Five

Five years. People talk about five years like it’s a long time. It is, and it isn’t.

Five years ago today I started work back in Australia after what can loosely be described as “time away”. I re-entered the disability sector. I re-entered the Church (which in my case eventually included becoming a Catholic). Five years ago, I was single, and hurting.

I can remember waking up at stupid o’clock on the morning of 8 May. I have known for some three weeks then I would be starting in this job. I had in fact already been to a quarterly meeting the Thursday prior with one of my colleagues who I had known previously leaning back watching a slideshow demonstrating some of the problems that I would be dealing with. I suspect part of him was relieved that among his busy roles, someone else would be dealing with access–whatever that term means. However, it was still my first day in that role.

Anyway, all suited up, I arrived at work, on the early bus and was sitting outside a nearby church a little after eight o’clock. I had been asked not to start before 9:30 AM on that occasion. I remember feeling nervous.  I remember the sunshine. I remember trying to empty my head so that I could focus on the day. I also remember feeling powerful and having a real sense of the possible. As it turned out, a lot was possible. But I was still very naive in some ways as to what I was taking on. Who knows what a bit of extra knowledge would have done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. The wasting of it. The good use of it. The goals we set and forget. The goals we remember. The visions we have for which we have some responsibility, and those that are more esoteric.

Matt’s post on creating time for your life, was good for me. I started thinking about the passage of time. Then, at the conference, five articulate advocates were asked to share five ways that they hoped the disability sector would be different in five years. Ramp Up’s editor very articulately made the case that there was a lot more than five things that she wanted. It was the only time at the conference that I was close to tears (well no, but the only presentation that brought me close to tears).

In another part of my life–blogging  Danimezza shares powerfully and intimately the journey she has taken through time, including importantly the stuff we choose not to speak about on our blogs. You go girl! I’m proud to be a lurker on your blog. Blogging can be hard if you can’t be (or don’t want to be) classified as a particular “type” of blogger. I’m often just an “other”–a position I’m fairly used to.

I didn’t think today would be a review day. But I’m glad it is. In case you are interested tomorrow I will do my five things. But I want today to think about it.

 

What’s on your agenda for the next five years?

 

 

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Because every Australian does count

With apologies to my international readers this is about a very important political movement happening here in Australia to help people with disabilities cover the living costs of having a disability in an enabling way I would really appreciate it if you are happy to refer this post to any Australian that you know. Thanks. Joanna

 

Part of the reason that I was in Melbourne this week was to attend the National Disability and Carers Congress.

 

It was an interesting exercise in people watching, as well is a great deal more. Most of the people attending were service providers who, it has to be said were unsure what to do with me. I was one of about 25 people who use wheelchairs, and have made a business or, like me, represent a service that seeks to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their carers. This was among 1000.

The Disability and Carers Alliance is not something that I was aware of. I’m not sure how long it’s been around. But it struck me to some degree that the alliance, however old or long is a tenuous one established to get everybody on the same page and fighting towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is something that although it smells a little bit like the latest silver bullet, in a similar way to the development of the now endorsed Disability (Access to Premises–Buildings) Standards, I think this might well have a very good and profound impact on the living standards of people with disabilities.

That is of course if like all things we can get the balance right. The balance between individual freedom and flexibility to choose and the unavoidable budgetary constraints, which means that it is unrealistic, unworkable and unfair to expect a blank cheque to be given out to every individual who has a disability.

The biggest thing that impressed me was the business case and the fact that the  Productivity Commission could see the business case. Without compassion to human rights, social conscience, “well we’re really should because it’s the right thing to do” type arguments,  these people who in one case had nothing to do with disability, could see the usefulness of including people with disabilities and increasing both their participation and comfort for a mere 12 ½ billion dollars.

That isn’t a lot of money really when you consider that the current cost most of 6 ½ billion doesn’t include the people with disabilities in the country get no government assistance with the costs of their mobility, communication and self-care needs and are being simultaneously vastly underutilised.

I was pleased that after the rallying cry, the first real order of business was, to examine the cold hard facts and actively for the time being avoid  using the soft fluffy arguments, which aren’t always the most useful, although they are often the first to be drawn on.

I will no doubt have more to say about the Congress and the NDIS in coming days, and onward in the lead up to government response which is due by the end of the year after the Productivity Commission gives the government its report in July. the government then have until November to respond.

In the meantime, if you believe that people with disabilities have the right and responsibility to make a contribution, and then every Australian counts, could you please go to this website and with your three quick clicks say so?

For another argument ABC Ramp Up has a guest post from one of the conveners of the Congress

This is the first time since the  International Year Of Disabled People in 1981,  that I have seen such an opportunity to get the community of people with disabilities in whatever form and our friends families and supporters politically and socially mobilised to make a difference. Whatever happens at the end of the year, that much I am proud of.


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