The Nardy House Committee was formed in 1994 and initially the organisation operated as a Committee of Council. A donation of five and a half acres of land was made to the group and its main aim was, and still remains, to provide permanent accommodation to people with profound physical disabilities. NHI gained charity status, from the Taxation Department, while still working under the Council banner on the proviso that if NHI received any Government funding that the organisation would separately incorporate immediately. This was done many years ago.

The planning of the Nardy House project resulted in a three-stage facility. These stages reflected the physical needs of the people who would be using the facility and the requirements of their carers. The first stage was a permanent accommodation house for six people with profound physical disabilities; the second stage was a respite facility for six people with profound physical disabilities and the third stage was a therapy room and pool for use by NHI clients and local community residents with therapy needs.

NHI tried for many years and through various lobbying means to gain access to help with the building of the permanent accommodation stage. The Department of Housing (NSW State Government) said they would assist with infrastructure costs ONLY IF the Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare (DADHC) recurrently funded the facility. DADHC would never do this. The reason for this reluctance related to the cost of housing a person with a profound disability.

At this time the State Government had the responsibility to look after all levels of people with disabilities and it circumvented this responsibility by housing the most expensive clients in aged care nursing homes. The State Government saved on the accommodation costs because aged care nursing homes were basically Federally funded and the person in the nursing home was not eligible for State-run services: health, education, transport and equipment. An economically sound approach if somewhat morally reprehensible!

At a later stage, the State Government informed NHI (a new approach after a State election) that the Department of Housing no longer provided infrastructure funds to people requiring congregate care? (whatever that meant at that time) and that all funding for infrastructure and servicing must come from DADHC. As this Department had avoided the care of people with high support needs wherever possible help from this source seemed unlikely.

NHI has built the accommodation stage. The frame for the building was paid for by Lion’s International and the roof became a possibility because a local Quaama man made a donation on behalf of his late wife. The Committee and local community continued to fundraise and support us (see Friends and Supporters). The Ryder Cheshire Foundation made a substantial monetary commitment to our permanent accommodation building programme, the Doris Lowndes House, and ensured its completion and fit-out.

Some years ago $65 million was handed to the State of NSW by the Federal Government specifically tagged for respite. NHI applied for funding to build the respite stage. The Government (Faye Lo Po Ministry) supplied $430,000 for infrastructure and with the help of local tradespeople and professionals, we erected the building. Sometime later we applied for help with set-up costs and we were granted $90 000 (Carmel Tebbutt Ministry). The building plans and our submission for funding detailed the clientele and the manner of running the building. NHI needed to run it on a twenty-four hour /seven day a week basis- in fact along the lines of a nursing home. Staff needed to be highly trained and skilled and NHI believed there were enough clients to run it. DADHC identified 45 families in our region needing this level of respite yet very few families were receiving any respite. DADHC would not supply the names of clients to NHI for privacy reasons- nor would they contact them on our behalf to see if they would use the service. Carers we knew personally had been approached and had given their respite needs to us and they reflected a desire for the service NHI wished to offer. Additionally NHI had requests from outside the region – obviously, this level of respite was rarely available yet highly sought after. People from our region went to Canberra, Wollongong and Dalgety to receive centre-based respite.

The NSW Government refused over a long period of time to recurrently fund the building for the purpose for which it was built. DADHC used every ploy in the book to stop NHI- hence the 7.30 REPORT presentation. NHI had discussions with the Department about a tender process- some money for running the facility was to be placed on the table and NHI would tender for it in a consortium with the Cram Foundation (a charity that provides permanent accommodation for high-level clients) who would act as NHI mentor in the first years of operation. If DADHC did not put a realistic figure on the table NHI would not be tendering and the facility would remain empty, as it had done for twelve months. NHI believed, then as now, that the organisation had worked too hard and for too long to be supplying DADHC’s needs ( or the needs of any Government funding body) rather than the needs of people with profound physical disabilities and their carers.

The Nardy House Respite recurrent funding issue was raised in Ageing & Disability Estimates Hearing early in 2007 and on Friday 8th September. Answers given to questions were incorrect and misleading. NHI sent in corrections and protested however DADHC officials from the Department, the Director General’s Department, the Ministry and the Minister himself have made claims (the Nardy House Committee was offered $400 000 in recurrent funding being one) for which there was no documentation. The tender process was worked through in conjunction with Cram and DADHC over a period of seven months. The tender document did not show up. NHI was told that the tender document that NHI assured was 90% complete towards the end of March did not exist. We prepared a generic tender document and our local member, Andrew Constance, 30th August in the Legislative Assembly, presented it. We hoped John Ryan, Opposition Minister DADHC would do the same in the Legislative Council. When Peter Debnam visited Nardy House. Minister John Della Bosca issued a press release to the local media claiming he would take Peter Debnam to ICAC if he promised us funding

Nardy House was the subject of a Budget Estimates recall on the 23rd October 2006. NHI made detailed comments on answers given during this recall that are available on request. NHI was willing to supply Minutes to verify what NHI had commented on.

