In the Media

The Strathmont Centre, Adelaide’s Crying Shame

SA’s most vulnerable are being neglected in a run-down institution just metres from a well kept prison yard.
This is the neglected, shabby institution where South Australia houses 66 of its most vulnerable citizens, adults with intellectual disabilities.
Just 300m away, inmates in Adelaide Women’s Prison live in neatly maintained cottages with lattice fences, gardens and pot plants.
In contrast, the Strathmont Centre, Oakden, is a wasteland of dead trees, broken seating, exposed concrete slabs and unfriendly roller shutters.
Disability advocates are demanding the dilapidated Strathmont Centre, opened 40 years ago this week, be shut down, with Dignity for Disabled MP Kelly Vincent saying its vulnerable residents, the last to be rehoused in community housing, have been “left there to rot”.
“It’s deplorable. The buildings themselves are dilapidated, generally very uncomfortable and not at all the sort of `home’ anyone would wish to live in,” she said.
SA Council on Intellectual Disability president Dell Stagg said the State Government needed to act urgently to re-house Strathmont’s remaining residents into supported community housing.
“It’s certainly time for Strathmont to go,” Ms Stagg said. “People just don’t live in institutions anymore.
“We don’t believe it is appropriate to live in large congregated living, we believe people have a right to live in an ordinary home in an ordinary street.
“I’d love to drive a bulldozer through the last building, provided all the residents had been moved to appropriate supported community housing.”
However Ms Stagg also recognised there were many parents, often elderly, of residents who were opposed to moving their children from Strathmont.
“But (verbal) reports to us show that parents who have gone through the move had a lot of support and, once they got over that initial hump of being concerned, their son or daughter really enjoyed living in an ordinary house in an ordinary street,” she said.
Since the Families & Communities department started a community living project in 2005, 146 people have been moved out of Strathmont into supported community housing.
“There are many benefits to appropriate community-based accommodation and there are ongoing plans to move residents into this style of care,” said a department statement.
“In the last year alone, 10 people were moved into the community. Strathmont will be maintained as a suitable option for residents until appropriate alternative care and accommodation can be found.”
Evidence of any of this maintenance, however, is currently non-existent. Meanwhile the Government is yet to release a major report Evaluation of the Strathmont Devolution, finished in April 2010, a three-year appraisal of the first 30 people to be moved Strathmont into the community.
Families & Communities refused a request from the Sunday Mail for a copy of the report.
“The Evaluation of the Strathmont Devolution report is expected to be finalised in the near future and will be released in due course,” a spokesman said. The Government also failed to answer these basic questions:
WHETHER or not there was a plan to close Strathmont Centre;
WHAT would happen to the land if the centre was closed;

WHETHER there are any plans to upgrade the facility.

The lives of the remaining 66 residents have been left in limbo.

 

Margaret Morris said her son Darren, 34, a Strathmont resident for nine years, was happy there and would not cope in the wider community.

“We don’t want it to close,” she said. “The Government doesn’t realise there are people there who can’t go into the community because they won’t cope.”

 

Ms Vincent said: “It is vital that the Government remain mindful of the fact that many of these residents have lived in Strathmont since early childhood.

“For these people, as wrong as it is, institutionalisation is the norm. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that any residents moved from the centre are given adequate support every step of the way to help them adjust to life within the community.”

 

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