PEOPLE with disabilities in Albury no longer have to endure long return bus trips to Wodonga for assistance following the unveiling of a new office at Lavington on Thursday.
The fresh Regional Disability Advocacy Service branch was opened by Albury MP Justin Clancy who oversaw sight-challenged Wodonga resident Tara Hills cutting a ribbon across its door.
RDAS has been based in Wodonga for more than 20 years and received NSW government funding but has never had an office in Albury.
Its executive officer Martin Butcher said it was a big moment for the organisation which helps around 100 clients from Deniliquin to Albury in the southern Riverina.
"It means we're showing our commitment to people living with disabilities in the area," Mr Butcher said.
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He added given the Victorian lockdown it meant an office was now open in the Twin Cities while the Wodonga premises was closed.
Mr Butcher said RDAS had received NSW government funding for 25 years but that was put in doubt in 2018 when the federally-funded NDIS started.
He said despite the NDIS, RDAS faced losing funding for advocacy services so NSW maintaining support had been crucial to continuing that role.
RDAS helps people with disabilities navigate issues with Centrelink and schools and notifies them of their rights.
Mr Clancy said RDAS had a vital role and he was pleased to see it have a base in Albury after having become short of space in Wodonga.
"There's a real importance to the advocacy work that is done by organisations such as RDAS and we want to make sure that important work continues," he said.
"To be here in the heart of Lavington and accessible via transport services it's really welcome seeing that."
Clients from Thurgoona previously needed to take the best part of a day to catch connecting bus services to reach the Wodonga office before returning.
The Lavington premises is behind the NAB bank branch along Griffith Road, with its entry on to a car park.
In addition to advocacy services, it also features a branch of Plan & Connect which is the business arm of RDAS that assists new and existing clients on NDIS plans.
Plan & Connect manager Dianne Spalding said the service support around 250 clients and having a Lavington office would be convenient for many of them.
"We've found there's a lot of people in this area that have to take two buses to get to Wodonga so this is a great opportunity with the bus stop nearby (in Griffith Road)," she said.
The office will open in business hours from Monday to Friday and the Wodonga site will continue to operate.