News

Fight for outreach funding continues

By Benalla Ensign

The fight for funding to keep rural outreach worker Ivan Lister in his job has continued in Parliament.

State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan’s first act after being sworn in for a second term was to highlight Mr Lister’s role to the House.

Ms Ryan submitted a notice of motion moving that Parliament pay tribute to Mr Lister for his efforts to support farmers and rural communities through difficult seasonal and economic circumstances.

The motion called on the state government to fund Mr Lister’s work on an ongoing basis before his funding ran out at the end of December.

‘‘I have made representations to ministers, state and federal, in recent weeks to highlight the wonderful work that Ivan does in our local community,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘The need for funding is now urgent, which is why I used my first speech in Parliament to draw attention to Ivan’s role as our local rural outreach worker.

‘‘Ivan’s role was initially funded to help drought-affected families, but over the years he has become a critical link for people facing other natural disasters, including bushfires, floods and even tornadoes.

‘‘He has helped people through the dairy crisis and supported people who have been suffering from depression, anxiety, the breakdown of their family and financial difficulties.’’

Ms Ryan said Mr Lister worked closely with local GPs and other health professionals and had built a relationship of trust between farmers and other support services.

‘‘In the last financial year alone, Ivan made contact with 329 people locally, including 191 men and 138 women,’’ she said.

‘‘About half of those were return visits, and half were new referrals. While all of Ivan’s work is confidential, the problems he was most commonly presented with included financial and farming concerns, mental health and relationship issues.

‘‘In addition to the work he does one-on-one with people, Ivan is often asked to speak at mental health-focused forums, first-aid sessions and other community events.’’

Ms Ryan said while she commended the state government’s decision to hold a Royal Commission into mental health, urgent and practical steps could be taken to assist our local communities by providing immediate funding to guarantee Mr Lister’s future work.