On September 6, 2013, just one day before the last Federal Election, Every Australian Counts Day reminded our nation’s leaders to keep their promise to support Australians with disability through the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
“We need to make sure with the Federal Election that if there are new MPs that enter Parliament, that we’ve got their support,” says Katherine McClellan, Campaign Coordinator for Every Australian Counts.
It was also a day to celebrate what the Every Australian Counts movement had accomplished by rallying the disability sector and driving bipartisan support for the NDIS. The Government introduced the scheme under the name DisabilityCare Australia on July 1, 2013. All states and territories signed up for the NDIS.
“Everyone’s been very pleased at how far we’ve come, but nobody’s really taken that moment,” Ms McClellan says, “this is the biggest social reform that has ever happened in Australia for people with disabilities and we’ve made this happen.”
Audio – Katherine McClellan Campaign Coordinator for Every Australian Counts
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The Productivity Commission first proposed the NDIS in 2011 after undertaking a public inquiry into disability care and support. The Commission’s report found that “The current disability support system is underfunded, unfair, fragmented, and inefficient, and gives people with a disability little choice and no certainty of access to appropriate supports.”
Under this system, some people with disability are only able to shower twice a week, while some children are waiting for more than two years for a wheelchair.
Ms McClellan says a new system will help people like Peter, a young man from Western Australia who became a quadriplegic after a freak accident. At 17 years of age, Peter and his friends went to a local lake and decided to jump off a bridge into the water. “His friend jumped off and Peter couldn’t get out of the way soon enough,” Ms McClellan says. “His friend landed on top of him and he broke his spine.”
Peter went on to complete a university degree in social work and became a successful youth counselor. However, Peter has very high personal support needs as a quadriplegic but the state government refused to provide financial support for his personal care because he was working.
“His work was actually paying for his personal care because they knew how valuable he was as an employee but they couldn’t sustain that,” Ms McClellan says. “The terrible part of this is that if he chose not to work, all of his personal care needs would be taken care of, but he would be at home, sitting on the couch, spending his days watching DVDs.”
With the NDIS, Peter will be able to access support for his personal care needs and continue working: “It doesn’t make sense for a young man to be forced out of the workforce where he was getting self-worth, contributing to the economy and contributing to society.”
While the supports and services provided through the NDIS will meet the needs of people with disability, the new scheme also has a greater focus on life outcomes. Ms McClellan says the NDIS will ask people with disability: “what do they want to do for their lives, what are their hopes and dreams and aspirations, things that people without disability are very good at thinking about and often people with disability aren’t just because they haven’t been given the chance to do that.”
VIDEO: What is the NDIS
As a Christian, Ms McClellan says her faith has impacted her work in the disability sector and has provided her with the opportunity to help people who are among the most disadvantaged in Australia.
“This is a sector where people have for too long been pushed to the sides, pushed to the background and haven’t been listened to,” Ms McClellan says. “I think it’s the right move for our country to do this because we have been letting people down, and I think as Christians we need to support these sorts of social policies that are making life better for people.”