Take My Word For it

One of my pet hates in life is to have to constantly prove that I am deaf. You know society mistrusts everyone so much that you must show that you are the real deal. Often it is necessary because people do take advantage.  For example they will try to de-fraud Centrelink of Disability Pension money by pretending that they have a disability of some sort.  Sometimes proving one has a disability is just logical. Often it is not. In fact  it is often just a down right abuse of human dignity.

For example, a deaf person going to University might meet one of the University disability support staff to try and work out the most appropriate type of support that they can get. Perhaps it is captioning or perhaps an interpreter is required. Some may just simply require a hearing loop so that they can utilise their hearing they have more effectively. The deaf person will rock up for the initial interview. They will show their hearing aids, they might even have an interpreter for the initial interview. It will be obvious that they are deaf. They may have a deaf voice, they may sign to communicate or simply they will have a cochlear implant for all to see.

So they will have their initial interview and they will work out the support that they require to study. It may be technology or it might be a sign language interpreter.  The assessment interview might take an hour. The disability support person will know clearly that the person is deaf simply because deaf person spent the last hour signing their answers to them. Yet despite this they will insist that before any support is given that the deaf person must provide an audiogram or a letter from their Doctor verifying that they are deaf. I mean hearing people just decide for the fun of it that they will pretend they are deaf, book interpreters and have their lectures interpreted  for them … you know simply because its fun. Lots of people are weird like that – go figure. Sometimes a little common sense is required.

So it was with great dismay that I found out today that to participate in national or state deaf sporting events in the future that I will have to provide an audiogram. I mean I have only been involved in the Deaf community for 28 years. I entered it when I was 18 and have partaken in three Australian Deaf Games, numerous national and state deaf golf championships, a few Southern Cross Soccer Championships and even a Deaf Mixed Netball Championships. I thought that everyone knew that I was deaf.  Apparently not.  You see – all these years they have actually suspected that I might be hearing and because of this I now must submit an audiogram before I partake in any official Deaf sporting events ever again. I must do this to prove to them what I and they already know – that I am deaf.

Of course I do not have an audiogram. I have not seen an audiologist since I left school. So I must pay some money to a doctor or an audiologist to show that I am deaf.  Bugger the fact that I must pay registration fees, travel and accommodation costs to participate in deaf sporting events, I now must pay an additional sixty bucks or so to verify I am deaf. I thought they already knew. How could I have been so stupid. I am a hearing person in disguise and I did not even KNOW!

You know  deaf sport is really corrupt. We find the best hearing people we can, just to win, and make them pretend that they are deaf. Yeah, and then these people go on to represent Australia pretending that they are deaf. Real deaf people miss out because hearing people are just wanting to replace deaf people in everything! Winning is so important that deaf sports teams are gonna stack their teams with elite hearing athletes. There is no financial gain involved. These hearing people actually have to pay for the privilege of pretending to be deaf and partaking in deaf sport. They are queuing up to abuse the system – they are everywhere! Yep, they will pay thousands for the honour. ” Hey I am hearing, I am so good I represented the Deaf Tiddley Winks Team in Nepal, and paid $10 000 for the privilege — HE HE HE HE —- Ain’t I sneaky???”

Ok I am getting a little cynical but the Deaf community was the last bastion in the world where I could just be deaf and not have to prove it. I didn’t have to see a doctor for a report that said my mid range frequencies were at the mega hertz levels while my lower range ones were in the mini hertz levels. The Deaf community was somewhere where my deafness was just accepted as a normal state of being. Medical models, doctors and audiologist did not exist. Sadly, not anymore!

Now I have heard all the arguments about why we must now prove that we are deaf. The international deaf sporting bodies demand it. It ensures deaf sport remains deaf sport and it allows data to be gathered that can be used to apply for additional funding,  I am sorry but I don’t buy any of these arguments. If you get picked at international level then why not get an audiogram then. Surely deaf sport at national and state level has more value than simply winning!  Data is available everywhere. If you want to know how many deaf people were fitted with hearing aids  just ask Australian Hearing to provide you with longitudinal data . Hell, if you look hard enough you might even find the information on the Web. Contact the Eye and Ear hospital for information about how many kids have been implanted in the last 20 years and at what age. Its not difficult to develop a statistical argument for deaf participation in sport using this sort of data.

The people that are insisting on this new strict audiogram policy for participation at Deaf national and state sporting events are actually very good friends of mine. I know they have made the decision to demand audiograms with the best of intentions. Unfortunately this time I think they have got it very wrong.  Deaf sport at a national or state level, to me anyway, is about fun, socialising and memories. Winning is way down the pecking order. I find this new policy lacking in common sense. I find it autocratic and overly officious. Hell, they are threatening disciplinary action if audiograms are not provided. The Deaf community, particularly its sporting events, was the last bastion where I could be a person without the medical crap following me – sadly this is now no longer the case.

