The New Frontier

changeAs someone who has worked in disability employment for a long time, it is the providers that lobby the Government and drive change for deaf people. DA and DF are totally out of touch and have done sweet FA to improve access, services or outcomes for deaf job seekers. They never speak to us, work with us or leverage our knowledge. Wasted opportunities.

Get rid of them I say. Deaf people need to stand up for themselves.

Posted by – RealityBites at The Rebuttal on January 4, 2015 in response to Merry F#*king Xmas

Readers of The Rebuttal will now be aware that both Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia have been defunded by the Government.The above comment was in response to the article that was posted at The Rebuttal just after Xmas. The article had described the circumstances of a mother who has a child who is both deaf and autistic. Recent clampdowns on welfare by the Government have seen this mother, and many in similar circumstances, become severely disadvantaged. The article suggested that never before has there been such a strong need for disability advocacy such as that which is offered by Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia. It seems that there are some out there that disagree.

I still struggle to understand the purpose and role of both Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum, other than to employ a small handful of deaf people within the organisation. The aims of both organisations are not clear, and the outcomes they intend to achieve (or have achieved) are not visible nor measurable, which is likely to be a factor in why they are given the chop. To the Government and Pollies, DA and DF appears to suck in a lot of money, but provide little output to Australian society as a whole.

Posted by Clare at The Rebuttal – January 4th, 2015.

It is interesting because the people that took the time to post at The Rebuttal page did not endorse either Deafness Forum or Deaf Australia. While I would not say that the responses were overwhelmingly anti DF or DA there was a common theme. This theme suggests that both DF and DA are and were out of touch with its constituents. The article in question was well read, with over 600 hits, yet the only people moved to comment had nothing positive to say about either DF and DA. No one offered any support. It begs the question as to whether DF and DA have actually run their course in terms of their effectiveness. (Pleasingly comments made at the Facebook postings of the article overwhelmingly supported the mother – but none offered support to DA or DF.)

To balance up this view one perhaps should consider comments made at the Auslaners Facebook group. This is a large group with over 3000 members. Comments from members of this group were overwhelmingly supportive of Deaf Australia. However, even here there were some dissenters who supported the Governments decision and others, including this writer, who were urging Deaf Australia  to work closely with Deafness Forum to consider pooling resources in the form of a merger.

This all raises the question as to whether DA and DF have reached their use by date. It raises the question as to whether the models of advocacy that they employed have become outdated. There are those that want to blame the current Government for DF and DA losing their funding. But I believe that the previous Labor Government set the train in motion and the current Government just finished the job.

Bill Shorten, when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Disability, often expressed his frustrations with Disability Peaks. His view was that the respective Peaks often gave the Government conflicting messages. Shorten is known to have asked how the Government was expected to formulate Disability policy when the Peaks were all pulling in different directions.

I believe it was Shorten that set the train in motion to investigate a more effective way to fund disability Peaks. The current Government has simply enacted the recommendations that came from these investigations. As a consequence the new model of cross disability representation that has been funded, in my view, has the bipartisan support of both the major political parties. The Greens appear to be offering a lone dissenting voice.

On the Auslaners Facebook page there was a strong push to protest the decision and try to get the Governemnt to reinstate Deaf Australia’s funding. In the short- term I feel such a protest will be futile. In the short-term both DF and DA a need to seek alternate funding from other sources. These might be grants or they maybe business initiatives that tap into the NDIS.  The reality is that future is not bright. It would seem that both organisations would need to cut their losses, shore up their assets and return very much to their voluntary roots. Jobs will go unfortunately.

It may well be that advocacy for Deaf and hard of hearing will now become more State based. Let us consider the NDIS. As the NDIS is rolled out people with a disability, and this includes Deaf and hard of hearing, will be accessing the community more and more. This means locally based facilities will need to become more accessible so that people with a disability can get the full benefit of their NDIS packages. Most of this advocacy, arguably, will be done at State level rather than a Federal one.

Consider DeafVictoria with their campaign for communication access for hospitals. Health is controlled by the States so it makes sense that this lobby be done at a State level. People trying to access the NDIS will need support  at State level too to ensure they get the right information to be able to develop the strongest possible package that they can. Improvements in Education access is also a State issue. Perhaps rather than focusing on a strong Federal Deaf peak we should be strengthening advocacy at a State level.

It could well be in the future that State Deaf peaks have the control and agree on what are the issues that need to be lobbied Federally such as employment, captioning as well as Deaf community language and cultural needs. It could well be that the State Deaf peaks identify and agree on  these key issues and then work closely  with the new Cross Disability Peak that the Government is funding to ensure these issues are represented properly at Federal level.

Certainly with the introduction of the NDIS disability advocacy will need to change. Lobbying for funding of Deaf Peaks might need to occur at State level rather than a Federal one. This will mean competing with established organisations such as Deaf Societies or working closely in partnership with them.

Either way the Deaf and hard of hearing communities need to get smart. They have to realise that the model of old  presented by DF and DA may well be outdated. The crux of the matter is that both DF and DA have known for some considerable time that they would not be funded individually and that to survive they had to be part of a cross disability consortium. Unfortunately the one that they chose was not successful.

If we were going to rally to save DF and DA it needed to have happened long ago. Now it is just too late. It’s time to take stock, analyse the system and work out how Deaf and hard of hearing issues can continue to be strongly represented. Unfortunately I feel it is not under the old model. That ship has sailed and its time to work out how we can all fit in with the new structure.

As Einstein once said – “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  In terms of advocacy for Deaf and hard of hearing that’s where we are at. The solutions, unfortunately, are likely to be painful for many.

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