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OP-ED: New Horizons Funding Rejection Puzzling

Thursday 2 April 2020, The Examiner

For anyone unfamiliar with the work of New Horizons Tasmania Inc. I would invite you to get online and have a look at the incredible opportunities they provide to Tasmanians living with a disability, their friends, families and carers. Established in 1986, New Horizons runs a roster of sporting and social activities including tennis, Aussie rules football, cricket, basketball and the lower impact activities like arts, crafts, socials and song and dance. Membership is open to people with any disability (intellectual, physical, spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders and more), from ages five and upwards.

The importance of an organisation like New Horizons isn't limited to just those who participate in their activities, but also their friends, families and carers whose bonds over shared joys and hobbies extend far beyond the activities of New Horizons into everyday life. Members and volunteers of New Horizons describe it as a beautiful community, where everyone can belong and be their best selves.

Moreover, the work being done by New Horizons, to build inclusion, social mobility and focus on health and wellbeing makes significant strides towards preventing serious health issues and isolation. New Horizons works to bring their volunteers, members and their families together, making our communities more cohesive and inclusive. The utility and need for valuable organisations like New Horizons in our community cannot be understated.

Historically, New Horizons has received funding from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services to cover approximately one third of their funding, which equates to a significant amount of their operational costs. When the National Disability Insurance Scheme was rolled out in Tasmania, this funding to New Horizons was redirected to the NDIS, leaving them to seek funds elsewhere.

Under the NDIS, there are grants available for organisations like New Horizons under the 'Information, Linkages and Capacity Building' stream which is "about creating connections between people with a disability and the communities they live in". During 2019, New Horizons applied three different times to the NDIS Information, Linkages and Capacity grants program and three times were unsuccessful. Needless to say, this was an extremely disappointing development.

Through their state-wide programme of activities, New Horizons supports over 400 Tasmanians with a disability - not all of whom may necessarily qualify for NDIS support. Consequently, New Horizons bridges a gap that some people may fall into by providing these quality services and activities for people who are fundamentally valued in our community and deserving of support.

The future of New Horizons at this time, and especially with the advent of the Novel Coronavirus threat, is uncertain.

The funding New Horizons currently receives - in the order of under $120,000 per annum - has been the same as from their inception since 1986. This funding ensures a 'doors open' policy, covering one salary, insurances and a small amount of admin. The modest program fees from their members and revenue from fundraising initiatives which New Horizons receives, covers the cost of one part-time admin employee and one part-time communications, partnerships and marketing employee. The organisation runs on the smell of an oily rag and yet provides such a vital and much-needed set of activities to people who will be significantly disadvantaged if New Horizons is forced to close its doors.

In my discussions with New Horizons, I believe they have been very proactive in seeking out funding sources and adapting their activities to meet the objectives of grants programs, and I am puzzled as to why they have thus far been unsuccessful. This isn't to suggest that the funding New Horizons has applied to have unfairly assessed their applications, but it is disappointing to see that the work New Horizons does seems to be inconsistent with the priorities of NDIS funding programs - something which I find difficult to understand.

New Horizons conducted interviews with six participants from the club and were able to summarise their activities across five key themes: sporting opportunities, health benefits, growth and development, importance of friendships and belonging and inclusion.

These are all very important themes for any organisation, but for one which works with some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our community, its importance becomes amplified. The benefits these themes bring to New Horizons members' lives permeate throughout their own family and friendship networks and ultimately, is a strong preventative measure to our health and social security system. There is no downside to New Horizons's comprehensive roster of programs and activities and supporting them is a win for everybody.

Bringing attention to the work of New Horizons and the positivity they foster in our community is one way to do that, and I urge all others to get to know the fantastic work they do and help in any way they can. They are a truly inspirational organisation, working with truly inspirational people.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC


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