Julie Phillips Response to Little Deaf Girl

The most recent article about deaf kids in schools re-awakened the frustration that I’m sure many of us share when thinking about deaf education.  It was very interesting  to read about the difference between “coping “and doing  the best that you can. Without getting too technical, this was the subject of an appeal in a deaf education case Hurst v Education Queensland.   We initially lost this case  in the Federal Court, because the judge found  that the deaf girl, Tiahna,  was discriminated against  because she was not provided with Auslan,  but she could “comply” which is a legal  word.   He also used the word “cope”.   We appealed this case to the Full Federal Court who found that the judge had made a mistake. To “cope” is not good enough, they found.  Thank heavens.
Imagine a man with cerebral palsy  who uses crutches to walk, and to get into a building must have a ramp.  If there were only steps, I guess what he could do is throw himself on the ground, drag himself up the steps, get up again at the top and enter.  So maybe he could “cope”, but does he have the same access as an able-bodied person who can simply walk up the steps? No.

Deaf education continues to be a shambles.   Each school can decide what sign language should be used (as if there was anything other than Auslan).   The Department of Education  has no policy about this. A client of mine recently wanting to move to Victoria from another state rang a number of schools with deaf units.   She was told by most of them that her daughter would not get a full-time interpreter, because there was not enough money.  Many “interpreters” in schools  are not qualified. Teachers of the Deaf do not have to be fluent in Auslan.
The million-dollar question – what is the deaf community doing about these things???
Julie Phillips
Anti-Discrimination Advocate

The Independent Factor

The elections are not yet over. We were all hoping that Australia would have a new Prime Minister today. But Australia could not decide. It was not a case of having two high quality candidates it was a case of vote bad or vote worse. Clearly Australia couldn’t decide who was worse so as I type the two major parties are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Why? because who ever gets in will be at the mercy of the independents. Australia’s political system is, today, at the mercy of five individuals who are not aligned with either the Labor Party or the Liberal Party. These five will basically decide the future of Australia’s Government. So much for democracy.

But is this a bad thing? Bob Katter is one of these independents. He used to be a member of the Coalition between the Liberals and the National Party. He was a minister in the Queensland State Government in 1989. He joined Federal Parliament in 1993. He is seen as a bit of a red-kneck and a lose cannon so to speak. But he is also a strong believer in representing the people that elected him. Being from a regional area he felt the old Howard Government were pushing policies that were destroying the bush, so he quit and became his own man. He has virtually won every election since in a landslide. Whatever the rest of Australia believe, his electorate believe in him and he has been prepared to stand by his principles rather than sell out the people that voted him in. He now finds himself as one of the select the King/Queen makers. How ironic is that?

In an age where people are expected to toe the line and to spout the party line, whether they believe it or not, perhaps what we need now is for the major parties to be held accountable. Do you want Tony Abbott as your leader? A man whon stabbed Malcolm Turnbull in the back to become leader? Malcolm Turnbull is no saint either, having stabbed Brendan Nelson in the back. Julia Gillard did likewise to become leader. She led us all to believe she was the loyal deputy while people like Bill Shorten did the dirty work behind the scenes to get her into the hot-seat.  Squeaky clean she was not. There are whispers that Shorten was even prepared to elect Gillard as leader knowing that she would face an up hill battle to be re-elected and thus paving the way for himself to become leader.  Did Tony and Julia become the leaders simply because they wanted to serve Australia? Don’t be daft, they were power hungry and sold their souls for the top job. Australian’s saw through both Tony and Julia but unfortunately could not decide which was worse.  So now the likes of Bob Katter and Tony Windsor will decide for them. (Just for the record, although Bob Katter is an ex National/Liberall he supports Labor’s National Broadband roll out for the benefits it will provide the bush. In fact all the independents who were ex Coalition members do, so previous party alliance will come to nothing. –  http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/coalition-refuses-to-budge-on-broadband-20100823-13ejm.html)

Recently I was criticised in a meeting because I was prepared to speak out about decisions that were being made by a committee I am part of. Readers may recall that I was very against accepting the original deal that was struck between the Big Four Cinemas and our advocacy organisations in regard to cinema captioning. It was a deal that most Deaf and hearing impaired people, throughout Australia, seemed to be very much against. Over 450 people put in public submissions on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website asking that the deal be rejected. But still our advocacy organisations refused to change their approach.  To me this is wrong. I was told by one group that speaking out as I did was wrong.  “Only two of us in our organisation can publicly comment on issues”  said one person, “What you do as a member of your organisation is your business” It was a none to subtle way of telling me I should SHUT UP.  Another said that if I must speak out to use a pseudonym. That way what I say cannot come back to the organisation. My view was quite simply that I am on the organisation to represent the views of deaf  people and when those people I represent overwhelmingly make a statement it is that view I must represent. Soladarity is one thing but autocratic control by a minority such as a committee is another.

And this is what independents can bring to the table in Government. Because they are not part of the party machine they can dissent and publicly too. In short they can hold whoever gets into power accountable. The problem is that they can also abuse that position. They can hold Australia to ransom for something that they believe is essential and stop important decisions going through. Imagine, for example, if Pauline Hanson won a seat as an independent and controlled the balance of power. Technically she could demand a halt to all Asian immigration in return for allowing the Broadband Bill through Parliament. I have enough faith in people to think that they would tell Pauline to go jump BUT it can mean important decisions that need to be passed will be unnecessarily held up.

