Bega’s Tulgeen Disability Services has bold ambitious plans to provide supported accommodation to people with disabilities, a vision that has just been backed by Bega Cheese with a $200,000 donation.
This is the second time in as many years the dairy giant has boosted Tulgeen’s coffers. Last year the company’s annual corporate fundraiser contributed $100,000.
Tulgeen’s Chief Executive Officer Jen Russell says “there is an urgent need to provide supported accommodation in the Bega Valley.”
“There is a lack of accessible, safe, secure and affordable accommodation and there is currently a ten-year waitlist for social housing.”
Acting chair of Bega Cheese Max Roberts says that Tulgeen has done so much in terms of providing employment opportunities that the next logical step is to ensure people with disabilities have the opportunity to live independently.
“Every year, the board chooses a charitable body which provides much-needed services to our community – to the community our employees belong to,” Max says.
“We choose highly professional organisations who have the drive to make a difference and Tulgeen certainly fits that bill.”
Beyond the big donations, Bega Cheese has been a longstanding supporter of Tulgeen, employing 15 people with disabilities in its packaging plant.
The company’s corporate fundraiser has been running for 25 years and involves about 400 Bega Cheese customers and service providers getting together in Merimbula for golf, deep-sea fishing, bowls, “and even paintball some years,” Max laughs.
The charity weekend concludes with a dinner and auction.
Having gratefully accepted the Bega Cheese cheque, Jen explains not having appropriate supported housing available impacts on the local economy and on people’s well being.
“I know of people who currently live in the ACT or Victoria who have someone they love who is disabled and who wants to move to this area but won’t because the housing is not there.”
Unfortunately, the current lack of appropriate housing means that a number of people who need permanent or temporary 24-hour care are housed in aged care homes, even if they are much younger than 65.
“Aged care facilities are not where young people with disabilities belong,” Jen says “we’d love to see housing where they can mix with their peers in a community setting while still receiving the care they need.”
Because of the lack of housing in the area, Jen says many young people with disabilities stay at home for longer than they want to, losing the opportunity to gain valuable independence and skills.
“We have young people who want to move out of home, just like anyone would in their 20’s,” Jen says sadly “I have one young person in particular who has been on the public housing waiting list for many years and whenever I see them, they ask me – do you have a house for me yet, Jen?”
“People with disability need greater choice about where they live. They require access to support services so they can live independent lives and reach their goals. Tulgeen sees this as a priority and is appreciative that Bega Cheese shares and supports this view.”
While Jen says she and the Tulgeen team are exceedingly grateful for the generous donation from Bega Cheese, she also points out that the potential housing project will not go ahead without government support and funding.
“We’ve been in discussion with Andrew Constance (Member for Bega) and we’re looking at all kinds of options, from building to renovating an existing property.”
Jen hopes to have some answers about funding solutions in a few months – watch this space.