Public Education, Health and Social Services

 

The Northern Rivers communities deserve frontline services which deliver world-class care in our hospitals as well as nursing homes and world-class education for all, from toddlers at pre-school to adults education.

Unfortunately, successive old-party governments have neglected The Northern Rivers. With TAFE cuts, cuts to specialists in public schools and not a single palliative care bed available between Ballina and Tweed Heads, it’s evident that our region has been sadly neglected. The Greens will invest in the Northern Rivers area - recognising it as one of the fastest growing regions in the state and badly in need of more - and better - public services.

The lack of community services has meant that 90,000 children at risk of serious harm across the state have been ignored by child services. It also means that services such as Ballina’s DAISI (disability advocacy services) have been underfunded. It means that grandparents are taking up the slack of community services.

Our health services need urgent attention, with nurses at Lismore calling for higher staff to patient ratios in a series of rallies. Lismore recently went without a critical care doctor for nearly 18 months, a further example of the region-wide staff shortage affecting the elderly and infirm to an alarming degree. The current low staff to patient ratio not only puts undue stress on patients, nurses and other medical staff, it could also lead to shortcuts which threaten patient's health and, in the worst cases, their lives.

Low police numbers are also putting both public and police safety at risk, with the low numbers being insufficient to ensure public safety across the region. There are reports that first respondent numbers haven’t increased in decades despite the huge growth of residents and visitors in our region.

One of our first priorities will be to initiate a funding review of public service staffing numbers in the Northern Rivers area. We will seek input from stakeholders to ensure we have sustainable, needs-based funding to deliver services that this community needs.

 

Our plan:

  • Funding based on need
  • Health services that work
  • Delivering Help for Those Who Need it
  • Safer communities
  • Real Education for Real People
  • Quality Aged Care
  • Justice for First Peoples

 

Funding based on need

The Greens are committed to ending the farce of politicised funding which sees regional communities subject to the whims of politics, not the needs of people. We will prioritise reform to ensure that regional communities like Northern Rivers get our fair share of funding, regardless of which party is in charge and who the local member is.

The Northern Rivers is in a unique situation in New South Wales due to the high proportion of public service and infrastructure use by tourists and non-locals, versus a low revenue base (based on ABS numbers of residents). A comprehensive review will assess the needs of the Northern Rivers community across infrastructure and public services. We will consult with local communities to ensure that all views are heard and that the public underfunding crisis comes to an end.

Through ending short-termism in public service and infrastructure funding, we can better meet the needs of the region.

 

Our plan will:

  • Stable, consistent funding for infrastructure and public services
  • End short-termism and enable future-focussed planning
  • Fair funding for Northern Rivers

 

Health Services That Work

People of the Northern Rivers deserve fully funded, well-staffed health services that meet their needs and address their expectations. Wherever you and your family are in this region, you deserve high-quality healthcare that helps you live a good life.

We support the appeals of our hard-working doctors, midwives, nurses and other health professionals who have called for safer staffing ratios in our regional hospitals. The Greens will implement a nurse-patient ratio of at least one nurse for every three patients in the maternity wards. We will work to make the Northern Rivers an attractive place for health professionals to work.

Wherever you are in the Northern Rivers, you need to be able to access quality, affordable healthcare. Without an ambulance service in Astonville, people could wait up to 45 minutes for help to arrive. These minutes can be the difference between life and death, in some cases. We will ensure Alstonville has an ambulance station and that Ballina has a health and wellbeing precinct to provide access to services for those in need.

 

Our plan will:

  • Safer nurse to patient ratios
  • An ambulance for Alstonville
  • A health and wellbeing precinct for Ballina

 

Delivering Help for Those in Need

The Greens will continue to stand for the vulnerable in our community - whether they are children who need protection, those living with disabilities, or survivors of sexual assault.

Child protection services badly need reform with nearly 90,000 calls to child protection services in New South Wales that are assessed as ‘high to very high risk’ not being actioned due to inefficiencies and funding constraints in the system. This is not good enough. We will strengthen child protection services and create an environment in our state that is safe for children.

We will deliver more funding for underfunded sectors that deliver critical services, particularly those that provide programs for survivors of sexual abuse and their partners. Organisations like Heartfelt House will receive more than $1.2 million of funding over three years for extra services.

The disability sector has been gutted with funding cuts in the past term 2015 - 2019.  We will arrange bridging funding to assist our disabled community in accessing services. To this effect, we will allocate $50,000 in yearly funding for Disability Advocacy services in the Ballina electorate.

 

Our plan will:

  • Protect vulnerable children by reforming Child Protection Services
  • $1.2 million for Heartfelt House to provide extra services
  • $50,000 in funding for Disability Advocacy Services
  • Genuine protection for Whistleblowers

 

Safer Communities

Everyone deserves to be safe, no matter where they are and what time of day it is. Unfortunately, regional communities like ours have had a raw deal from the government with insufficient numbers and funding for public safety. Whether police or fighters or SES staff, our region needs more to ensure that our communities are protected.