So, it is down to the independents. Is this a good thing? Who knows. But for now lets hope that the major parties get the message that the electorate have sent – Not that they believe that Liberal and Labor are equally good, but rather that they could not decide who was the worse deal. Hopefully this will, on its own, make the major parties clean up their act. And pigs might fly but there is no harm in dreaming.

Little Deaf Girl – Editorial comment

How much is good enough? Is it good enough for a deaf kid to “do well” in a classroom? If they are above average, is this enough? If a deaf kid is at or above the average achievement in their class is the job done?

In my years working as a case manager or support worker for young deaf people I have constantly been confronted by the word “coping”. It seems to me that too often “coping” is the highest common denominator in deaf education.

This might be a harsh statement because there are variations in every system. There are some teachers that push deaf kids to achieve the very highest they possibly can but there are far too many that see “coping” or “doing well” as the benchmarks.

Around Australia something like 85% of deaf kids are mainstreamed. They often are the sole deaf person in their class. They largely receive support from a visiting teacher that may visit them once a month. Some of these visiting teachers are not even teachers of the deaf.

Even then the visiting teacher does not really support the deaf student. They support the teacher. They advise on how to structure classrooms, how to  improve communication, how to use technology like FM systems or how to reduce background noise so that the deaf student can utilise their hearing to the maximum.

All this is important stuff. But largely deaf kids are in classrooms with classroom teachers who do not have much knowledge of deafness. The focus of the classroom teacher will largely be on making sure the deaf student knows  what to do and completes task. Very few of these classroom teachers will understand the issues of classroom interaction. Fewer still will understand just how much of this interaction that the deaf kids actually miss out on.

What happens to help these kids understand classroom discussions that occur? How much focus is placed on the value of the input from peers? Who focuses on providing deaf kids with access to social interaction in the playground? Just how much better would the deaf student perform if they had better access to all the banter and discussions that happen in the classroom and the playground?

And then we have situations like those of the “little deaf girl” who is the  subject of this article. The Deaf kids who have so called “interpreters” but who  only interpret the “important information.”

Apparently when confronted with the issues that are raised in this article the ‘interpreter’ said, “Well how do you expect me to interpret everything, she doesn’t watch me any way?”

If she had bothered to ask me I would have told her that at a young age it is important to move into the sight of the young deaf person rather than try to force them to focus on the interpreter all the time. Why? Simply because at a young age the attention span is not yet sufficiently developed to focus in such a way. Therefore the interpreter adapts. Over time the young deaf person will learn naturally to focus more on the interpreter. This is just basic human development theory that every teacher of the deaf should know.

What is worse is that the school were dismissive of the report that was provided. The mother commented that she felt bullied. That the school made her feel ungrateful for the effort that they were putting in to support her daughter. The school did not even want to consider strategies to improve classroom interaction. They were completely defensive and in their view they were doing enough because the little deaf girl was ‘coping’.

Simply put it’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Education is about the whole child and their environment and not just what comes out of the teachers’ mouth.  Access to peer interaction is a vital part of deaf education!

Little Deaf Girl

The little girl was sitting at the classroom table with her friends. At the end of the table sat her “interpreter”. The teacher asked the class to write about their weekend and the “interpreter”, signing effectively, relayed this information to the girl. The little deaf girl nodded and got cracking. As she worked the “interpreter” assisted other kids around her table. They asked questions, the “interpreter” clarified what needed to be done. There was chatter around the table and the kids traded stories with each other about their weekend and what they were going to write about. The little girl watched this chatter but the “interpreter” strangely interpreted nothing of this. The little girl looked at the “interpreter” hoping for a little bit of information but still the “interpreter” did not interpret. The teacher said something and the “interpreter” decided that this was important information and interpreted this for the little girl. It was all very strange.

Recently I was asked to observe a young deaf girl in her classroom. The deaf girl uses Auslan as her first language, has deaf parents and is well adapted with excellent language skills. The mother wanted someone to observe her daughter in the classroom who had some knowledge of deafness, particularly in regard to interaction and learning. I was more than happy to help out, took a day off work and drove out to assist. What I saw actually scared me.

The school principal actually contacted me to invite me to the classroom. The mother had requested that she do so. The school principal asked me to sit in the classroom and “reassure” the mother that her daughter was doing fine and that there were no problems. She didn’t ask me to give an honest assessment, she asked me to “REASSURE” the mother. This in itself raised alarm bells in me.

What I did witness was an obviously very intelligent young girl making the best of a less than ideal situation. During the opening activity, where the kids were writing about their weekend, I actually asked the “interpreter” to check with the young girl as to whether she had understood anything her class peers had been talking about. Not surprisingly the little girl said she had not understood anything. What was puzzling is that having made it clear she did not understand what her peers had been discussing the “interpreter” still did not interpret anything that the little girl’s peers said.

The little girl demonstrated some classic deaf behaviour. Deaf people will know that when they are in a large group of hearing peers and doing an activity, whether it is learning or physical, they will be constantly looking around them to make sure they have not missed anything and are doing the right thing. As the little girl worked she would take quick glances around the room to make sure she had not missed anything.

