This will be a very short Rebuttal. Many of you will know that last year the Government kind of defunded Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum. Then they kind of refunded them in a roundabout way. Almost a year ago the Government announced that they had funded a consortium under People with Disabilities Australia (PWDA). PWDA were to represent a number of disability groups including deafness it seemed.
Naturally Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum were up in arms at being defunded. They did not have a lot of faith that PWDA could meet the needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing populace. A little bit later, in its wisdom, the Government decided to provide the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) with 600 grand to represent a further 10 disability groups. Among them were Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum Australia.
So one assumes that when this happened PWDA were no longer representing the Deaf and hard of hearing populace and this was now the responsibility of AFDO. One assumes that AFDO would now represent the people who are Deaf and hard of hearing through Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum. That’s my take on it any way. But you see I really would not know because there seems to be very little communication happening. I am just totally confused about who is representing who.
Now last week we had the wonderful success of the Let’s Talk About It – Deaf People and Mental Health Conference. It is not well known, but this conference had its seeds in the passion of a few people who had an interest in and lived experience of mental health. As it so happened these people became aware of funds available for a conference. To make it happen they needed an incorporated organisation to lead it. Deaf Victoria came on board to be that organisation and then led the planning and nitty gritty of the conference admirably from there on.
SO!! The conference happened. It was attended by people from all over Australia. BUT, as far as I can remember, there was no representative from PWDA. There was no representative from AFDO. There was no representative from Deaf Australia. Pleasingly, Deafness Forum were represented by the tireless David Brady. ( If any of the above mentioned were actually there, I apologise.)
We needed them to take the issues raised at the conference to the very top. Since the conference Deaf Australia have taken a keen interest in the issue of mental health and are keen to work with Deaf Victoria to get a consistent national message out across Australia about the important issue of specialist mental health support for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. This is great news. As is the push from Deafness Forum to establish deafness among the top ten health priorities in Australia. But where do PWDA and AFDO fit in? It’s these organisations that control the bulk of the funds, but we have not heard a peek from them on the issues of Deaf and hard of hearing.
At the moment there are important Government policy changes happening. One is the Willing to Work consultation that is looking at the effectiveness of the Disability Employment Service. It is consulting widely with the disability sector. Feedback from this consultation will guide the Government of its strategy and policy in regard to disability employment.Who is representing us?
Another important policy push is in mental health. Federal health Minister, Susan Ley, is currently doing the rounds explaining how the Government is keen to develop an individualised approach to mental health support. Part of this change is the development of a one number, digitalised, phone number that will connect people to the services that they need. I am really pleased that the Government is looking to improve mental health support. However, the individualised support and the digitialised phone number suggests to me that they are not really considering some of the specialist needs of the Deaf and hard of hearing sector or indeed the disability community.
SO!!! – Who is representing us?? Is it AFDO who lead the consortium of ten that Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum are part of? Is it PWDA who are supposed to represent all disability groups? Is it Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum, with approval from the AFDO bosses? I have no idea. Do you?
All of these organisations have clout. All of them have knowledge. All of them have fine advocates within their ranks – But WHO is representing us? Hopefully, soon, we can make sense of the maze that the Government has created because quite frankly, at this point in time, I have no idea whats going on. A year on since the Government announced the changes to funding disability advocacy groups you would think it would be a bit more clear.
Can someone please let us know!!!