The Law is an ASS!

Picture shows an Ass with the caption – What do you think of Australia’s Disability Discrimination ACT – It’s a complete and total Ass!

Australia’s Disability Discrimination law is an ass. Here is why.

Prior and Nojin are disabled men who were employed by one of Australia’s many Disability Employment Enterprises known as Australian Disability Enterprises. (ADE) They took their employer to court. They argued that under the DDA paying them less than $4 was discriminatory. From what I can gather they began their case in 2011 and their arguments were rejected on a number of occasions. They appealed and it was not until January 2013 that the court ruled in their favour.

The court ruled that the notorious Business Service Wages Assessment  Tool (BSWAT) discriminated against people with a disability. The court  ruled that workers with a disability should receive equal pay for equal work. Just like women!

Now it has been a long drawn out battle, but finally at the tail end of 2015, entering into 2016, an agreement has been reached to pay workers with a disability a fair wage. On top of that the agreement states that workers will receive 70% reimbursement by means of back-pay. The ADEs wont pay though because the Government will put forward the money. One would hope that from here on ADEs will pay people with a disability a fair wage. This remains to be seen.

Four years on from the original ruling, workers with a disability at ADEs had a win. This was not before the whole matter was dragged through the courts and at great expense and heartache. Where in all this were the rights of people with a disability protected? Well, eventually it seems the they were. That said, we are still no closer to having a commitment to equal pay for equal work. From my point of view workers at ADEs are still open to being discriminated against by ADEs. It should be simple shouldn’t it. Like fair pay for women it should be fair pay for people with a disability. Is it any wonder 45% of people with a disability live in poverty.

Recently I have had my own experience of the DDA. I made a complaint for disability discrimination. I was very fortunate to actually reach conciliation. You see when people with a disability make a complaint for disability discrimination the offending party is under no obligation to come to the table. They can say no. In such cases the only other avenue to have the matter heard is the courts, and at great expense.

But I got lucky and the offending party came to the table. Now I have to be careful here. You see conciliation is strictly confidential. What happens in the room stays in the room. So I cant say who or what the offending organisation do, did or agreed to do. So let’s just call this a fictional case based on a true story.

What it came down to was that I owed money. The reason I owed this money was due to some exceptional circumstances. In my efforts to receive a fair hearing from this organisation I encountered barrier after barrier. Let us just say the organisations communication systems were less than desirable for people who had different communication needs.

Over a period of time I tried to deal with this system. I requested and was refused reasonable adjustments by way of an Auslan interpreter. Consequently the matters escalated to court. The money owed was in the thousands. It need not have been so if communication had been smooth and if systems had been designed with the needs of various communication scenarios in mind. Also, if an Auslan interpreter had been provided much confusion could have been avoided.

After dealing with them for several months and getting nowhere I made my DDA complaint. Conciliation occurred. The organisation admitted that its systems caused difficulties. They admitted that as the result of my case they had already implemented a number of changes to make that system better. They were committed to continual improvement. As for the money owed they refused to budge on that.

They agreed to a number of other strategies too. For example they agreed to make their workforce more responsive to the needs of people with different communication needs through training. It all seemed positive. They were admitting liability for some of the problems at least and they were making positive change to address the deficiencies.

I asked if they could confirm this in writing for my court case.  I felt that this would be looked on favourably by the courts. They refused. I asked if I could at least mention what was agreed in court to bolster my defense. They refused that too. You see, under the law all matters discussed in conciliation are confidential. They cannot be disclosed, not even in a court of law in ones defense.

So here we have a scenario that an organisation has admitted its systems caused problems that led to matters becoming worse. We have them admitting that as a result of my case they had already implemented some positive change. We have  them committing to continued improvements including skilling staff to deal with the needs of people with different communication needs.

All good except that I cannot use any of this in court in my defense. I cannot disclose to the judge the outcome. So I am left lumbered with the payments and no means to defend myself.  I am sorry but is not the whole idea of disability discrimination law to protect people with a disability? It seems not. I am confused.

As Mr Bumble said in Oliver Twist, “If the law supposes that, then the law is an ass an idiot.”

Merry Xmas everyone!






Random Acts of Kindness

kindness2015 has not been a pleasant year. Extremism has reigned. At the start of the year we had a mad gunman hold people hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney. Sadly hostages died as the gunman was apprehended, apparently from friendly fire. We have had ISIS in the headlines every day. Last Month ISIS extremist carried out a series of attacks in Europe, notably in Paris, killing hundreds. The common denominator in both these examples is that the crimes were committed by Islamic extremist.

