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Statement sees SA minister step aside in lieu of state election and Oakden investigation report release

A resignation from the upcoming state election has come just days after the release of the interim report by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, and a statement by the South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) regarding investigations into the 2017 Oakden scandal.

Former Minister for Mental Health Leesa Vlahos earlier this year (Source: Twitter)
Former Minister for Mental Health Leesa Vlahos earlier this year (Source: Twitter)

Ms Leesa Vlahos was the South Australian Minister for Disability and Mental Health during the time the abuse and mistreatment of residents at the Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Facility came to light and says with the South Australian ICAC report anticipated to be released close to the state election that it could pose as a “distraction”.

She says in her letter to Premier Jay Weatherill, which was made public via social media yesterday, that the “abuse and mistreatment” of residents at the Makk and McLeay wards was “a stain on the state of South Australia”, adding that the abuse was noted to preceded her time as Minister for Mental Health by “some years”.

“When the matters surfaced it fell on me to address the crisis,” she states.

“It was my job to rise in Parliament to apologise to the residents and their families both personally and on behalf of the whole Government.

“I remain proud that as Minister I acted to fix the problems at Oakden and we began to develop a system of decent long term care for the residents who, as you know, suffer deeply from the most challenging and complex mental health conditions.

“Now, however, it has become clear that the release of Commissioner Lander’s ICAC report will coincide with the final four weeks of the State election campaign…[and] while I expect no adverse finding...I am concerned that the timing of the release of this report could mean that my candidature could become a distraction at this most important time.”

The decision will see Ms Vlahos step aside from public office and relinquish her position on Labor’s Legislative Council ticket.

Mr Weatherill made a statement saying he was aware of Ms Vlahos’s decision to step aside.

ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander released a public statement on 5 February to say he is now writing his final report into the Oakden investigation which he said he hopes to have published on or before Wednesday 28 February 2018, with the state election set for 17 March 2018.

The Interim Report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee has called into question the roles played by relevant South Australian authorities and the aged care regulator.

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