NEW Disabilities Minister Gareth Ward met a Hunter delegation on Wednesday over the government's plan to close the Stockton Centre, Kanangra and Tomaree Lodge and to house the remaining 300 or so residents in group homes.
The delegation from the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association had earlier met with Opposition MPs and Lake Macquarie Independent Greg Piper.
Both meetings took place in Parliament House in Sydney.
Mr Ward, who replaced John Ajaka MLC as minister after the March election, had a senior staffer from Family and Community Services with him.
Afterwards, he confirmed he had visited Stockton and Kanangra recently to meet with "frontline staff and residents".
"I appreciated the opportunity to hear their views, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to care for people with disability," Mr Ward said after the meeting.
Union organiser Rita Martin said that both meetings had gone well, and that Mr Ward was "willing to hear" what the Stockton and Kanangra staff who had taken part in the meeting had to say.
Ms Martin said the Labor MPs and Mr Piper had been "very receptive".
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, the Opposition's Hunter spokesperson, said after the meeting that Mr Ward had an opportunity as a new minister to "take stock, acknowledge the serious legacy issues left to him by the previous ministers, and find a respectful, safe way forward".
"Despite the many assurances given by previous ministers to residents, families, advocates and staff, they have not been genuinely consulted," Ms Washington said.
"As a result, terrible decisions have been made with tragic consequences.
"We simply cannot afford to lose the experience and expertise of the nurses and staff who support the residents of the three centres."
Mr Piper, who helped broker the meeting with Mr Ward, said it was clear that staff were " justly frustrated with a lack of consultation over the transition arrangements for clients and staff if the centres".
"They acknowledged the minister has inherited much of the process but they want to revisit the arrangements to get the best outcome for all," Mr Piper said.
"Gareth Ward certainly appeared open to further discussion. Hopefully that will get further meaningful discussion and changes where necessary."
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