2015 Melbourne Cup will be long remembered by many who have only a fleeting
interest in horse racing. Prince of
Penzance did most of the work on the day, but jockey Michelle Payne and
strapper Steven Payne stole the limelight.
shared joy of the sister and brother warmed so many hearts. ‘A determined woman beating the odds in a
corporate, chauvinistic world, cheered on by a brother with an intellectual
disability working in the same elitist, febrile arena.’ as Kathy Evans wrote
the following day in the Sydney Morning
prominence and his achievements highlight the important roles of family and
close community members in providing the support and building the relationships
that are so central to a rewarding life.
They also call on many of us to revisit our own approach to people with
an intellectual disability.
Evans, a writer and the
mother of a child with Down’s Syndrome, touches on some of these broader
themes, and highlights the complex and mixed attitudes that our society brings
to people with disabilities.
She contrasts the warm
acceptance of Steven in the workplace with the very low rate – 12% - of people
with intellectual disability who are working full time. And, among other things, she notes ‘the dark
side of the story, the bit that gets tucked away in the basements of hospitals
shielded from public view’ is that the vast majority of pregnancies diagnosed
as Down’s Syndrome in Australia today are terminated.’
As well as a personal
response, we are called as a society to put in place policies and structures to
provide support for those in need.
The National Disability
Insurance Scheme is a national response to the provision of support for people
with severe disability. It is in the
process of being introduced in various parts of Australia, currently providing
for 20,000 participants, with a view to full roll out, facilitating support for
some 460,000 Australians, by 2020.
There are clear achievements
to date. 95% of participants to date
have rated the service they have received as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. And some individuals, families and
participating agencies report much more positive results under the NDIS than
were achieved previously. Another
highlight is that 18% of the staff of the Geelong-headquartered National
Disability Insurance Agency are people with disability.
But there are major issues
yet to be satisfactorily addressed.
Employment outcomes overall leave much to be desired; housing remains a major issue; and the
support to be provided for people with mental illness has yet to be worked out.
Catholic social service
agencies that have participated in the early stages of the NDIS recently
reflected on that experience at a national gathering in Canberra.
It is still early days,
but, on balance, they were very positive.
Some of their program participants received much more satisfactory
levels of support under the NDIS than had been funded previously. Additionally, the voice that NDIS affords
program participants in the development of their support package, and the
choice that they have in selecting a service provider, has resulted in
innovative and responsive engagement from the providers, and increased
satisfaction for many participants.
Another crucial phase in
the NDIS rollout is the tendering out of the work that is needed to provide
community integration for NDIS participants, and also for those many people
with disability who will not meet the NDIS criteria of ‘significant and permanent disability that adversely
affects how they can take part in everyday activities.’
Bids for this work are
currently being sought in the Bendigo and Ballarat areas, and in north eastern
Melbourne – all areas where the NDIS will be rolled out over the next
year. The results of this process will
be vital for the success of the scheme.
Equally vital will be the
response of the community into which integration and linkages are being
Are all of our institutions
and employers active in considering the employment of people with
disability? Do we actively seek to
engage everyone in our worship, our hobbies, our social engagements, etc?
Do we value and practice
inclusiveness as we would want others to include us? As we see Stephen Payne included?
6 November 2015