In the Media

Dignity Party Candidate for Chaffey Richard Challis discusses candidacy and My Aged Care waiting lists with Riverland 5RM

Bevan Jones: We’re joined now by Richard Challis, Richard is from the Dignity Party, and is the candidate for Chaffey as part of the 2018 state election which will be happening next month. It’s a very good morning to you Richard, and tell us about the Dignity Party for people who don’t know out there.

Richard Challis: Good morning Bevan. Well the history of the Dignity Party starts at the beginning of this century, it started off as Dignity for the Disabled and in 2010, Dr Paul Collier ran, and he was number one on the ticket for the upper house and 10 days before the election, unfortunately he  died suddenly, and a lot of votes came in, in the election and number 2 on that ticket was Kelly Vincent and she was elected. When Kelly Vincent took her seat she was the youngest person ever to take a seat in any Australian Parliament, and the only person ever to be elected on a disability rights platform, and over the last 8 years Kelly has worked very hard, and brought in a lot of initiatives by negotiating with government, as a single seat in the upper house you don’t pass legislation yourself, but you negotiate with government and get appropriate amendments to bills, you remind people of situations that might arise, the unintended consequences of legislation which she can point out because of her perspective on things. My involvement with this, started last year, I had been following Kelly’s work because I have had disability in my life, not my disability but family members disability and Kelly was coming up to the Riverland on one of her many visits to the regions and I thought I must meet her and she was talking about how critical this election is and also how unpredictable it will be, and I said I will do anything I can to help. I’d be fibbing if I said it had occurred to me to be the candidate for Chaffey but it was still pleasant surprise when they said would you like to apply, and I went through a rigorous selection and here I am as a candidate, and the Dignity Party stands for disability rights but it’s more than that, when we’re talking about people with disabilities, it’s not a sort of separate us and them sort of thing, it’s all of us, at various times in our lives we will all very likely either be dependent on other people for assistance or be that person rendering assistance, in fact we’re quite used to the idea as a one year old we’re completely dependent on other people to look after us, (Bevan laughs), Yes you don’t think of it that way but we all start off like that, and we quite often end up that way too.

Bevan Jones: Yeah thats right, it’s just the stroke of life isn’t it, what’s your background Richard prior to being a candidate for Chaffey in terms of Dignity Party, where did you come from before that?

Richard Challis: Well, it really couldn’t be more different, I’m what you’d sort of call a technological person, I’ve worked as an air traffic controller for 25 years, worked in airline management for 2 and a half years and I worked for 5 years in the railways as manager of the National Train Control Centre in Adelaide, so not politics at all but I’ve taken an interest in politics over time, but the Dignity Party is special, the Dignity Party is about something that is close to more people than you would think, so if you start checking around with your friends and talk about disability, and aged care, aged care is a big issue particularly in an area like the electorate of Chaffey, our demographic is definitely on the older side, you’re one of the young people here, I think the median age is about 50 in Chaffey.

Bevan Jones: Well that makes me feel better I guess. That’s great, well in terms of your own family situation, now I’ve read that you’ve got 4 adult children from your previous wife, having 4 kids that would’ve been a tough one for you how do you go getting to see all them.

Richard Challis: Well, they all live down in Adelaide and of course thats something that nearly everyone in Renmark has to deal with trips to Adelaide on a regular basis, 250 km from the capital city, the Riverland is a great place, there is beautiful towns here, we’ve got a beautiful river but we are cut off from the capital city and from a political point of view that is significant, and it’s one of the reasons why for the first time the Dignity Party is running candidates in as many regional centres as they can.  I’ve been living here nearly 9 years and that’s typical, long term residents, people with a commitment to the area.

Bevan Jones: Well stick around Richard and we look forward to speaking to you in a few minutes time because I want to ask you about if you were elected what you would like to do for the region and what sort of plans you have in mind, so stick around, we’ll take a quick break and we’ll be back shortly, Thank you.

Richard Challis: Thank you.

Bevan Jones: Bevo still with you here and we’re joined by Richard Challis from the Dignity Party, who is one of the members, or wants to be the member for Chaffey.  He is one of the candidates as part of the 2018 state election, previously we were just talking about Richard’s background, but now we’re going to ask if he was elected what he would like to do as part of the Dignity Party and Richard the floor is yours.