Frontline police numbers in Ballina are insufficient with the NSW Police Association in Ballina calling for more frontline police. While some resources have been made available, it is insufficient in light of the continued growth of our area and the large number of tourists we get. If we want to make sure that our residents and

Councils are being lobbied to increase their firefighter numbers. In light of the increased fire risks brought about by more droughts and an overall warmer climate caused by climate, there is a greater level of need to ensure governments and communities are being supported to ensure adequate permanent fire fighter numbers.

The State Emergency Services and their volunteers do vital work within the community, but they are ‘stretched to capacity during large events.’ I was proud of my work in securing $200,000 in new funding for a new marine tower in Ballina in my first term at Parliament. At a time when climate change makes extreme weather events more likely - they need to be properly resourced to they can deal with the challenges they face. Part of this will be to make sure that our respondents have the infrastructure they need, which is why I’m committing to working on getting a $20 million in funding for a State Emergency Services Base in Ballina.

But Safer communities involves more than just funding; it also requires hearts and minds. We will work with youth services and advocates across the region to deliver projects such as the "Steer Project" to provide breathalysers at festivals 

The Greens are committed to standing with the brave people keeping us safe. We will ensure that they get the resourcing they need so they can continue protecting the community.

 

Our plan will:

  • Ensure more frontline police for the electorate
  • Resource firefighters and first responders to get 24/7 coverage in the region
  • Properly fund State Emergency Services to meet with need
  • Work for a $20 million funding boost to build a base in Ballina
  • Partner with community organizations 

 

Real Education for Real People

Everyone has a right to high-quality public education, irrespective of where they grow up or their family’s wealth. Above all else, education gives people opportunities in life to realise their full potential. We will support education across all levels, from toddlers in preschool care through to adults training retraining for the jobs of tomorrow.

But for too long, our education system has been the plaything of Liberal and Labor governments, who are unwilling to give public education the resources it needs to help learners flourish. We will ensure that public schools are funded to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standards by 2020 - particularly vital in a growing community like ours.

The Liberal Nationals have gutted the TAFE sector statewide, losing $130 million in funding which has led to teachers being forced to bring their own toilet paper. We believe in reversing the cuts to the TAFE sector and ensuring that TAFE and Universities are resourced across the state. Our plan will equip our workforce with the skills of the future and provide educated and thoughtful communities.

Community preschools and daycare centres are essential for ensuring families can continue to work and earn, but we believe more choices in this area can only be a good thing. We will make it easier to start up community preschools and family day care centres by reducing red tape and putting in seed funding for the sector.

The Greens have a plan to fully fund public schools, supports teachers and provide every student with an education that affords them choices and opportunities in life

 

Our plan will:

  • Fully fund all public schools to 100% of the Schooling Resource Standards by 2020.
  • Free TAFE and University and fully fund the TAFE sector.
  • Increase childcare choice through more community preschools and daycare

 

Quality Aged Care

With one of the highest proportion of pensioners in the state, quality aged care services are more critical than ever.  Older people have the right to live with dignity and safety free from abuse and neglect and free from discrimination and harmful stereotyping and common myths associated with the ageing process. We must ensure that we have an aged care sector that not only looks after older Australians with dignity and care but also fully supports the aspirations of older Australians to participate in the community

Older Australians know what care is best and most appropriate for them and we will develop a national strategy to ensure that whether at a rest home or at home or another way of retirement - that they are getting the support that they need and deserve. We will ensure that older Australians who choose nursing homes can live in dignity by backing mandated staff-resident ratios, as called for by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation. Our plans to invest in real education and back free TAFE will also ensure a steady supply of adequately trained workers. Last, but not least, our broader policies including supporting free travel for seniors will help older Australians maintain the freedom to participate and ease the cost of living pressures.

 

Our plan will:

  • Support consumer-directed aged care.
  • Back safer staff-resident ratios
  • Provide Older Australians with quality services

 

Justice for First Peoples

We recognise that the entire basis of our way of life has been built on land appropriated from Aboriginal Australians. We have a moral imperative to ensure that we do our part to provide reconciliation and secure justice for the people whose way of life has been displaced forcibly and without restitution.

The NSW Greens are committed to the development of framework agreements to facilitate treaties and other formal agreements that recognise the inherent rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples in New South Wales. This will not undo the damage, but begin a process to ensure restitution.

But a treaty in isolation is not enough to secure justice. We will also work to undo laws that continue to unjustly criminalise First Peoples such as the Forced Adoption Law that was shamefully rammed through Parliament late last year.

The Northern Rivers has one of the largest aboriginal populations per capita in the state. We recognise the value and contribution they’ve made to our communities, and we will work in partnership with them through investing in community centres and other community projects such as the Githabul rangers.

The Greens recognise that this always was and always will be Aboriginal land and we are committed to walking in partnership with the traditional custodians of the earth.

 

Our plan will:

  • Begin the process of signing a state-based treaty to begin the process of reconciliation
  • Undo punitive policies such as the Forced Adoptions Law
  • Disburse $200,000 in funding to a community centre in Ballina and $200,000 in Byron Bay
  • Fund Githabul rangers and other community projects
  • Implement education and cultural awareness programs 
  • Support internationally acclaimed dolphin dreaming tourism