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From princess to pauper,5478,9765068%255E2862,00.html

June 7, 2004
Nikki Protyniak
Herald and Weekly Times

GOVERNMENT penny-pinching has left Australia's former queen of publicity and tireless charity worker Ingrid Berg suffering and in pain.

Ms Berg, who suffers multiple sclerosis, diabetes, hearing loss and other debilitating ailments, has been told there is not enough money in Federal Government aged care coffers to pay for the home care worker she so desperately needs.
It's a cruel slap for the woman who spent a lifetime helping others and who once counted stars such as Johnny O'Keefe and Slim Dusty among her closest friends.

Ms Berg is now largely confined to the modest Vermont South home she shares with her frail mother and their dog Jack.

Both Ms Berg, 62, and her mother Norma, 86, have been approved for home help under the Government's community care program, but have been told it will take at least a year before a worker is found.

"I don't think we can afford to wait until something tremendously horrible happens to one of us," Ms Berg said.

"We need help today."

In an ironic twist, Norma Berg had a fall at home and was rushed by ambulance to hospital with a ruptured eardrum and suspected hip fracture just hours after the Herald Sun's visit.

Doctors kept her in hospital overnight and have ordered her to remain in bed until her bruises heal.

Irene Berg, once feted by politicians and stars for her hard work and good deeds, said daily life had become a struggle for her and her mother, who suffers chronic arthritis.

"I can't do the groceries, I can't change the linens on our beds, I can't do the washing, I can't look after the garden. I can't even walk for longer than 30 paces," said Ms Berg, who relies on a scooter to get around.

She was only officially diagnosed with MS in January this year, after suffering the ill effects of the disease most of her adult life.

"One night last week mum and I were both in bed at six o'clock. I was totally and utterly exhausted," Ms Berg said.

It's a far cry from her days as celebrity publicist and manager to the stars, where her clients and friends included Elton John, Sammy Davis Jr, Harry Secombe, Helen Reddy, Renee Geyer, Cliff Richard, Olivia Newton-John, Kamahl and Dame Joan Sutherland.

Ms Berg, who received an Order of Australia medal for her services to showbusiness and charities in 1992, also helped steer the prestigious Australian Entertainment MO awards for many years.

She is also credited with discovering 1970s Australian television sexpot Abigail and introducing male models to Australian catwalks.

Among the charities the former nurse-turned-publicist has helped are the Australian Red Cross, the Variety Club, Diabetes Australia, Community Aid Abroad and the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of New South Wales.

Ms Berg begged bureaucrats to reconsider their plight.

"I've got a credo -- one day at a time," she said. "It's a battle but I've got to keep positive for mother's sake and my own. If we only could just have some help things could be so different for us."

Copyright © 2004, Herald and Weekly Times