Disabled and carers have something to celebrate

For 40 years, people with disabilities and their carers have been mad as hell, bricked in, as frustrated as heck and very blooming bolshie.

The NDIS vision is the collective baby of advocates with disabilities, parents, corporate insurance experts and carers advocating for a viable NDIS under the banner of various voluntary organisations including the Carers Alliance, Association for Children with a Disability, Bolshie Divas, Mad as Hell and more.

Today every member of these groups has something to celebrate. 

The NDIS may not be delivered, but the parliamentary foundations are being laid with the introduction of the bill. 

Carers and those living with a disability met with brick walls for almost 40 years on the big asks, comprehensive lifelong care and accommodation. They asked for a complex set of opportunities that yielded therapy, equipment, modified housing, carers, appropriate support to enable access to paid work, respect. 

Those with disabilities sought to meet their potential and enjoy a

fulfilling and long life without undermining the lives of their loved ones. They were conceded a paltry and piecemeal patchwork of poorly delivered dysfunctional services that has varied from state to state. 

Delivery of a comprehensive scheme to help meet those needs has now been formalised. 

However, many people with disabilities are fearful that there will be further delays as, and when, states try to water down the NDIS, that service providers will attempt to take too big a cut and that there is no budget for rollout of the full scheme, (more than $6billion) any time soon.

As with the Gillard-Garrett Gonski scheme, the programs are being chunked and budget clearance for full implementation is still in the “never never”, if not the “never never ever”. 

Many stakeholders, recognising the value of both programs to a more inclusive, equitable Australia where all people can grow, engage with and maximise their positive contribution to society, are fearful that the programs will be shelved if there is a fiscal downturn or change of government. There is concern that hopes have been raised and may yet be dashed. 

Carers want to especially thank Bill Shorten, John Della Bosca, Jenny Macklin, Jan McLucas and above all, Julia Gillard, who recognises the difference that maximising education opportunities and disability insurance will make. Maxine McKew and Therese Reine were supportive of human rights and services for this sector. 

As prime minister, Julia Gillard has taken the NDIS issue right up to the leadership of the Opposition, giving hope to many. And the NDIS bill introduction was ignored by most Liberal and National Party Opposition members, unwilling to be seen opposing it. This is because so many families are affected and the issue can make or break a government. 

The Liberal Opposition’s “A Strong Australia” policy paper (also issued yesterday), says that any Liberal National Party Coalition government would, if elected, opt to leave the NDIS out of the budget until, if ever, there’s a tidy surplus. Even then Howard balked and bilked the most vulnerable in society. For 12 years. His $12 billion surplus was not shared among the vulnerable. 

This is why I would never vote for the Liberal National Party. 

Ms Gillard will meet with the state premiers next year to settle who pays what.

The states are expected to oppose attempts by the government to extract more money to fund the scheme. Such an approach would also contravene the Productivity Commission’s recommendation that the Commonwealth be sole funder and administrator of the NDIS to stop duplication.

Labor says it has committed $1 billion for the first stage of the NDIS.

From the middle of next year, the scheme will be available to more than 20,000 people with disabilities in five launch sites across the country – in the Barwon area in Victoria, the Hunter in New South Wales and across South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

An independent body, the NDIS Launch Transition Agency, has been set up to run the scheme.

Australia had a very backward disability program under Howard. His ministers failed to meet with desperate families repeatedly for over a decade. Some of us will never ever forget that. Gillard’s actions have changed many lives profoundly and for the better. She deserves our gratitude.

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