At this stage, NHI had Council approval of working drawings for the permanent accommodation stage of the facility. The Development Application for all stages of the project was approved when it was initially placed with the Council. The Premier had been kept informed regarding the situation and was invited to open the facility NHI had a meeting (the Cram Foundation and Nardy House) with the Director-General, Brendan O’Reilly to present and outline the Draft Tender document. At the meeting, NHI was told that there was never any intent to issue a tender because we could not compete with other service providers because we owned the building. As the Nardy House Committee, together with Cram, had spent seven months preparing for this tender NHI was not impressed. The Director-General insisted on a partnership with either DADHC or Cram with the funding being the entire responsibility of DADHC or Cram. NHI could not see how legally or practically this could be done however agreed to look at the Department proposal. What arrived was a cobbled-together generic service provision description that had nothing to do with partnering and generalised criticisms of our tender document with no figures to substantiate the criticisms and no funding figure for running the service. The Minutes of this meeting were not provided to NHI despite assurances that there would be Minutes taken and repeated requests for the same.NHI believed the process to be an absolute disgrace. The Nardy House Committee approached the Ombudsman?s Office regarding this situation. The request for the Minutes plus the Ombudsman’s reply to NHI’s request is available on our website; nardyhouse.org.au. The response is worth perusing because it demonstrates the complete lack of accountability that the bureaucracy in NSW at that time was able to operate under.

Prior to the State Elections, a mediation session was organised by NHI pro bono Solicitor. NHI cannot divulge the details of the mediation session however what resulted was an agreement sent to our Solicitor the day before the State elections that did not reflect the agreed mediation position. Our Solicitor, therefore, spent a couple of weeks consulting with the Committee and drawing up a contract that did reflect the agreed position. This was sent to DADHC for approval on Thursday 26th April. In the meantime, on Monday 23rd April a representative from the National Safety Council and a DADHC representative met Betsy and Zeke Hilton at Betsy’s house. (The Hilton family donated the land to Nardy House to build the facility) This was followed by an inspection at Nardy House by this officer plus three other DADHC workers.

This was the first time anyone in charge of NHI funding had met Zeke and this was the first inspection of this kind. The safety audit was to determine what service our DADHC partners could offer within the house. NHI waited for amendments to the above agreement: this wait was despite the very great urgency to have the deal concluded by the end of April. NHI waited to receive the National Safety Council report. In the meantime our local member and DADHC Opposition Spokesperson, Andrew Constance MLA, had a briefing with the new Minister, Kristina Keneally and the Nardy House issue was raised. I met with Andrew Constance at 10:30 AM at Parliament House on Thursday 31st May to discuss a very public response to our situation.

Finally, DADHC and Nardy Inc signed a partnership agreement later in 2007 and Nardy House Respite doors were opened in early December 2007. The agreement allowed DADHC to run a fully funded specialised, twenty-four hour/seven days a week facility designed to cater to the needs of people with profound disabilities for its first two years of operation. This two-year period was to allow Nardy House Inc to develop the necessary service delivery expertise to run the service. The facility was run in conjunction with a determining Advisory Board consisting of two DADHC representatives, two Nardy House Inc representatives and an Independent Chair. The facility was operating with nursing staff and at this time (November 2010) was operating at full capacity. The newly named ADHC asked for a further extension of the contractual period that was in principle, accepted. Finally, a Nardy House Board of very skilled members took over the running of the facility when the contract expired.

Nardy House Inc. completed the permanent accommodation facility without Government assistance. On building completion, Nardy House had three blocked beds in the respite facility. The residents in these beds were moved into the Nardy House permanent accommodation and ADHC had little choice but to recurrently fund the new facility. It did so reluctantly and withheld $300,000 in funding which remains owed to the charity for the period of time when NHI cared for our residents in the permanent accommodation facility prior to contractual signing.

Nardy House remains unique and a model for the delivery of very high-level support to carers of people with profound physical disabilities. The organisation is adapting to the demands of NDIS which strangely enough only recognises Nardy House as a five-bedroom dwelling when it is a six-bedroom facility… obviously there is more work to be done!