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The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester today officially opened an innovative new $2.4 million housing development designed for families and their dependents needing disability support.

George Gray Centre has led the Freedom Housing project, which comprises four neighbouring family homes linked by a common room. It is located in the Glenhaven Park estate, Sale, and is the first of its kind in Australia.

Mr Chester said he was proud the Federal Government had contributed $1.2 million to help meet demand for a new accommodation model for people with disabilities and their families. Families, the George Gray Centre and North Gippsland Trust provided the balance of money needed.

“Families with a loved one who has a disability want the very best for them, now and in the future,” Mr Chester said. “Caring for a loved one with high needs can be incredibly demanding and stressful.

“This new kind of housing enables families to live a normal family life, with easy access to professional help and disability personal care in an area connected to all four homes.”

George Gray Centre chief executive officer Ian Hunt said one of the houses had been bought by a local family and the George Gray Centre was leasing out the remaining three at an affordable rate.

“This is another accommodation option for people with disabilities and their families,” Mr Hunt said. “When other local options are unsuitable, some parents have been forced to decide whether or not to leave this area altogether.

“A body corporate comprising of residents will govern the development, which means the occupants will have a say in who lives in the other homes when families move out and who provides the professional care.”

Freedom Housing has been awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission business award. It is the brainchild of Christos Iliopoulos, who cared for his late wife at their home in Melbourne.

“I wanted to come up with an alternative to in-home care provided by loved ones and out-of-home care at a residential facility, such as a nursing home, which fragment families,” Mr Iliopoulos said. “Freedom Housing allows families to stay together.

“This is the first Freedom Housing nest to be built anywhere in Australia. We now have expressions of interest from around Australia. Some of the demand is coming from those seeking alternatives to traditional aged-care nursing homes, and from aging parents who wish to continue to live with a child who has disabilities and to also access personal care for themselves.”

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