Unique popular fruit project: Get on board

Neil Unger (Chair of Currajong Disability Services) is pictured (centre) with (left to right) Greg Duffy, Ray Neilsen both representing Currajong Disability Services, Geoff Clark (Ag Consultant Wagga), Cr Alan Ward, Cr Bob Haddin and Peter Barber (Currajong Disability Services).   Photo: Bill Jayet
Neil Unger (Chair of Currajong Disability Services) is pictured (centre) with (left to right) Greg Duffy, Ray Neilsen both representing Currajong Disability Services, Geoff Clark (Ag Consultant Wagga), Cr Alan Ward, Cr Bob Haddin and Peter Barber (Currajong Disability Services). Photo: Bill Jayet

A local business has been proposed which is important for the ‘sake of Parkes.’

It involves setting up an orchard to produce a fruit which is very popular in Asia.

Having been promised an area of council owned land for the establishment of a jujube orchard, Neil Unger (Chair of Currajong Disability Services) has presented an update on the proposal to the  Parkes Shire Council.

Mr Unger sees the jujube orchard - adjoining the new sewerage treatment works off Arkuna Road - as ‘the catalyst for those with disabilities, the unemployed, bored aged, and anyone who just wants to do something.’

Jujubes are a fruit that taste like a date.

Mr Unger believes they will thrive in Parkes and when harvested be suitable for exporting overseas.

Already $70,000 has been raised locally towards the project - something he believes must go ahead.

Mr Unger’s address to council commenced with the question ‘why would Currajong Disability Services seek to further complicate an already complicated service?’.

“To answer that we must further promote the needs of those with mental disabilities within the shire.

“Historically and currently our dedicated staff under our CEO Mrs Ann Hunter are achieving the impossible.

“The future however, appears to be very different.

“While there will always be those with high needs, the rapid expansion is now in children with insidious disabilities like Aspergers, Autism and ADHD.

“The common perception from an uneducated public is that these kids are just the results of bad parenting.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and so devastatingly cruel to parents who struggle every hour of the day with such children who suffer from these disabilities.

“Current statistics are that in 2013 one per cent of children in Australia suffer from one of these disabilities.

“The frightening prospect is the projection based on past records is that within 30 years that percentage may well be as high as five percent.    That’s one in 20.”

NDIS implications

Mr Unger spoke of the implications for Currajong Disability Services in regards to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“Basically the Federal Government is trying to replace the current block funding model with a market orientated one, where the person with a disability will be paid the money direct like a pension.

“They in turn go into an unregulated market to get the best ‘bang for their buck’.

“In short, they are encouraged to shop around.

“This concept would be like giving school aged children money to go around shopping for their own education.

“The impossibilities of this concept for schools is obvious, but similar problems under the NDIS for service providers are equally obvious.

“The only certainty for Currajong is now uncertainty.

“In promoting the NDIS the Government has possibly given those with a disability an unreal expectation of life under the NDIS.

“Just have a look at how much luxury people with the aged pension live in.

“There will be many potholes and unexpected twists in the NDIS road as it becomes a reality.

“Currajong will have to be very quick on our feet to adapt to the unexpected.”

A must 

for parkes

“The jujube orchard will achieve many things for disabilities within the shire.

“Going on a current report from the Parkes Autism Support Group there are 44 families known and possibly even more unknown within the Parkes area.

“So let’s be conservative and say there are 100 people who will have extreme difficulty getting employment anywhere without experience.

“These numbers are expected to rapidly escalate into a major problem for which there is no current viable answer.

“The orchard is expected to be the catalyst for those with disabilities, the unemployed, the bored aged and anyone who just wants something to do.

“Income from the orchard will assist to provide support within the shire to Currajong Disabilities that cannot be met from government funding.

“Parkes does not have a early childhood intervention centre although this valuable work does take place at the pre-school and schools within the shire.

“Currajong Disability Services does not have any premises that we can call home which in turn causes a constant drain on finances.

“To provide work for those out of work requires capital in the form of machinery, a project manager. The list is endless.

“Initially, through sheer necessity, the project will be run by volunteers.

“As to date we do not have funds to pay staff for the jujube project.

“Once viable (three to four years), the orchard will supply work to 20 people at a time.

“Grants are being applied for and already without advertising, I have a list of more than 20 volunteers to keep this project going.

“To date we have raised approximately $70,000 and I must acknowledge the support of locals and MSM Milling without whose generous donations this project would have never seen the light of day.

“Machinery has been forthcoming on loan, farmers are donating machinery and expertise.

“The shire is to be commended on their generous support too, without which this project would have been dead in the water.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, this project will entail much grief and despair like any other business.

“However, the bottom line is that failure just isn’t an option.”