 As she wrote you could see her looking out of the corner of her eye just in case she would miss the action. She could “hear” her teacher when the teacher spoke but not understand. If the teacher spoke she would look up to see if the activity had finished and if she needed to be somewhere else. Even at this early age she is aware and has developed coping strategies. It was like looking back to my own years being deaf in a hearing classroom.

It was fascinating to see the strategies that she had developed. For example if she was working with a group of peers she would focus on the one student that appeared to talk the most and take her cues from that student. During one such activity I signed to the little girl that I was deaf and needed her to interpret what her friends were saying. She admitted to me that she could not because she did not know.

During another activity the class were reciting number patterns in the form of multiplication tables. The teacher had the multiplication tables on the board and would point to the first number and the children would recite the pattern 2 – 4 – 6 … and so on. To the casual observer it might have looked like the girl was fully involved but if you have a trained eye you will see that the little girl joins in at about the third number. She watches the teacher point to the board, catches the rhythm of the class reciting the numbers and then joins in.  You will see her counting and listening, just moving her lips slightly, until she feels she has the rhythm and she will join in – 6 -8 – 10 … It was fascinating to watch.

It was also frustrating to watch. Story time is something most kids love. The kids gathered round to listen to the teacher read the story. The “interpreter” interpreted what the teacher was reading. The teacher asked the class a question using prediction strategy. Prediction is a teaching tool where you read a story and then to test whether the kids are following the story ask a question like, “… and when the lizard scurries up the tree how do you think the cat will feel? ..” At this all the kids will put their hands up to give their views. The problem is that in the little deaf girl’s classroom when the kids answered the “interpreter” did not relay their answers to the little deaf girl. Of course this means that the little deaf girl misses out on language and ideas that are provided by her peers through this natural interaction.

The little deaf girl, despite the less than ideal learning environment, was doing really well at school. A lot of this is down to the fact that she has come to school with a solid language foundation from being able to interact easily with her family. She is doing really well and in the school’s eyes that is all that matters. But how much better could she be doing if she could access the banter of the classroom and not just what her teacher is saying?

I really could not understand why the “interpreter” did not interpret everything. After all is that not what interpreters do? I wrote a report for the school. In it I outlined that the “interpreter” was more correctly a communication aide and did not interpret. I highlighted the good stuff. For example the classroom teacher went out of her way to ensure the little deaf girl was a respected part of the class by allowing her to lead things like “sign singing”. She also spoke very clearly and structured the class so that the little deaf girl could see and be involved. BUT, I pointed out to the school, peer interaction and access to what peers are saying is an integral part of learning. I emphasised that the “interpreter” was an efficient signer but needed to INTERPRET.

Apparently this wasn’t what the school wanted. They wanted me to provide REASSURANCE so that the mother would relax. The “interpreter” upon reading the report threatened to resign. The mother felt the school was dismissive of her daughter’s needs. Apparently it was not my place to write such a report and that my assessment was “tinged” by my friendship with the mother. It really was sad because the school would not acknowledge any of the issues that were raised.

Is this what our deaf kids are facing every day? Well if it is it’s a tragedy that needs to be addressed quickly. Doing well is not enough, deaf kids have the right to achieve their full potential. If this is to happen access to peer interaction is a must.

The Time for Healing is Now

The Rebuttal is known as a biff bang mag. We are sesion and awareness. Sometimes, perhaps, a line is crossed, but always the intent is to create debate, awareness and to hold those that make decisions on our behalf accountable. We certainly are not angels and have made mistakes, particularly this author (Gary) but the motive is not to hurt, more to inform and hold our representative organisations accountable.

We are not always angry. Sometimes we celebrate things like in our recent article “From Whence We Came”. Sometimes we vacate our platform and allow others to vent their spleen – the recent contributions from Rebekah Rose Mundy are an example of this. Always we air both sides of the story without censorship. One of our most controversial articles, From the Slums of Mumbiah, is a great example of open uninhibited debate. Go to the response to this article of the now departed CEO, Paul Flynn, and you will see that we are prepared to take what we dish out. It’s simply a case of , “People in glasshouses should not throw stones.”  We at The Rebuttal are not in a glasshouse, though I sometimes require a helmet and cricket box.

BUT there is a time when anger has to stop. You cannot be angry forever. There is a time when constant bickering and criticism becomes counter- productive and, certainly, I will put my hand up and say I have pushed the odd barrow for a bit too long. But it is not just me. Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia still have not resolved their differences. They are at least trying. It does not look like either side is going to give ground anytime soon but they are at least trying to find a way forward. The conflict between Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum is definitely counter-productive. BUT they are trying and that is the main thing and hopefully through trying they will find a way forward. It wont be anytime soon, there is much to resolve, but one needs to be upbeat. The time for healing is now.

