Vision Australia radio future in doubt

By Shepparton News

After 40 years on the airwaves, Vision Australia Radio may be no more next year due to a lack of funding support from the Federal Government.

Operated by Vision Australia, the Shepparton service is one of seven radio stations run by the national not-for-profit organisation in regional Victoria which ensures people in the area have access to printed material that may otherwise be off limits.

Following the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Vision Australia needs to secure $700000 per year from the government to ensure the future of the service.

The News believes Vision Australia Radio currently receives $600000 in Federal Government money.

Vision Australia government relations and advocacy manager Chris Edwards visited the region yesterday to advocate for the service.

‘‘The NDIS has meant major changes to how disability support organisations are funded, and unfortunately those changes have severely jeopardised the future of Vision Australia Radio,’’ Mr Edwards said.

‘‘Each year more than 700000 people tune into Vision Australia Radio.

‘‘Closure would mean equal access to broadcast media for people with a print disability is severely restricted and local and diverse content will be lost for good.’’

Vision Australia volunteer committee chairman, panel operator and presenter Peter Simpson said Vision Australia Radio broadcasts included readings from the Shepparton News and other local newspapers as well as books, magazines and other printed resources.

He said the service was popular with not only vision-impaired individuals but also people who suffered from dyslexia, those with full sight who struggled to read and also people from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Mr Simpson feared many people would miss out on local news if the service was stopped.

‘‘A large proportion of our audience are older people and radio is the best source for them to get local news,’’ he said.

Mr Edwards said he met Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum to share the organisation’s concerns for the region.

‘‘We presented issues we had. He certainly understood those issues, he is prepared to offer support to ensure that we engage a meeting with the right ministers to be able to work this issues through so we have a solution,’’ he said.

Mr Drum said he planned to meet NDIS Minister Stuart Robert about how to resolve the ‘‘shortfall’’.

‘‘This situation currently facing them (Vision Australia) is an unintended consequence of the NDIS funding arrangements.

‘‘I’m sure that this is not the only service that has been hit by disability funding going from block to individual model.

‘‘I am a huge supporter of the information that is related through Vision Australia Radio’s largely volunteer-based service.

‘‘My National party colleagues and me will be advocating fiercely for it to continue to operate in our regional electorates,’’ Mr Drum said.

Mr Edwards said Vision Australia would continue meeting decision makers in coming weeks in an attempt to secure funding.

‘‘We need to secure some funding by the end of the year,’’ he said.

‘‘Without the government being able to offer that support there’s a good chance the board would have to make a very difficult decision to reduce services in the radio.’’