In the Media

Dignity Party Candidate Richard Challis speaks to Peter Greco on Vision Australia

Peter Greco | Vision Australia

Peter Greco: Well over the last few months we’ve been catching up with candidates for the Dignity Party tonight we’re going to chat to Richard Challis the Dignity Party candidate for the Riverland electorate of Chaffey. Richard thanks for your time,

Richard Challis: Good Afternoon, How are you?

Peter Greco: Pretty good, how long ago did you decide that having a go for a state seat was a good idea?

Richard Challis: Well, it really goes back to the middle of 2017 when Dignity Party MP, Kelly Vincent, was on one of her visits to the country and I think she did ten such visits in 2017, she certainly worked pretty hard. I went to see her at a public gathering and when I met her, of course I was impressed, everyone is! I if there is anything I can do to help in the 2018 election just let me know, and when I said it I think I was thinking about handing out how to vote cards but I must admit when I went away from there I thought I wonder if I could be a candidate and being a candidate would be rather special as a way of serving a party. Anyway about 2 months ago, Anna Tree the Dignity Party Campaign Director rang and asked if I would consider standing as the Dignity Party Candidate for Chaffey. I applied and went through the party’s assessment process and was very honoured to be approved as the Dignity Party candidate for Chaffey.

Peter Greco: Richard if you don’t mind me asking, you’ve obviously got a very personal story to tell in terms of disability and feeling that people with disabilities and people in aged care are either being under-represented or not getting the services they should be getting.

Richard Challis: I have to say we talked this morning as you’re aware and I have to say things happened this afternoon that made me aware that I thought I knew about disability but I don’t really. I went and visited a family in Renmark today and realised what difficulties they have got mounting up against them, in particular the major problem that you always have in the country is transport, and one of the other issues of course transport for a disabled person is always a lot more expensive, than transport for an able bodied person, if you have a disability it can mean that you require a hydraulic lifter, a van and that was the reason I met with these people, their van is old and unreliable and they can’t afford a new one. This is a story that is repeated all over South Australia, all over Australia and it’s repeated far too often, there is a very strong correlation between people with disabilities and people living below the poverty line, it’s not worthy for a country like Australia.

Peter Greco: and not to mention things like isolation and the problems that that can cause, mental illness, just not being included in the community.

Richard Challis: That right, although I have to say that in this case local services have done their very best to make sure that the young lady I visited does have a good social life and is able to live a good life in the community but it doesn’t alter the fact that mobility is a major challenge if you have that sort of problem.

Peter Greco: and Richard we did as you say talk earlier today and you were telling me some quite startling statistics particularly of people of an older age group and obviously the Dignity Party represents all South Australians, so older people are represented as well.

Richard Challis: Yes that’s right in fact it’s one of the things I’m fairly hot on that Dignity Party is not about one group of people, it’s about all of us, and all of us caring for people at various stages in their life. Pretty well nobody will go through their life without being dependent on other people to look after them. The statistic that alarmed me when I read it was 101,508 people who had been assessed as requiring Aged Care in-home packages at various levels, (there are 4 levels), and 101,508 of them had not had any package delivered to them or had not had the adequate level of package delivered to them. Now these are not people who have been self-assessed, they have been assessed by professionals. Now Kelly Vincent was just talking before about how much more it costs to support people in an institution, she was talking about hospitals, but the same applies for aged care institutions, compared with support at home, I believe it’s about a factor of 9. And so for every one of these people who is forced by not getting a home care package to go into a care facility, we’re talking about 9 other people who could have been supported at home for the same cost. It’s almost beyond belief, and this is a federal issue, and it’s the state election that’s coming up but the point really has to be made that all three tiers of government, federal, state and local have a responsibility to the people they govern, and if one becomes aware of a major deficiency at another level, it becomes not just a good idea but their duty to do something about it and make as much noise as possible, to try and get the problem resolved.

Peter Greco: You have a daughter with a disability, and fairly early on in the story you were given a fairly blunt and in a sense almost harsh response by a professional?

Richard Challis: Yes I was, I saw a psychiatrist, shortly after my daughter was in the hospital in a coma, and first of all he decided there wasn’t anything much wrong with me, I’d decided I got depressed but he said depression is different, he said if you’ve got a family member in a coma, you’re allowed to be depressed, but he said what you’ve got now, you’ve got to become and advocate  for your daughter he said in many ways I’m ashamed of my own profession. He said the medical profession is likely to place all sorts of obstacles in your way and you’re going to have to try and climb over them, and unfortunately he was right in a lot of respects. There were a lot of people who helped a great deal, so it’s not a story which is entirely unfavourable but it is the story which nearly everyone who has dealt with disability as a carer or as a person with disability themselves will tell you about all the obstacles that can get in your way and many of them have been created by officialdom.

Peter Greco: And sometimes it depends on who you bump into at the particular time to as to a) what sort of response you get and b) what comes from those particular meetings.

Richard Challis: Yes, I think the story behind the 100,000 long waiting list is a good example but we’re talking about a minister who’s undoubtably well motivated to do the best of jobs Ken Wyatt, the Minister for Aged Care, but at some point the system has been put in place with limited monitoring and not only are they in a position of having hundreds and thousands of people waiting, and they’re not even really sure of how many people there are or where they are, they’re just starting to realise that mistakes were made at the outset in the program and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

Peter Greco: Richard, You’ve got a candidate day coming up next week are you looking forward to that?

Richard Challis: Absolutely, we’ve got all 5 of the Chaffey candidates who are going to be together in Renmark, in the Renmark Hotel and I recommend anybody who wants to find out what’s going on in the electorate and even for some entertainment it may get a bit woolly at times, to come along the Renmark Hotel it’s a great venue and this event is being run and sponsored by Taylor Group Newspapers who have always made sure that the Riverland and Riverlanders stay well informed and I also believe it’s being moderated by Daniela Ritorto from SBS.

Peter Greco: Richard we wish you well, I say that to all the Dignity Party candidates, because well we have a soft spot for Kelly Vincent. We spoke with Kelly before she became a politician, and we know her very well. Certainly in terms of how the Lower House goes it’s going to be challenging for all of you, and you all know that but I know part of the reason why you’re all running is to give Kelly Vincent the best chance in the upper house, and we’ve all got our fingers crossed for 4 weeks from today.

Richard Challis: Thank you Peter,

Peter Greco: That’s Richard Challis there, candidate for the Dignity Party out in the electorate of Chaffey, in the Renmark and Riverland area and we wish them well.