worked with the community in highlighting the subject.

Ms Giles runs Tenterfield Mental Health Social Support Group, tackling the issue locally since her group’s inception two years ago.

“I thought the committee could assist in some way and work together on this issue.

“There’s going to be more and more of it (mental health issues),” she said.

Ms Giles said in her experience mental health can lead to disability and vice versa and it was important to have a group at the fore that won’t shy away from the sensitive topic.

Her ‘goal’ is to educate people on issues surrounding schizophrenia, autism, bipolar and other similar health concerns.

Mr Forbes stressed that he needed to manage expectations and the group was purely an advisory one.

He was hopeful though that they’ll be able to make a tangible difference in town and eventually branch out to issues effecting shire villages.

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