On the Soap Box

TomI was going to write about committees today. You know committees that run our lives. These committees are everywhere. You know they are either Boards charged with running our disability orgs or they’re groups of volunteers running our sports clubs and so on. Well I was going to write about how people stack them. They do this by picking only people that think like them.  Well I am here to stand on my soap box and tell the stackers that diversity is good. What you need on a committee are people that will disagree vehemently with you but are willing to debate to consensus. It’s about the community people not just you and your mates .. Nepotism sucks.

I was gonna write a whole article about this. But then Howard Sattler decided to be a dick. In fact anyone that has seen Howard Sattler on Sunrise will know he is a dick at the best of times. But this time, to misquote the late and un-great Saddam Hussein, he decided to be the mother of all dicks. (With apologies to mothers who really do not deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Mr Sattler.) Speaking to The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, Dick Sattler asks, “Is your partner gay?” It’s not because Dick thinks so you see, its because others do. Dick is just asking the question on behalf of others. Cos you know Prime Minister Gillard’s Partner is a hairdresser. It’s possible isn’t it? You know hairdressers are gayie sort of people aint they? Im not sure how the local Barber feels about that but there you go. Hairdressers are the gayie type.

I am trying to use humour here. I fear that if I do not then I will get really offensive. I just cannot believe that anyone could dare ask the Prime Minister of Australia if their partner was gay. Now of course if Prime Minister Julia Gillard was gay that would be fine but as far as I know she is not. BUT the question was asked simply to shock. It was asked simply to disrespect. No one, let alone the Prime Minister, should have to put up with this crap.  Can you imagine a radio interviewer asking Tony Abbott if his wife was a Lesbian?  Come on! What is happening to this country? It’s not just disrespectful to the Prime Minister it’s disrespectful to people who are Gay or Lesbian. It’s disrespectful to women. It’s disrespectful to men who choose career paths that traditionally are female oriented – nurses for example. I despair, I really do.

I thought that was bad but then It actually got worse. I have a friend on Facebook who I have never met. She has a son who has Down Syndrome. Her son was lucky enough yesterday to meet Prime Minister Gillard.  Tom is his name and he wanted a photo taken with the Prime Minister who was more than happy to  oblige. His proud mum put the photo on Facebook. It is a beautiful photo. Tom is beaming excitedly and the Prime Minister is clearly enjoying the moment too. It was a moment to be celebrated. But no! Some people had to make derogatory comments about the Prime Minister. Presumably for taking advantage of people with a disability. I just cannot believe that people would want to spoil this wonderful moment for Tom and also the Prime Minister. When did people become so narrow minded and mean? I despair, I really do!

On another matter someone posted a rather humorous email about a well credentialed woman who was asked to champion a product of a Multinational company. Problem was the Multinational company expected this woman and others like her to do it for free. The woman wrote a rather scathing email to the company that suggested a rich company trying to promote women in a positive light should at least pay for it. Especially given the general lower status of women in Australia. (Did you know, for example, that women apparently only own 1% of property in Australia and earn only 10% of the money even though they make up more than 50% of the population.)

I can tell you that a similar mentality exists in the Disability sector. I have lost count of how many committees I have sat on for free for organisations that are actually quite wealthy. Hell I even sat on the Disability Advisory Committee to the Premier in South Australia and received not a penny.  Government groups are forever contacting me to seek my advice and they hardly ever pay. In fact the first time I ever received a sitting fee for a committee was back in 2009.

Look, I get it that many groups lack funding. I am always happy to volunteer my time to these groups. BUT there are many that actually have the capacity to pay. For some unknown reason people with a disability are expected to offer their services for free. Apparently there have been complaints  about people who are trying to profiteer from offering advice to the NDIS. Well I am sorry but we can not be expected to forever offer our services for free. And then the Australian Human Rights Commission pays able bodied models to sit in wheelchairs for a photo shoot. I despair, I really do.

There once was a boss who asked me advice on an issue. I gave advice that went along the lines of that disability is not a cost. I gave data and examples of where disability was a return for investment. I gave examples of embedded disability planning into processes. For some reason, perhaps because I am British, my advice was poo pooed. It could not be because I was disabled could it? But anyway the boss suggested that we speak to a consultant about the issue. A consultant was booked in for a meeting. The consultant basically repeated verbatim what I had already said. But because he was a consultant his information was for some reason revealing and the boss was willing to put forward up to $10 000 to receive this advice. Advice I could give as part of my salary.  The worlds gone mad!

Yep I despair, I really do. Now off the sop box, the weekend is coming and thank god for that!

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4 thoughts on “On the Soap Box

  1. Well said, but the disability sector has itself to blame as well, as they continue to do it for nothing. Social Inclusion is the next big movement as sustainability was 10 years ago. It is being driven by the ageing and retiring Baby Boomers that have the money and spending power to change the market place. Whether we think so or not, the disability sector will be big business by 2020. In travel alone people with a disability will represent 25% of the total market spend. Organisations do not know how to approach the sector let alone market to it. Disability action plans are old school and reflect a rights mentality towards access, not a customer focus and strategic view of customer, equality and opportunity. Advocacy has to change to reflect that change in economic value and start working with, not against industry. That change in approach must reflect a change in the value of advice as it now has a commercial value to potential product development. The same applies the NDIS. The care sector will be radically changed structurally and we will see new players enter the market with new customer focused business models. Again the advocacy and free advice mentally has to change to reflect that new reality. Sustainability advocates used to do the same thing, now consultancy on sustainability is big business because it is a huge part of corporate brand value.
    If anyone is in any doubt about the significance of what Gary has written have a look at this paper I wrote 18 months ago http://travability.travel/papers/occasional_4.html
    Gary, don’t get off the soap box. get a bigger one!

    • Agree but with my despair I discuss issues and rally the troops … And let people Tom and his mum know we are on his and her side … Rather than remain silent.

  2. the question of giving time for free is worth talking about. For myself it came from a hither to undiscovered altruism that I deveolped post diagnosis of our son. I totally agree that lived experience as the basis of opinion is hard to beat, when my wife and I comment about services it is not about unrealistic expectations, we and many other carers have a universal experience where the funds we truely appreciate seem to be squandered without thought and the potential to make a difference lost for yet another funding dollar eg I know people who could use $10,000 to buy a wheel chair. The information for free and a human being gets mobility win all round because one of the things that really hurts is we give of our time and then observe the quagmire of bureaucratic ineffeciency stop common sense in its tracks.

    I clicked on this because I was attracted to the group name about the NDIS Grassroots discussion, I do have some questions about the NDIS and how it will help our son. What do I have to do, will it make a difference or will it just be the same old same old…. a bit of both I feel but what the disability industry does not really understand is they might be in this for a job but some of us are in this for life.

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