The Bega Valley and Eurobodalla now has a shadow minister in Jodi Mckay’s new look NSW Labor ministry.
Ryan Park has always been the Shadow Minister for the Illawarra but, “I asked for the South Coast to be added because I felt people down here didn’t get the advocacy they needed,” Mr Park says.
Based in Wollongong as the Member for Kiera, Mr Park has made his first tour of the Far South Coast meeting with a range of social services, as well and business and worker groups in Bega and Moruya.
“Jodi has made it very clear to the shadow cabinet that we had not spent enough time engaging, listening, and discussing issues that effect regional communities,” he says.
“She has made a very clear distinction that going forward what she expects of every Labor shadow minister is that that they come to the table with a breadth of knowledge about what is happening outside of Sydney.”
The father of two boys says he leaves the region impressed with the dedication of local services like South East Women and Children’s Services, Mission Australia, Social Justice Advocates, Sapphire Pantry, and Ricky’s Places
“There are some really innovative people here who are punching above their weight,” he says.
However, challenges remain and need is increasing, which Mr Park says needs to be approached with additional government investment and compassion from all.
“Both sides of politics need to take to the next election a real commitment to investing in social housing,” he says.
“At the moment we’ve got a 10 year waiting list, the reality is, with the nature of work these days people can find themselves heading towards homelessness very quickly.
“People can’t rebuild their lives if they are worried about where they are going to put their head at night.
“But we also need to make sure there are those wrap around services so that people stay at school, got to TAFE, and stay in employment.
“Policy makers like me need to re-educate people about homelessness, this is not the man in the park with an alcohol problem. One of the fastest groups finding themselves homeless is women over 55.
“Things can go wrong and people can find themselves in a situation where prices are so high and access to affordable accommodation is so limited.”
Health was another taking point for Mr Ryan during his two day tour of the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla, particularly recent concerns around the South East Regional Hospital in Bega and plans for a new regional hospital in the Eurobodalla.
“I was pretty concerned to hear that for mammograms women have got to go well outside the region – a four to six hour round trip,” he says.
“We need a full blown commission of inquiry into rural and regional hospitals, and I say that not just because of the recent Four Corners episode, but its clear to everyone that your postcode determines your access to health.
“We have funding gaps, staffing and recruiting issues and cultural problems – those three things need to be carefully looked at by independent eyes.”
Mr Park says he is planning on being a regular visitor to the region, another avenue to policy makers and leaders for locals separate to that offered by the sitting Liberal member, Andrew Constance.