I, for example, have been a heavy critic of the Deaf Service Australia concept. Earlier this year  Deaf Services Queensland ended their partnership with Deaf Children Australia.  Rather insensitively I wrote a savage I TOLD YOU SO type article. Was it necessary for me to write such an article? In hindsight, no. Whether you agreed with the concept of Deaf Services Australia or not the motive behind it was sound. Many people worked hard towards it feeling that it was the best thing possible for deaf people in Australia. A nationwide organisation, one brand and with consistent representation was the target. OK, it didn’t work, lots of money went down the drain, but the majority of people that worked towards a Deaf Services Australia did so because they thought it was a workable concept. There was no ulterior motive just people working towards a better Australia for Deaf people.

Were there benefits? Maybe there were. It was pointed out to me recently that it is possible that the Deaf Services Australia agenda led, in part, to the early intervention program announcements by Julia Gillard last week. It was pointed out that the presence of Deaf Services Australia in Queensland may have assisted, indirectly, to the $30 million Auslan program provided by the Queensland Education Department. Indeed without support from DCA it is possible that Deaf Services Queensland could have closed. (My observation) Maybe, maybe not – but the point is the Deaf Services Australia objective was sound. It is just the way that services and funding are delivered in Australia is not conductive to it at this time. Will this change in the future? Who knows.

The point is that while we have all been fighting, and again I put my hand up for my part in this, much has been achieved, particularly this year.  Look at what has been achieved with cinema captioning! Look at what has been achieved with the early intervention program announced by Julia Gillard!  In Victoria the Government allocated $9.2 million to improve education for the deaf! In all of this some not so great stuff has happened too. There are individuals who have been treated shabbily. There are things that have happened which are truly shameful that we can not comment on because of legal ramifications. BUT much has been achieved and we must celebrate these victories for they remind us that all of the hard work and heartache is, in the long run, worthwhile.

I know that there will be cynics but I don’t care – I was truly inspired by Kevin Rudd yesterday. Here is a man who has every right to be bitter and angry. Here is a man who has been treated like dirt by his colleagues. Here is a man who just a few days ago was in excruciating pain after having his gall bladder removed. And yet he found it within himself to get up and speak publicly and rally his party.  What courage it must have taken for him to face the nation after being unceremoniously dumped as the Prime Minister of the country. His personal turmoil must have been immense. Yet he spoke in support of his team and he did it with immense dignity. He forgave because he knows that there is a greater good.  He knew that the time for healing was now or otherwise everything that he and many others had worked so hard for could be lost. You can be a cynic about it if you want but for me his actions spoke volumes about his character.  If he can move on so too can we, the time for healing is now!

"Mind Your Vote" by Dean Barton-Smith

It is Election Time again where all the political parties come out in the public, kiss babies, throw out ambitious policies here and there, toss a few millions of dollars in some areas, promise better lifestyle for families, businesses, make some snide remakes about their opposition, face numerous negative television campaigns about why you should not vote for the other, play poker by upping whatever the other party is offering and then ‘raise it’ by a few million more.

In between that we get cluttered with party scandals and history lessons of what the Labor and Liberals have done in the past and how the country will be worse off with any of them.

Then you would get a knock on the door from your local Federal MP candidate – who you have never seen in your life- and who claims to ‘truly understand your needs’ (cough, cough – remind me again where you live? Ah… a suburb not part of my electorate! And so what are my needs that you claim to know? Then he goes on about climate change, transport, schools etc? I remind him again “Thats great BUT what are MY needs? Then he realizes I am Deaf and is stumped.) And that’s just the first 17 days!

Then we get caught up in the spin of multi-million dollar promises. $5m provided for disability programs here. $1m provided for programs there. $4m for mentorship program for Reach Foundation here. But hang a sec, that’s over four years not one year and this needs to be dispersed nationwide. Big numbers they may be but one needs to do the maths.

I was asked if I was a candidate at the election for X-Y-Z Party what I would be offering:

