Last week was a busy week as far as politics goes in Australia. I’m not going to go into detail about the problems the Liberal Party and Malcolm Turnbull have faced this past week, but I do want to comment on what the resultant media storm has done a good job of hiding. It has hidden what may be the beginning of one of the largest social policy reform decisions to be made in the last decade here in Australia. I’m talking about the announcement that Kevin Rudd made in his speech last week at the National Disability Awards in Canberra. He has announced that the Labour government will engage the Productivity Commission to carry out an inquiry into the potential of a National Long Term Care and Support scheme by 2011.
Essentially, he has asked that a review take place into how people with a disability in Australia are provided access and inclusion to life. Imagine a Medicare-type service focused on providing funding for services for people who are disabled.
In the current system, there are a number of overlaps and gaps in the funding system, which essentially promises that many people who are suffering from a disability are shut out from funding and support. Even in simple terms, someone who has become disabled through an environmental accident (say, you have fallen from your roof) is currently not covered in the same way that someone who has been born into a disability is, or that perhaps someone who has been in a traffic accident is.
This has created the very real situation in which some people who are suffering the same disability are faced with great variances in the access they are provided to society. The person who has fallen from their roof and now can’t walk, is supported less than someone who has lost that ability through a traffic accident.As many of you will know, I’ve been doing some work with the Ai-Media crew up in Sydney these last few months, around the implementation of live captioning services into classroom education in Australia. (For those who haven’t yet seen the video by Tony and Alex discussing the project, do so here.)
I know for me personally, working in that environment, my eyes have been opened to just how much we shut people out without knowing…in my first team meeting I sat next to Alex (who is deaf) and had to move to the other side of the table because a) he was not able to read my lips when I was next to him and b) because I was talking too fast and without my hands. Wow – and that’s just a ‘simple’ team meeting.Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t see your computer screen? Or if you couldn’t hear your phone ring (or, for that matter, the person on the other end of the line). Or what if you couldn’t walk and needed help getting from a to b? These are just such simple abilities that we take for granted every day. Imagine how secluded and ostracized you would feel were you not able to simply do that.
Now imagine that you have such a disability and can’t get any support to help you gain inclusion to a society that often forgets you. I encourage you to read the report Shut Out: The Experience of People and their Families in Australia for more insight into some of the difficulties currently faced by those with a disability.
It’s why I support Kevin Rudd’s initiative, why I hope that the productivity commission comes back with a strong recommendation to set up a National Disability Insurance Scheme, and why I ‘ll be continuing to update you about such progress on this blog as it happens.