My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Community Services and relates to an organisation called Rainbow Riders, which is based in Connewarre in my electorate. Rainbow Riders is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2001 which assists young people, in particular those who live with disadvantage. It was created by Ross and Dee Clancy, who both have a background in youth work.
Rainbow Riders uses the power of the farm environment and horse therapy to enhance the lives of many disadvantaged youth in the Geelong region. Young people attending Rainbow Riders can come from a diverse range of disadvantage, including those with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability and a range of mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Currently 80 young people regularly access the services of Rainbow Riders.
Through Rainbow Riders young members of our community are given the opportunity to learn about horses in the farm environment in order to improve their physical and emotional wellbeing. Of course that includes benefits of increased self-esteem and confidence, building social skills and stronger family and peer relationships, amongst others.
Recently Rainbow Riders has come under increased financial stress after the death of a major benefactor late last year, as well as the inability to secure grant assistance. This has caused the organisation to close its doors temporarily to reassess the program. This has resulted in an element of despair in the community, with one parent of a child who attends Rainbow Riders being quoted in the local media yesterday as saying:
“I’d have to say of all the therapy programs we looked at for our kids, Rainbow Riders offered the program with the most scope; it is the broadest therapy program I have ever come across, in Sydney before we moved and here in Victoria …
I have nothing but respect for the staff at Rainbow Riders.”
It is clear that this organisation is excellent and is highly valued in our community. As recently as this afternoon there have been phone calls to my office indicating that the situation is desperate. The action I require is that the minister urgently meet with representatives of Rainbow Riders to discuss government financial support for this very important organisation.