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July 31, 2009

Several agencies across East Gippsland have agreed to work together to develop a plan to improve support services for visually impaired people in the future.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester arranged a meeting between Vision Australia, local people with vision impairments and a range of East Gippsland agencies to discuss improvements to services.

Mr Chester had been contacted by several residents expressing their concerns that the needs of people with vision impairment weren’t being met since the closure of the Vision Australia office in Bairnsdale.

“Unfortunately since the closure of Vision Australia in Bairnsdale, many of the extra services that had been offered are no longer available to local residents,” Mr Chester said.

“By getting local agencies together, we can work out what services overlap and who might be able to step up to make sure that people with visual impairments are not disadvantaged.

“It was a positive meeting and I would like to thank everyone for participating in a constructive manner.”

Mr Chester said the meeting had been informative with representatives from Vision Australia, East Gippsland Shire Council, Gippsland Lakes Community Health, Kilmany Uniting Care and Baptcare agreeing to plan out a way forward.

“It was a good opportunity for agency representatives to gain a greater understanding of the services that are required by vision impaired people,” Mr Chester said.

“It is important that we, as a community, can come up with a way of meeting community needs.”

Mr Chester said he would pursue funding through the State and Federal Health Ministers to appoint an East Gippsland liaison officer to coordinate vision impaired services as part of a 12 month pilot program.

“If we can secure funding, this pilot program could also look at what additional services are required across East Gippsland, particularly to cope with projected growth in demand due to our ageing population,” Mr Chester said.

“We need to find a way to link professional and volunteer services with people who need assistance and I’m hopeful that we can find a model that will work across a broad geographic area like East Gippsland.”

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