VICTORIAN Assistant Shadow Minister for Small Business and Autism, Bernie Finn, PICTURED, has vowed to fight for more State Government funding to support local people on the autism spectrum.

Visiting Mildura today (November 19) as part of a fact-finding mission, Mr Finn was able to meet with Sunraysia Autism Support Group members, and industry professionals, to hear more about the issue.

He said that he had been “horrified” by the lack of funding finding its way to our region to support locals diagnosed with autism.

“I can’t believe families here have it so tough, and have so few services,” Mr Finn said. “We need to address that.

“Local groups are unable to access funds, and it’s almost like the State Government has used the National Disability Insurance Scheme as an excuse…. it’s harming people, especially those in regional areas.

“It’s an issue I plan to raise in Parliament next week, namely the lack of funding for the Sunraysia Autism Support Group.”

Mr Finn said that he had also learned more about some of the cultural issues facing the Aboriginal community when it comes to autism.

“While I’m not a big fan of separating people on the basis of skin colour when it comes to healthcare, for Aboriginal people there are some cultural issues when it comes to autism,” he said.

“Mallee District Aboriginal Services is actually working on a report that will be released next month that looks at this issue, which has, to this point, largely been ignored.

“It’s a good thing that it is now being highlighted.”

While in the region, Mr Finn also met with Mildura Regional Development and Mildura Rural City Council to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities in the small business landscape.

“A lot of the talk was around what issues are being felt, and what solutions we could advocate for,” Mr Finn said. “Essentially I’m up here to hear from the people of Mildura and determine what we can do if we win the next election.

“I have a great deal of difficulty removing tourism from small business – they go together.

“With tourism, everyone who comes spends money in some way, they contribute to the local community.

“So there’s some important issues there, and also around supporting small business owners to get on with it.

“What I have been asking is for people to tell me where government can just get out of their way. If government let small business get on with it, they are more likely to succeed.

“I’m also very keen, as a country boy, to ensure that country people are not forgotten.

“Regional Victoria is worthy of representation, and of getting a fair go, and that’s why I’m here, and why I’ll be back…”