Department of Human Services Offices

I rise this morning to highlight a growing concern in my electorate of Lalor. Over the past few weeks my office has been contacted on numerous occasions regarding the wait time for people who attend the Werribee office of the Department of Human Services. The complaints are becoming more frequent. We know that Human Services offices provides Centrelink and Medicare services. The Werribee site is about 500 metres from my office in Synnot Street and is the second busiest office in Australia. Over 3,000 people walk through their doors every week.

People in Lalor are frustrated that for a simple Medicare claim they are waiting for over an hour. I know the argument is that most services can now be completed online but that does not take into consideration those people who are not able to do that. And there are many: the aged, the disabled, the mentally unwell, the illiterate or those too frightened to make a mistake, and those who simply want the comfort of personal contact. These are people at their most vulnerable, some coming from specialist appointments—you could say on the worst day of their lives. They feel and communicate to me that they are being punished for being sick. There are similar waiting times for Centrelink services. Again, it is the most vulnerable who feel that they are being punished for being unemployed. This goes to their dignity, to their self-esteem.

I visited the Werribee office two weeks ago, to see the impact on my neighbours and to watch the staff who face the lines every day. By 8.30 am, the line already extends to the end of the street, and all day long it is a constant flow. The staff at Werribee do a terrific job with the resources that are available to them. I watched them go about their normal routines with enthusiasm and I applaud the way they work with their clients. I know they too face challenges when people take their frustrations out on them, and this is on the increase. Put simply, my community deserves to be better resourced. In fact, the Point Cook pop-up shop closed on 31 January. Yet in Wyndham more staff are needed or, better still, another office needs to be established. My electorate of Lalor and the city of Wyndham are amongst the fastest-growing communities in the country. Resourcing for these essential services is critical. So at a time when the Abbott government is looking towards cuts, I implore them to provide the human services that Lalor needs.

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