  • Ensuring Auslan become a mandatory requirement in all primary schools
  • As part of My School program, provide indicator as to level of disability access.
  • Investment into quality nationally standardnise Auslan Interpreting courses to meet growing demands.
  • Remote/Rural areas to have up to date technologies to allow students full access where interpreters are not available.
  • Compulsory education at both primary and secondary schools about disability issues.
  • People with disability are to be considered first and foremost in any jobs being advertised by any recruitment agencies. Migrant employment is to be the last resort.
  • Focus on fully accessible skill/apprentice training for any person with a disability
  • Greater percentage of Australians With a Disability in Government department (at least 8%) with at least 4% in supervisory/management position. 3% increase annually.
  • Access to Auslan/Remote Captioning funding uncapped for those in workplaces that have annual turnover less than $5m per annum (audited) Helps Small Medium Businesses
  • Abolition of low scale sliding pay rate for AWD (eg no more $2 per hour rate)
  • Six monthly review on accessibility compliance on all transport. Penalties apply for non compliance
  • Six monthly site inspections on accessibility compliance at all venues. Penalties apply for non compliance.
  • Greater funding towards art/theatre pathways for AWD.
  • Abolition of able bodied actors portraying people with disabilities
  • Cinema access to be 100% by end of 2015 including remote rural areas. This includes options of close and open captioning and audio description
  • Fairer allocation of funding based on level of needs and size of disability market.
  • Greater recognition and support for Olympic, Paralympic and Deaflympic Teams
  • Review accessibility of resources currently available across all high performance and grass roots programs.
  • Strong, effective youth programs that develop leaderships that can be converted back into community and sport.
  • At least 20% of all Boards/Advisory bodies must consist of AWD. This includes at all Government levels
  • Develop tiered funding level to ensure lesser known sport is better supported and grow.
  • Reduction of cost hearing aid/batteries
  • Better quality support services for AWD in relation to mental health
  • Introduction of National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • Compulsory education for those in health care sector re disability issues including part of core subjects when achieving nursing, medical degrees.
  • Abolition of using AWD and/or children in any promotional activities portraying them in a negative light
  • Review of ensuring AWD are well represented, training and working in meaningful employment within organizations that allows them to prosper
Disability Discrimination Act
  • Review complaint process and strengthening human rights
  • Implement random site inspection and issue penalties for non compliance after initial audit undertaken within certain timeline
  • Any discrimination identified by court of law will be issues with hefty penalties to both individuals and company/organizations concerned. Penalties will entail ongoing reviews for compliance.
  • Establishment of a Department of Disability Issues which entails a centralization approach to ensure all departments are in compliance with existing legislation, accessibility and staff awareness/training.
  • Develop probity checks before any new program is launched to ensure disability issues are at the forefront of planning.
  • Minister of Disability must be a person with a disability
  • Holds cabinet position and is engaged in all matters including emergency, security, health, welfare etc.
  • Introduce Disability Inclusion Allowance.
  • Mentoring programs for potential AWD with parliamentary potentials
  • Greater representation of AWD at both Senate and Representative Levels.
  • Moving from ‘Subject To Citizen”
United Nations
  • Active engagement and representation at various UN committees including development and training as part of succession planning.
Community Advocacy/Support
  • Review and improve level of funding/support provided by national and state advocacy bodies to enable social inclusion model to be achieved.
  • Abolish prevention of access to Australia based on disability. Breaches human rights.

These are just a snap shot and are not exhaustive. Many other policies have some value. Nevertheless we should be reminded that ‘our vote counts’ and we should challenge our parties as to  just what  they will REALLY offer that meet the NEEDS for AWD.

In any case I’m reminded of a good line from the Indiana Jones movie that I watched with my son.  In the movie Indiana had to choose the Holy Grail amongst many other various types of holy ‘cups’ in a cavern. The ghost of the legendary King Arthur, or was it King Richard the Lionheart, gave Indiana stern but calm words of wisdom before selecting to….”Choose wisely.”

Come Election Day, so should we.


I had a Gi Joe when I was a kid …. yes I played with dolls! And I had an Action Jackson too. One of them, Joe or Jackson – I cant remember, had a rip cord. Oldies like me will remember the toys that had a piece of string with a white ring on the end. You pulled this string and the toys would say things.  In a robotic voice the toys would say things like, “YOU – ARE – IN – DANGER” or “ACTION -JACKSON -IS- MY- NAME- BOLD- ADVENTURE- IS- MY- GAME”  After a time the string would break. Secretly Joe used to find his way into my sisters Barbies and get naughty – just like on Number 96 … SHHHHHHH that’s my secret.

Tony Abbot reminds me a lot of Action Jackson. He has the same firm jaw line … his hair, even his chest hair, is never out of place even after swimming 200 kms and cycling for another 15  000.  And I swear he has a rip cord tucked away in his Speedos. Pull it and he will repeat verbatim –  “I promise to end the waste, to pay back the debt. To stop the big new taxes and to stop the boats.”  What fun, lets do that again RRIIIIIIIPPPPPPPPP – “I promise to end the waste, to pay back the debt. To stop the big new taxes and to stop the boats.” ONE MORE TIME – RRRRRRIIIIIIIPPPPPP – “I promise to end the waste, to pay back the debt. To stop the big new taxes and to stop the boats.” WOOOOO HOOOOO!

Julia is of course GI Julia – She has a rip cord too. Pull Julia’s cord and you will hear Peter Costello’s  mocking voice saying, “Merving Ferward” making fun of her apparent nasally tones. This is her catch cry and it means MOVING FORWARD.  Julia will be talking about something or other, usually about Tony Abbott and his love affair with Work Choices. Julia will say, “Tony Abbott is determined to bring back Work Choices and he will stop Australia ….”  At this point one of her staffers will pull her rip cord RRRRRIIIIIIPPPP and she will say – ” … Merving Ferward”  Or she will be claiming credit for Australia weathering the global financial crisis – “Labor’s economic policy has seen Australia have the lowest debt in the Western World. Because of Labor Australia is …..”  – RRRRRRIIIIIPPPPPP – “.. Merving Ferward.”

I for one am fed up with our politicians treating us like Morons. Everything is stage managed and detail is limited. It is not too much to expect our politicians give us credit for intelligence. They can kiss all the babies they want, they can fillet fish, wear hard hats, swim to Tasmania and have touched up photo shoots in Women’s Weekly – All I want is to know the detail. Give me that and I will know which way to vote. At the moment I just see these two stage managed puppets with no personality. It is looking more and more like its the donkey. Donkey for PM I say !

