Bushfires and Respite Care for Queanbeyan

Bushfires and Respite Care for Queanbeyan Main Image

By Kristy McBain

14 February 2022

I rise today with a smile on my face, not because it's Valentine's Day, but because the Black Summer Bushfire Recovery Grants Program has finally been announced, and there are some hugely worthwhile projects in Eden-Monaro that are being funded. It has been a long and difficult road to get to this point for so many of my communities, and I am glad that the government has listened to the calls to do more. I cannot count how many times I've stood up in the parliament and begged the government to do more since I was elected in 2020. I have asked politely, I have pleaded at times, I have even gotten mad, because it seemed like the government didn't listen or didn't care.

I speak to people almost every day who are still going through trauma and have got a long way to go before they get back in a home. People in regional communities like mine are strong and stoic, and usually they don't want or need government assistance, but these past two years have been incredibly hard and, two years on, this funding is needed just as much now as it was immediately after the fires. The funding is so very, very welcome, but I do question that we are now two years on, and the timing of the announcement is a little bit unusual. It's starting to feel like a bit of a coincidence that we are on the eve of an election. But the funding has been announced, even if overdue. Community groups and not-for-profit organisations have worked incredibly hard to meet the grant applications deadline. They were promised they would hear back in December last year, but bushfire recovery has turned into an election sweetener. But I'm stoked because I can now get in contact with community groups and congratulate them on receiving these grant funds, and I can't wait to catch up with them to see how their projects are progressing.

I have been fighting for years to get this funding over the line, and now I can turn my mind past the announcement and to the delivery, because we need to see the money delivered to these projects quickly and seamlessly. I have already spoken to some community groups, and the relief and happiness from individuals and groups is truly heartwarming. I want to make sure they are not forced to jump through any more hoops. The announcement has been made, funding has been promised and our communities are celebrating, so it is time to get a move on and make sure this money flows.

While many people across Eden-Monaro are no doubt feeling optimistic and hopeful thanks to this announcement, my heart still goes out to those struggling, to those members of my community who have been living in caravans or temporary accommodation for two years. I have no doubt they will be glad this money is coming to our community, but I also know that the funding won't help them directly. There are still so many people that need assistance, and some may be too proud to ask for help. Please know you are not forgotten, and we will continue to fight to make sure that you get the assistance and support that you need as we head into our recovery.

For many years now, members of the Queanbeyan community have been working really hard, raising money and building awareness about the need for a purpose-built respite care facility in Queanbeyan—somewhere that will support carers and provide short-term residential care for people aged between 18 and 59 suffering from a terminal or chronic illness. Respite Care for QBN is a project that was inspired by the tragic experience of Yvonne and Joe Cuschieri's son, Steven, who died at 53 while in an aged-care home, receiving respite care. At the time, it was the only option for Steven, who was being cared for by his parents after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Since then, the fight for a respite centre has been powered by a desire for no other family to have the same experience. One of the recommendations from the royal commission into aged care was to get younger people out of aged care. This facility is not only much needed and wanted by the Queanbeyan community but was highlighted as an issue by that royal commission.

Plans for the respite centre are continuing to progress, and the next piece of the puzzle is to secure ongoing funding. I remain committed to working with all levels of government to find a suitable ongoing funding arrangement, but in the meantime I'm looking forward to attending the Respite Care for QBN 1920s ball and men's calendar launch this Saturday evening. Organisers have done an incredible job of pulling this event together and, after three COVID related cancellations, I am sure they are feeling relieved that this day is coming. It promises to be a fun-filled community event, raising money for an incredibly important local cause. I can't think of a better way to spend Saturday evening, and I look forward to seeing you all there.