Millthorpe residents, staff speak out over lodge scandal

LODGE STAFF: Cleaner Ruth Harvey and cook Liz Knoblanche were tasked with helping pack up the belongings of residents removed from the Grand Western Lodge. They saw they are devistated about losing the residents and claim they've witnessed no wrong-doing at the lodge.
LODGE STAFF: Cleaner Ruth Harvey and cook Liz Knoblanche were tasked with helping pack up the belongings of residents removed from the Grand Western Lodge. They saw they are devistated about losing the residents and claim they've witnessed no wrong-doing at the lodge.

STAFF at Millthorpe's Grand Western Lodge have spoken out for the first time since the government removed all but one of the residents living there, claiming they're distraught over allegations made about how residents were treated at the boarding house.

Their claims have been supported by a vocal group of Millthorpe residents who say they can't understand why the residents, who have psychological and intellectual disabilities, were removed when they appeared to be living happy lives.

Gary Skerritt, a worker at the lodge, says he's very concerned about the way in which residents were removed by representatives from the Department of Ageing, Home Care and Disabilities (ADHC).

"They grabbed all their medications and sorted them out on the street," he claims.

"When the girls were removed they were in tears and none of them were allowed to take any of their gear... most of them didn't want to go,

"They were threatened that if they didn't go they'd be handcuffed by police," he alleges.

Mr Skerritt, who lives in a house next to the lodge, says what he saw of the lodge was in stark contrast to concerns raised by the department of ADHC staff and the People with Disability service.

"The truth is that the residents of the Grand Western Lodge live in a clean, warm, safe and caring environment,

"We at the lodge are unaware of any allegations of abuse from any source and the culture is certainly one of care and support," he says.

Supporters of the lodge say they are concerned about how the department has handled allegations raised at a Guardianship Tribunal hearing in early July.

"It's just shocking, I couldn't believe it," Tracey Nest, an owner of a business located near the lodge, says.

"You used to see residents all the time, out walking around heaps and because the town is so small you got to know a lot of them,

"If anything was happening, the people that work with the residents wouldn't have put up with it," Ms Nest claimed.

Village resident Bob Hill says he is critical of the way the decision to remove the residents was made.

"The people who were involved in the removal or who made the decision didn't know these residents,

"We've watched their health and happiness improve during their time," he claims.

Most of the staff and supporters of the lodge also refuse to accept allegations levelled against the lodge and licensee Adrian Powell at the Guardianship Tribunal in July.

Concerns raised by ADHC inspectors who visited the lodge were also dismissed as being motivated by a desire to close down licensed boarding houses.

"There's been no attempt to independently verify any of the allegations," Mr Hill claims.

Mr Powell is currently involved in a legal dispute with the department of ADHC for allegedly obstructing entry to an advocacy service who wanted to visit the Victoria Street boarding house to check on residents.