LAST CALLS!

drainCommunications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull has announced a quarter of a billion dollars in cuts to the ABC and a further $56 billion to SBS. Of course we all know that these cuts occurred despite promises from the PM to the contrary. The cuts add to the many others that we were told would not happen. They are part of the lie that Australia is in economic meltdown. We now know that the LNP lied about this so called economic crisis leading up to the election. What we also know is that many of the cuts that the LNP want to make are not necessary. Sure, there probably was a need to tighten the belt a bit but not on the scale the LNP want to. The problem is that these unneeded cuts are impacting everywhere and we are all living in a pool of uncertainty.

The cuts are impacting on services and support for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. Indeed Karen Lloyd, writing in her Blog this morning, has put out an impassioned plea to the Deaf community to save Deaf Australia. As The Rebuttal has suggested twice this year, both Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum are under threat. The Government has seen fit to restructure our disability Advocacy funding and it is a very real possibility that both will lose their funding. The Rebuttal alluded to this on June 9th and again on September 9th.

In her article Ms Lloyd eloquently explains why. I will list some of the key points that she has made below:[1]

  • Many national organisations representing people with disabilities are about to lose their funding, including Deaf Australia ….
  • If this happens, Deaf Australia could be forced to return to what it was in the 1980s, a small volunteer-run organisation with no funds.
  • The gains we have made will be eroded. The onslaught has already begun: just a couple of weeks ago the government introduced a bill into Parliament seeking to wind back compulsory reporting and other protections of TV captioning.
  • In a nutshell, instead of funding 13 national disability representative organisations as they do now, government wants to fund seven.
  • Five organisations currently funded will likely continue to be funded. Eight will be out in the cold.
  • Each of the seven organisations/consortiums will get $300,000 per year.
  • So if there are, say, 15 organisations in a cross-disability consortium, then each will perhaps get $20,000. If the consortium’s application is successful; it might not be, in which case they will get nothing.

Ms Lloyd confirms in more detail what The Rebuttal has been suggesting, mainly that there has been a competitive tender and “Consortiums” of organisations have applied for the new funding. If an organisation has tagged itsself to a “consortium” that is not successful with its funding application then they will get NOTHING.

And this is what the LNP cuts have done. They have put many valuable organisations like Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum at risk. According to Lloyd, the Government has done this as a way of. ‘encouraging’ the disability sector to ‘organise itself’. As Lloyd notes, this is rubbish. The Government has done this, they say, simply because they think the need for advocacy will be made redundant by the NDIS.

Of course this is rubbish too because not all disability issues come under the NDIS. Infrastructure, employment, education, captioning and the like are all issues that the NDIS will not influence. There will always be a need for strong advocacy. I am not confident that a “consortium” will necessarily have the resources or the know how to represent each of the diverse and unique disability groups that exist. For all its posturing the Government is simply – CUTTING COSTS!

It is possible that both Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum will survive. We will know in December. I am not hopeful and I think the future is very bleak. It is unfortunate that Ms Lloyd’s piece has come so late. There was not a lot that could have been done beforehand by Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum without the fear of upsetting the decision makers. Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum have truly had their hands tied. They were relying on independent bodies and individuals to advocate for them.

To be honest with you, the response of the community to the two previous Rebuttal articles about the future of our Deaf peaks was poor. There were no more than 50 or 60 hits per article. In contrast the article on deaf parenting had 3500 hits. Apathy towards our Deaf peaks would seem rife.

BUT where there is life there is hope. Now may well be the last roll of the dice. If the community cares about the future of our  Deaf peaks and want to keep the Deaf and hard of hearing voice strong, they must do something. I urge the community to do as Ms Lloyd suggests below. If they do not, they may well regret it.

Says Ms Lloyd:

Everyone can help, whether you are disabled or not.

Send an email to Kevin Andrews, Minister for Social Services kevin.andrews.mp@aph.gov.au  and to Mitch Fifield, Assistant Minister for Social Services senator.fifield@aph.gov.au

Tell them:

The new Sector Development for Disability Representative Organisations funding model will be disastrous for millions of disabled people and is the wrong thing to do. The government needs to throw it out and develop a new model that looks after everyone fairly, not just a few selected ‘population’ groups and service providers.  Until government has done this, the current National Secretariat Funding model needs to be retained.

Remember to include your name in the email, and something in the subject field, e.g.: Funding for disability representative organisations.

And send a copy of your emails to your local Member of Parliament. Don’t know who your local member is or their email address? Find out here: http://www.australia.gov.au/faq/which-federal-electorate-do-i-live-in

To find your local MP’s email address go to: http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/03%20Senators%20and%20Members/32%20Members/Lists/MemList.pdf

Please do it NOW! Before it’s too late!

Sadly, I fear it may already be too late.
[1] http://lifeanddeaf.net/2014/11/19/wrong-way-go-back/

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