Long-awaited new apartments that have just opened in Bega are designed to provide independent living for people with a disability. The community has warmly welcomed it, including one family who said it helped end a long-term “nightmare” search.
Tulgeen’s Elliot Lane Apartments officially opened in early April 2022. Tulgeen CEO Duane Kelly said they would give people with a disability the same opportunities many others have to live, work and be part of the community while being supported.
The first resident, Julie Driscoll, has already moved in and her sister Marie Farram said she settled in very quickly.
“She’s loving it,” Ms Farram said.
“‘It’s my new home’, is what she keeps saying.”
Ms Farram said it had been a welcome end to a “nightmare” 14-year search for a place for her sister to live in the region.
“There was just nothing here, nothing at all,” she said.
When Ms Farram’s workplace, Bega Valley NDIS disability services provider Tulgeen, secured the grant for the apartments, she put in an application as soon as possible.
“I just feel it was about time that something came up. But I wasn’t giving up,” Ms Farram said.
More people are also lined up to move in and it is hoped to have all 10 positions there filled by September.
One of the people ready to move in was Colleen Barrett and she was pretty excited about the idea, according to her mother Janelle Barrett.
It will be a significant change for the family, as Janelle has been caring for her 29-year-old daughter for a long time.
“It’s a little bit hard to let go,” she said.
“But they say we can pop in anytime.”
She said she and her husband knew they would eventually have to find somewhere for Colleen to live.
“We were always concerned of how we were going to take care of her when we got older,” she said.
“If, God forbid, something would happen to both of us, where would she go?
“For most parents looking after someone, that’s the biggest fear. If anything suddenly happens, if you’re the victim of an accident or something like that.”
Janelle said it was hard to find the right (specifically designed) housing on the Far South Coast and while both she and her husband were still healthy if they didn’t take the opportunity now they might not be able to get in for a while.
Mr Kelly said the opening of the apartments had to be delayed, even from earlier this year, as they didn’t have enough disability support workers despite trying “everything”.
He believed several contributing factors included lack of accommodation on the Far South Coast and the fact that disability support workers are not in the high-wage category.
Fortunately, they have now been able to find enough workers to open, but Mr Kelly said they were still looking for more staff.
“If we had 10 support workers tomorrow, we could have enough work for those support workers,” he said.
Ms Farram also said the delay was no fault of Tulgeen’s but was a “sign of the times”, which factored in the impacts of COVID.
The $4.6 million apartments were funded by a grant from the NSW government and other donations.