Govt weighs up options for former disability site

The future of a former hospital and disability institution in Fullarton is likely to be made clearer within weeks, as the State Government considers feedback from people living with disability about what should happen to the vacant and dilapidated site.

Mar 02, 2021, updated Mar 02, 2021
The vacant Highgate Park site in Fullarton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The vacant Highgate Park site in Fullarton. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Department of Human Services has finished two rounds of consultation with people with disability and disability experts about the former Julia Farr Centre building and adjacent car park on Fisher Street, to determine whether the land should be sold or repurposed into a new facility.

It is now considering the feedback before it provides a recommendation to Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink, likely within weeks.

The sprawling site, currently known as Highgate Park, was last developed in the 1970s and is owned by the Home for the Incurables Trust, of which Lensink is sole trustee.

Originally named the “Home for the Incurables” when it opened in 1879, the site provided services to people with disability, before changes to best practice prompted a shift away from institutionalised care towards independent and small group living arrangements.

Disability SA sold off parcels of land from the original property in 2003, leaving only the Highgate Park site, which stopped accepting new residents in 2014.

All residents have now moved into community accommodation or aged care.

“The Department of Human Services (DHS) is developing options for the future of the Trust that owns Highgate Park,” a department spokesperson said.

“Following public consultation ending mid 2020, further independent consultation took place late last year, including interviews, workshops and surveys of people living with disability and disability sector experts.

“DHS is now taking the time to consider the feedback provided through the consultation process before a recommendation is made on the future of the Trust and site.”

Suggestions provided to the Department on the Government’s YourSay website include redeveloping Highgate Park into:

  • Purpose-built housing for people living with disability
  • A training centre where people can learn how to care for people with disability
  • A residential facility and child care centre for younger people with disability
  • A recreation hub for people with disability
  • A respite centre for carers of people with disability

The Department said any decision on the future of the site, including profits from the potential sale of the land, would benefit people with disability.

Opposition human services spokesperson Nat Cook, who worked at the old Julia Farr Centre as a nurse in the 1990s, said it was vital that the Government got the “best bang for buck” for people with disability.

“I think there’s a whole range of things that could be looked at,” she said.

“I think it’s not just housing – there’s a whole range of challenges facing people with disability in relation to building capacity, resilience and growth.

“We see still that nearly a quarter of complaints to the Equal Opportunity Commission are in relation to disability and a lot of those focus on access to education, employment and access.”

“I would hope that what is done to the site helps improve that.”

InDaily asked the Department of Human Services whether it had undertaken any work to determine the value of the land, but did not receive a response.

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