Mr GLACHAN (Albury) [6.37 p.m.]: I raise a matter of concern to both me and one of my constituents, Mrs Graham. On 16 October I wrote to the Minister for Community Services and forwarded her copies of two letters I received from Mrs Graham. Four of Mrs Graham's grandchildren—Tara, 13; Ben, six; Jayemin, four; and Ashleigh, three—came into her care on 9 December when Mrs Graham's daughter, Sharon, was murdered by her husband. Thirteen-year-old Tara was stabbed by her father when he murdered Tara's mother, and she was seriously injured and left for dead. The four grandchildren then came into Mrs Graham's care. At that time Mrs Graham's husband was suffering from leukaemia and doctors had given him between six months and seven years to live. When the children first came into her care, Mrs Graham was receiving fortnightly payments from the Department of Community Services of $37 for Ben and $65 for the other children. She believed that these were foster care payments.
Later, Tara, the child who was seriously injured, became very disturbed because of all the trauma involved with her father murdering her mother and seriously injuring her. She later went to live with an aunt in Wodonga and, while she was there, she came under the care of the Department of Community Services [DOCS] in the Wodonga area as a foster child to her aunt. Her aunt received financial assistance for her. When Tara left and went to Wodonga, DOCS stopped all payments to Mrs Graham because Tara was no longer with her, although she still had three other grandchildren living with her. Sadly, Mr Graham died in November 1998, which was 11 months after his daughter was murdered. To add to Mrs Graham's problems, in December 1998, which was just a few weeks after her husband died from leukaemia, little Ashleigh underwent eye surgery which was unsuccessful and she is now considered to be clinically blind.
So Mrs Graham's daughter was murdered, one of her granddaughters was seriously injured at the time of that murder, her husband died from leukaemia, and one grandchild, Ashleigh, is now blind. Mrs Graham is looking after three grandchildren and receives no financial support from DOCS. As a result of all the upsetting events Tara experienced, including the trial of her father for the murder of her mother, she was reported missing. Mrs Graham was advised to seek court custody of the children after their father's trial—he was gaoled for 24 years. Mrs Graham sought court custody of the children and that cost her more than $1,500. Tara has now returned to Mrs Graham. Because Mrs Graham is recognised as Tara's foster carer, she receives financial support for Tara. Because Mrs Graham could not cope with all the children living with her and with all the problems she had, Jayemin was placed in foster care with her godparentsand, I am pleased to say, is now very happy and content. Jayemin's godparents are receiving financial support for her. Mrs Graham still receives no support for Ben or for her blind granddaughter, Ashleigh, but she receives support for Tara.
To add to all Mrs Graham's problems, on 11 February she broke her ankle and was confined to a wheelchair. Nine months after the break, she is still in plaster. Mrs Graham wrote to the director-general on 20 April 2000. She received a reply on 30 May saying that she would receive a response as soon as possible. She complained to DOCS and thereafter three Wagga Wagga officers contacted her to find out what the Albury office had been doing. Arrangements were made for her to sign some papers and she was told that she would receive some payments which would be backdated to 1 July. Later, that date was changed to 3 August, but as at 16 October she had received absolutely nothing. She has received no money to support her other two grandchildren, Ben and Ashleigh. On Mrs Graham's behalf I have written to the Minister for Community Services, Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Women. Mrs Graham has faced all these problems. My question to the Minister is: Can she assist? Can she intervene and ensure that Mrs Graham receives support for Ben and Ashleigh?