My Mate Tony

I met Tony Abbott once in his office at Parliament House in Canberra. Kevin Rudd had recently come to power and Tony had been shafted to the backbench. He was the shadow minister for employment and community services or something other.  I went to talk with him about employment issues for Deaf and hearing impaired people. He is nothing like he comes across on television. I actually found him quite engaging.

Prior to meeting Tony we had gone to meet Brendan O’Connell (or was it O’Connor) the minister responsible for employment who was in the middle of a national disability consultation about employment issues. Brendan got stuck in question time and we got to meet his staff.  The staff were nice enough and listened to us but offered nothing constructive. They just nodded and noted basically. They were more concerned with making sure their minister didn’t make a cock up.

It was quite fascinating really because Parliament House has televisions everywhere. These televisions beam question time to the offices of Parliament House. Brendan was about to speak and when he did our interview was suspended while the staffers watched him and took notes. They made off hand comments about his style and I swear they rolled their eyes a few times. Presumably because Brendan did not stick to the script.

After meeting Brendan’s staffers we made our way to Tony’s office. Tony was late. He too had been held up in question time. Apparently the Liberals had moved a vote of no confidence in Ruddy and it was a case of all hands on deck. After about half an hour Tony strolled in. He apologised profusely, “..It’s a mad house in there.”, he said.  He asked to be excused while he attended to some, ” .. Personal needs.” (His exact words.)

After a short time he came back and shook our hands. It became apparent what his personal needs had been as his hands were still a little bit wet. He gave a new meaning to the term – a wet handshake. He led us into his office which was immaculate and on the walls were adorned some wonderful Australian paintings. He organised coffee, sat down, placed his feet on his coffee table – (where you could see the hairy gap between his trousers and socks), placed his hands behind his head, leaned back and asked us to make ourselves comfortable.

Being the cheeky sod that I am I asked if I could put my feet up too. He chuckled and said, “… sure!” It is about here that I warmed to him. I warmed more to him during our talk. Why? Simply because he did not patronise us. If we  said something like, for example, deaf people need lifelong access to hearing aids and repairs he would question us. “Why should you get that while others do not get free access to spectacles?” or “How will that be paid for in terms of a budget that must meet the needs of carers?”  He did not promise anything.  He listened, he challenged and he questioned. In short I felt he treated me like an equal. He did not just smile patronisingly and feign interest. He WAS interested and he engaged in discussion and debate. I liked that.

Now last week my mate Tony caused an uproar. He apparently made light of the cinema access issues that we have all fought for so hard over the last few months. I was contacted by Bill Shorten’s office and told that Tony had called the issue of cinema access WAFFLE. A media release was to go out and we were asked to support the media release.

This is fine, but the problem I have with this is that it is not what Tony said at all. Tony had actually been talking with Laurie Oakes on Sunday morning television. At the bottom of this article there is a link to the interview.  Poor  Tony had been torn to shreds by Oakes.  Oakes made Tony look like a man who changed his mind at will to suit his need for power and Tony was totally unconvincing in his responses.  BUT … he did not call cinema access waffle!

What Tony had been talking about was of question time being wasted. He was suggesting that ministers chew up question time to make themselves look good. They waffle on to promote themselves or avoid answering questions. Tony wanted answers to questions to be more controlled and to the point. He wants real debate to happen in Parliament, not just waffle and old men and women yelling at each other.

Below is a transcript of his offending statement:

“.. The problem in Parliament Laurie is that all people see is Question Time, and Question Time is basically adults, responsible adults, shouting at each other. It’s not a good look and it doesn’t actually enhance our system of Government. So what I want to do is to try to get away from the ferocious adversarial partisanship of Question Time, and one way to do that or — to help do that, is to limit the length of ministerial answers, to limit the length of questions. To try to ensure that the answer is directly relevant to the question. And to make sure that we go straight out of Question Time into the matter of public importance debate without waffly ministerial statements on things like the accessibility of cinemas. So I will change or I will seek to have the standing orders changed.”

Now make of that what you will but my interpretation is that ministers should not big wig themselves on things like cinema accessibility and I fully agree. By all means call it progress, by all means publicly praise the people involved and celebrate it but do it in a bipartisan way that does not try to score political points to help with re-election.

Not having seen what was said in Parliament about cinema access I cant really pass judgement on the minister. But having watched question time often I can tell you that ministers are full of themselves with their answers to planted questions from their colleagues. In my mind I can imagine a backbencher getting up to ask an obviously rehearsed question, “.. and can the minister explain what is happening with cinema access …” Whereupon the minister answers the question in a way that makes it look like it was central to Government policy since time began and that those nasty Liberals don’t know what they are doing.

Tony’s mistake was touching on a disability issue and being seen to make light of it. In my view he did not.  He was actually talking about something completely different. Unfortunately it looked like he was making light of the issue and his political foes pounced on it. They took what Tony said way out of context and blew it out of proportion. I for one thought it was all quite shambolic. To his credit Tony saw the error of his statement and apologised. I wonder if his political foes will apologise for using us all to score cynical political points. Some how I doubt it.

