Almost every day the papers contain yet another story of a Mr Fluffy issue. But by and large, the issue seems to have died down a tad because people have been bought out and mostly moved on with their lives. Some blocks are still being cleared and some streets in Canberra still like a row of teeth with a tooth missing.
Former Fluffy contaminated blocks have been sold and some building on them has commenced. OK you might think.
Yeah well, I am not so sure about that. In fact, I’m enraged about the slowness of resolution in one case and the apparent inability to achieve a resolution.
Back in April 2015 (yes, nearly two years ago,) I got a call from a friend of mine, Jon Crowley, in a state of distress. He asked for my help.
You might remember Jon. He was the guy who was shot by the police in Chapman, whilst he was having a psychotic episode and waving a bamboo kendo stick around. He was rendered a quadriplegic. He spent ages in hospital in Sydney and ultimately came back to Canberra to be with or near his family. His principal carers were and are his parents, now in their 80s.
He sued for compensation but the ACT Government, the Commonwealth Government and the AFP defended the case and he was awarded $8 million. Those entities appealed and after a lengthy period won their appeal and he was left with nothing but his disability pension and a dependence on the public health system.
To their credit, the ACT Government modified a semi-detached house in Chapman for Jon and he moved in, hoping for an improved life, including interaction with his limited range of friends and his church. How he could believe in the compassion of a God, when he had been through all this, just escapes me.
After some battles with carers provided by the ACT Government, things seemed to have settled down a bit, until that fateful day in April 2015.
He got a letter saying he had to move out because he was in a Mr Fluffy house! It turns out that the ACT Government owned five houses with Mr Fluffy contamination. Incidentally as at mid last year, the other four have been resettled.
They wanted him to move many suburbs away, far from his support network and his social opportunities. I waded in and spoke to a number of people and this was canned. So, thanks to the guys in the bureaucracy who put a stop to this. I thought that some sympathy and empathy were at work.
We talked about a number of alternatives and the people went off looking. Nothing for another year! More agitation was needed and delivered. Appeals to the ministers responsible were met with undertakings of immediate action. Yeah right! Even the agitation of a local ALP branch had not much effect.
A place had been found near his home in Chapman and the department was to buy it and modify it. Jon was ecstatic. Then they were gazumped! Jon is devastated. How can a government be gazumped? Slowness to act is how they can get gazumped!
A number of weeks later Jon is told that they are going to buy a house, knock it down and purpose build a house on the block for him. (smelt like a Mr Fluffy house to me) Jon is getting a bit skeptical about now and who can blame him?
Everything looked good, with plans flowing back and forth. It was hoped he could be in by Christmas. I had my doubts because I couldn’t see the planning approvals and building approvals being done in this time, no matter that the political will of the ministry wanted a speedy resolution.
Well, it is now two months into 2017, nearly two whole years after he first found out he was in a Mr Fluffy property, and still no resolution. The latest explanation is that it takes time to get the demolition approvals from some imaginary friend before the builder can be tasked with demolition and construction. And so, Jon waits.
He waits in a Mr Fluffy property, not being allowed to put nails in the walls for pictures, being scared in case his huge wheelchair bangs into a wall, being required to advise his itinerant carers that they are working in a Mr Fluffy environment (with all that this entails), being promised resolution; all the while being in a distressed state, fearing that he will get a cancer from the asbestos.
This is a guy who was in a mental health state, shot by the police instead of being talked around by the crisis management team from ACT Mental Health, who is now having nightmares in dealing with NDIS issues of reducing entitlements, having massive medical issues requiring acute care in an environment where that medical support is limited and is supported by his parents in their 80s.
Hello! What part of fixing this can’t be fast-tracked. Anyone out there want to change places with Jon, even for a week?
I’m sick of being told how grateful people are for our intercession on behalf of Jon. I’m sick of being patted on the head and told everything will be ok. I’m sick of waiting nearly two years for Jon to have a half decent existence. And imagine how Jon feels!
We let him down. He was a sick member of our community and we shot him. Then we denied him just compensation, even denying him an act of grace payment with no admission of liability. What does he have to do to be treated with kindness? Respect? Compassion? I find it hard to look Jon in the eye and feel that we haven’t let him down because we have.
I know that the bureaucrats have done their jobs so far, but really don’t you think that a resolution for Jon could have been fast-tracked?
PS: since writing this article, I’ve been advised that the Gumment has let a contract to build a home for Jon. Baby steps but movement. Still months away!