Richard Challis: Thank you very much Bevan, now I’m realistic enough to know that in a lower house seat it is quite difficult to get elected and especially for the first time for a smaller party contesting the seat, however the Dignity Party has had representation for 8 years in the Upper House. Kelly Vincent MP has been an able representative.  I was just reading the other day about initiatives that Kelly has been able to get through parliament, part of this has been 41 million extra funding for mental health and disability supports, and that doesn’t count the straight forward stuff of making sure that mistakes aren’t made in legislation. And talking about mistakes made in legislation I want to give this as an example of what can go wrong, the ABC reported over the weekend that 101,508 people are assessed for Aged Care Home Care packages and have not been receiving any service or have been receiving a service which is lower than the package they have been assessed for. Now if you look at the population proportions that probably means around 100-150 people in the Riverland and these are people who have done their bit for society, they’ve done their work, and through no fault of their own they’ve ended up in a position where they need assistance in their old age and the nation is not being able to provide them with that professional assistance in the way that they need it and then they sit there waiting, some have been waiting 18 months and they’ve got nothing. That’s the sort of thing that can go wrong. The minister Ken Wyatt, who you possibly remember was the first member of Australia’s first people to become a member of the House of Representatives in Australia, he’s the Minister for Ageing and he’s been pretty upfront that this has been a result of a series of mistakes and has also admitted that they didn’t even really know there was a problem until quite recently, now these are mistakes in legislation, this is commonwealth legislation, we don’t have anyone in the Commonwealth parliament unfortunately, but we do at the moment have Kelly Vincent in the South Australian State Parliament.  It’s really vitally important that Kelly Vincent gets another term there, after all she’s under 30 and she’s got 8 years of experience in parliament!  There is no other woman in Australia that could say that, ever! (This situation with Aged Home Care Packages) That’s the sort of area that can go wrong, to take that down to the human level that means that someone aged 69 who’s a paraplegic, can’t get themselves out of bed in the morning and, this is an example given by the ABC, and she has to pay for someone out of her disability support pension and get her out of bed.

Bevan Jones: Yeah, that’s not right at all.

Richard Challis: No it’s not, nobody thinks that’s right.  Now the Federal Government is scrambling to do something about it, but in the meantime people have been putting up with this, people who have been failing to get the help they need, in many cases for more than a year, in some cases more than a year and a half. That’s the sort area where the Dignity Party can save government from making mistakes.  The South Australian Government has welcomed the input from Kelly Vincent, and Kelly Vincent is very happy and will be very prepared to work with whoever gets into government after the election on 17th March.

Bevan Jones: Do you think this is something that we should raise with Stephen Wade because latest figures reveal that there is 101,508 people in the queue for appropriate home care packages, staggering figures Richard.

Richard Challis: Yes, I mean the state government and state opposition can’t do much about it but it’s certainly a fair question to say what are you going to try and do about it, who are you going to see, whose office are you going to camp outside, whose desk are you going to sit across and say this isn’t good enough! Now I think the Minister knows this isn’t good enough and this is one of the things – I possibly don’t agree with a lot of people on this – I think that politicians are generally decent people trying to do the right thing; when they do the wrong thing it’s usually because they didn’t know and they needed to be better informed. We were commenting before that your predecessor is a candidate here, I mean you look at it this way; Trevor doesn’t actually have to do this, it’s a lot of work that he’s taken on, the same with most of the candidates they don’t actually have to do this, they’re prepared to take on a lot of work and to do things to serve the people, but if you serve the people and you don’t know, and you make a mistake that doesn’t help, as they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Bevan Jones: Yes it’s an interesting one because every morning we listen to the Leon Byner show down here from 12 Monday to Friday, and he’s always very passionate about South Australia, and I’m not too sure if he knows these statistics but I’m wondering if it’s even worth bringing it up with Leon, and getting him to get someone on about this because those sort of figures are staggering and it’s certainly concerning that people don’t have this support and like you mentioned before, they’re having to go into their pockets in other ways to support themselves, it just doesn’t seem right.

Richard Challis: Yes, I find it quite shocking, I’ve been through this in the mid 1990’s, my daughter had an acquired brain injury, and went through a process of rehabilitation and she went through pretty well all the phases from being completely paralysed to her sort of regaining movement, and she still has quite a lot of restrictions but she’s one of the very lucky ones.  She’s got her intellect and her personality back, she still has to use a wheelchair for a lot of movement but I’ve seen all of this and I’ve been through all the processes.  It’s people like myself who have been a carer and it’s people like Kelly Vincent who has lived experience of disability, as you’d be aware, (but not everyone may be), Kelly uses a wheelchair for mobility as well, it’s people like that who really understand and they’re the voices that must be heard, that mustn’t be silenced in our Parliament. This election coming up is an interesting election and it’s one where it’s a three way fight, even though the two ‘big boys’ are trying to say it isn’t, it is a three way fight now.  But while the titans are colliding, smaller parties might get crushed and lose part of their vote, one of the big things that I’m trying to achieve is that the Dignity Party does not lose the proportion of the vote that it achieved in the 2010 election, a remarkable election.  We need to work very hard to maintain that vote and we need to maintain that vote so that Kelly Vincent, leading the Parliamentary team for the Dignity Party, retains her seat and possibly we get another one elected, but as I said before, winning a lower house seat first time that you’ve contested that’s a big ask!  But if I win, boy, I’ll be really happy to go to Adelaide down there and have my voice heard.

Bevan Jones: I’m sure you’d do a fantastic job.  Well Richard Challis thank you so much for joining us this morning and I appreciate your time and all the best for the state election this year.

Richard: Thank Bevan, it has been great meeting you.

Bevan Jones: Likewise, Richard Challis there, he is a candidate for Chaffey as part of the Dignity Party for the 2018 election.