Let us make one thing clear, I have never voted Liberal and never will. I once voted Democrats many a year ago but I vote Labor or I vote nothing. It is not a particularly socially responsible way to vote but that’s the way 80 percent of us vote. We have an alliance and we stick to it. BUT I believe in fairness and I think Tony was hard done by in this instance.  Call me naive but it is the principle of the matter. All is fair in love and war they say but in this case I think the response was over the top and demonstrated everything that is wrong with politics today.


Election Time – Who Do you Barrack For?

That bloody Abbott!!!  He is a bloody moron. He wants to bring back Work Choices.  Work Choices is a shocker! I mean the bosses can sack you if they feel like it! If your nose is too big they can just make up some excuse  and you’re out the door. You vote for Abbott and I can tell ya now… Work choices will be back. ITS BAD! 

That bloody Gillard … she is a crock of sh@t. Look what her and bloody Labor have done to the economy. Australia  is broke! We have no money to pay for anything.  Gillard and Labor couldn’t organise themselves to get out of a paper  bag I tell ya. 100 million smackeroos a day we gotta pay cos of those dimwits. What’s more you cant trust the woman. Bloody backstabber. Look what she did to Ruddy. What a frigging disgrace.

You think Gillard’s bad? Well I tell ya if Abbott gets in all the bloody teenage girls at school will be pregnant. He is a catholic you know. Contraception will be banned .. Sex before marriage will be outlawed. Abbott will make all the women stay at home. AND blow me down!!! All the kids will have to read the bible in the morning. What about if your a Muslim. He will just send em back home. JAYSUS he will send us back to the 17th century!!

And Gillard FFS! She wants to let all the boats in. She reckons she is trying to find a way to keep em out. BOLLOCKS. She just wants them to stop over in Timor so they can be cleaned and fed before they come to Australia!!  Processing centre??? Oh! – Don’t come the raw  prawn with me. It’s just a stop over and they will rubber stamp nearly all of em. The odd unlucky one will be sent home to give their so called system some credibility! Abbott will stop the boats .. mark my words the Liberals did it before.  Labor PBFFFTTTT – bloody bunch of nursemaids the lot of em..

And did you hear what Abbott will do for cinema captioning – you know he says its WAFFLE – said so in the paper today. Cinema captioning is a waste of time! If Abbott gets in  none of the captioning stuff we won will get through. He wont care! He will chuck it out. He ain’t gonna waste time and money on us I tell ya. HE SAID IT WAS WAFFLE! Got a screw lose that bloke has!

Labor and climate change policy!! Oh pull the other one. Did ya know Labor have done a deal with the Greens … That bunch of hippy  loonies! Bob Brown will be the Deputy PM if we vote LABOR. STREWTH if you vote Labor you wont even be able to cut a tree down in the back yard! You’ll have to fill  bloody form in the size of a Harry Potter book! And anyway what climate change. You cant tell me the worlds getting hotter. It’s bloody freezing in Melbourne and we have had so much rain I am expecting Noah any moment now.  Yeah – another bloody boat – that’s just what we NEED!

And it goes on and on and on. Everyone has a view of Abbott and Gillard it seems. But who really knows? is Gillard’s $12 ooo  early intervention policy for kids with a disability better than Abbott’s $20 000. Who knows the detail of the policy. Perhaps the reality of Gillard’s policy is that it will be so full of red tape that no-one will know what they are entitled too. Perhaps so few people will be eligible for Abbott’s $20 000 in intervention support that Gillard’s program actually pays more. DO YOU KNOW? I certainly don’t! I haven’t looked at the policy in detail. But mark my words the average voter will have already decided without even knowing the detail of the policy.

You see in Australia we vote for political parties like we barrack for football teams. No matter how bad or good a Government is most of us never change our vote. There are a bunch of swinging voters that make the change each election and sometimes people are convinced that a Government has just become boring so we will give the other mob a go. VERY VERY VERY few know the details. They will believe everything that they read in the paper that makes the team that they support look good. Gillard releases a $12 000 disability policy and the next day Abbott releases a $20 000 one. One group will say Gillard’s is better and that Abbotts has just put his policy out to try and look better, Go LABOR!. The next group will say $ 20 000 – that’s $8 000 more than Labor – Go LIBERALS!

And thats how we vote. We chose a team and we stick with it. We claim to know the detail but very few of us do. Abbott says we are broke one day and the next the Reserve  Bank comes out and says that Australias debt is the lowest among comparable countries and we are relatively health. Gillard will come out the  next day and say – “SEE – we know how to run the economy.” – then Abbott will come out and say – ” See cos the Liberals were so good the last time in Government the Australian economy is in tip top shape, just watch Labor muck it up!”  And of course most of us will hang off every word depending on who we barrack for.

ME – I just get on with it.  I vote Labor cos me dad did. If I don’t like Labor at the time, then the voting slip makes a good drawing pad EYYYYEEE OOOORRR.  It’s all a bit of a joke really – isn’t it?? At least I am honest about it – ARE YOU??