Benjamin Pook

Which of the following statements best describes you?

  • I’m a person with disability
  • I’m a support worker / work directly with people with disability
  • I employ people with disability
  • I’m a researcher or academic
  • Other – former carer of a person with a disability

Question 1:
During the first stage of consultations we heard that the vision and the six outcome areas under the current Strategy are still the right ones. Do you have any comments on the vision and outcome areas being proposed for the new Strategy?

The inclusive element of the outcomes focuses on the physical elements of accessibility and this alienates many people with disabilities, creating a very limited view of what is an acceptable disability and what accessibility means. For those with psychosocial disability, neurological conditions and behavioural conditions physical modifications will have minimal if any affect for them in their daily life. It is the attitude of people, their language and approach which are the most debilitating towards many people with disabilities. This is also the largest proportion of people with a disability in Australia and due to their invisible nature are usually ignored.

Therefore, inclusive must take into account language, attitude and approaches to ensure that all people with disabilities are included within the strategy and there their needs can be met.

In rights protection it also does not mention that people with disabilities are listened to, an essential element in having your rights effectively heard and therefore upheld. Paternalistic approaches to disability have meant that the voice of people with a disability have not been effectively heard, so this needs to be a key element in the vision to help with this to actively included as part of the strategy.

Question 2:
What do you think about the guiding principles proposed here?

A program that is being funded and provides support for people with disabilities must have both people with disabilities employed in that program and also employed in management and governance positions. In my role I manage funding for first nations programs and they specifically say that first nations people have to be employed in those programs and that there are a minimum number of first nations people employed in management of that program. I know that these provisions are also present within funding for services that provide assistance for women who face domestic violence and LGBTIQA+ programs.

Therefore the guiding principles should include as a key principle that people with a disability are considered for employment as a minimum but that there should be identified positions for people with disabilities within those organisations at different levels. I have a psychosocial disability and successfully work in a management position, which is the main area of employment for people with a mental health diagnosis, so the skills are present. People are just worried about what will happen if they identify themselves as having a mental health or neurological condition.

Question 3:
What is your view on the proposal for the new Strategy to have a stronger emphasis on improving community attitudes across all outcome areas?

This is key and without it the whole strategy will miss the mark. These changes though start in the media, advertising, politics and general language. There are guides regarding language for radio when talking about death by suicide. Guides should be created for when people are talking about disabilities and in general language as well in government documents. A key example of this is the word retardation, which is present within the ICD-10 published by the World Health Organisation and is used as the basis for conditions which are included within List A and B for NDIS access. This word is highly derogatory and dismissive but it is still included in government guidance documents.

For people with a mental health condition or neurological condition words such as crazy, and insane can have significant impact on them personally as these words create stigma in the community and therefore fear.

Definitions of disability also need to be updated to create consistency across government departments and programs to ensure that those with a disability and the community have a clear understanding of programs and supports that are relevant to particular groups.

Question 4:
How do you think that clearly outlining what each government is responsible for could make it easier for people with disability to access the supports and services they need?

This will just create further barriers and issues for people with disabilities rather than making it easier to access services. For people who are disenfranchised or have been excluded it is difficult to ask for help from one department, organisation or system, let alone several. For those who have conditions which have debilitating affects and require them to use significant amounts of effort they will be left even further disadvantaged by having to communicate with multiple services and supports. Spoon theory is an excellent example of this and there is not enough space to discuss this here.

There needs to be a key contact for people who need and want that assistance to ensure that the system is equitable. Take for example a person with psychosocial disability who is in and out of housing due to their inability to maintain a tenancy. Would they need to go through the Council to identify local support programs and find a place to camp, state government for housing support, their doctor to get their medications, an NGO to help them get a food parcel while rough sleeping, centrelink to get their payment sorted and the NDIS to organise their application. This is a very real example and one that took that person 9 months to start to sort as they dealt with a fluctuating condition

Question 5:
How do you think the Strategy should represent the role that the non-government sector plays in improving outcomes for people with disability?

All organisations need to be inclusive so they need language guides, details about different disabilities. But if you want inclusion explain to them how they can better employ people with disabilities and how they can be flexible with their workplace agreements and supports. This will therefore mean that there are more people with a disability in the community and therefore disability can be normalised rather than be hidden.

Question 6:
What kind of information on the Strategy’s progress should governments make available to the public and how often should this information be made available?

There needs to be people with disabilities involved in reporting on different elements of the strategy through approaches such as Participatory Action Research Approaches at a local level that explore thematic issues, rather than just data. Story telling once every 10 years is not enough it needs to be completed on a monthly or quarterly basis and in different communities. It would not be enough to have these based in capital cities they should be held throughout Australia and in different ways. Many councils have disability network meetings and these could be sued to report on progress as they are held by including people with disabilities at these meetings and get insight from NGO’s service providers and people from the community as well.

Question 7:
What do you think of the proposal to have Targeted Action Plans that focus on making improvements in specific areas within a defined period of time (for example within one, two or three years)?

They have to be realistic and targeted. They also need to be targeted to different disabilities and their needs to ensure no group is left behind rather than just having generic goals such as having activities that are accessible to people with a disability.

Question 8:
How could the proposed Engagement Plan ensure people with disability, and the disability community, are involved in the delivery and monitoring of the next Strategy?

I have answered this question previously but until people with a disability lead this strategy it will not succeed or be accepted.

Question 9:
Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the position paper?

I’m happy to provide more detail and information if required and my contact details were provided at the start of my submission.