The funny thing about extremism is that it brings out extremism in others. As ISIS carried out its terrible crimes xenophobic extremist fell over themselves to blame all Muslims. Tony Abbott didn’t miss a beat, fear mongering against and chastening Islamic people at every turn. Donald Trump in the United States has called for Muslims in the country to carry identity and others to be banned from entering the the United States.

Closer to home we have had the exceedingly embarrassing Reclaim Australia Rallies where fanatical Australian’s were telling all and sundry that if they wanted to live here that they had to be like Australians. The reality is that they were telling people of Islamic faith to get out of the country. And anyway if that is what being Australian means, they can shove it some place where the sun don’t shine.

It shits me. There is no other word I can use. What is it about some humans that makes them think that they are superior? What is it about nations that makes them think that their way of life is superior to other nations? When did we become so arrogant that we decided that our own way of life was the only way and everyone had to live that way or fuck off? It is appalling.

And Christians? Were they not those wonderful people that gave rise to the Crusades that killed millions. Christians that gave rise to the Klu Klux Klan who use Christianity to justify White Supremism and lynchings of African Americans. Christians who gave rise to the Westbro Baptist church and its warped views and actions against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. Christians who cover up sexual abuse in the Catholic church so much that an ex-Prime Minister refused to condemn a Cardinal that had been central to the cover-up. When did we become so holier than though? People in glass houses should not throw stones as they say. (And please Atheist, do not come on here and say it is all the fault of religion. For all its extremism there is much to admire about the values that of love, acceptance and support that are central to most religions.)

But I am tired of the negativity. I am tired of the racism. I am tired of the intolerance. Mostly I am tired that we give so much attention to arseholes. It’s Christmas soon so let us end the year on a positive and look at some of the great things that have happened this year.

  1. Young Australian of the Year is Deaf – We have to celebrate this because Drisana Levitzke – Gray has been an absolute ray of sunshine. At just 21 years of age she has carried the Deaf community this year. Did you  see her performance on Kochie’s Angels? How did someone so young get so much wisdom. She was talking about domestic violence and the need for specialist and culturally appropriate services for domestic violence victims of the Deaf community. We are very lucky to have such a young, intelligent and passionate person to be leading the way for the future of the Deaf community.
  2. Deaf Nyle DiMarcio wins America’s Top Model – I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about this one. But like Drisana Nyle has used his success to advocaate for the needs of the Deaf community at every turn. The coverage and attention he has brought to the needs of the Deaf community has been matched only by our own Drisana. How down to earth was he? Said Nyle, ” I just want to say that you are complaining about your hair. Do you see me complaining about my deafness? No I am not. I feel like you guys are complaining about something so simple.”  
  3. Jamie Brewer becomes the first model with Down Syndrome to model on the prestigious New York Fashion Week.  She apparently stole the show. Said Jamie, ” Young girls and even young women see me and say, HEY, if she can do it so can I!”
  4. Alastair McEwin becomes Chair of the Disability Council NSW. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer man and the fact that he is deaf is the cherry on the top. Alastair and I go back a long way. I’m gonna take some of the credit cos I interviewed him and sent him to an Australian Association of the Deaf Youth Camp way back in 94 or 95. He hasn’t looked back since. Good on you Alastair! Just another example of Deaf people making it to the very top.
  5. Let’s Talk About It – Deaf People and Mental Health Conference – I have to mention this one. With my partner in crime, Melissa Coe, I wrote the submission that secured the funding for this conference. Why is this notable? Well because it was organised by Deaf people for Deaf people. From top to bottom the conference was organised entirely by Deaf people and the stars of the conference were the Deaf people themselves who shared their very personal and harrowing stories. Through their courage we sowed the seeds to create a better mental health support system for Deaf people. The conference was from the grassroots up, deaf people taking control and this is how it should be. It was attended by Deaf people and hearing people alike from all over Australia! Without doubt one of the proudest moments of my career. Who can ever forget that Poem by Kate Frost that debuted at the conference? It has gone viral. Watch it again below.

There is so much to celebrate yet we hear so very little of it. I want to end this year on a high and I want 2o16 to start and finish that way. Let us no longer give a voice to the negative extremist from both sides. It is time for humanity to take control. We can do that with simple random acts of kindness – to ourselves and others.

So have a happy Xmas everyone. Even if you are Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or an Atheist come join us in celebrating Xmas. If any non Christians out there would like to invite me or others to join them in their own religious ceremonies, I would be very honoured. A little bit of respect can go along way!

Here is to 2016 – A better and brighter year. What better way to start it than with the Australian Deaf Games!

So by way of a Christmas Card I present you all with this video – Just Random Acts of Kindness – Try it sometime!

A Success Story!

drisanaAs the prime author and editor of The Rebuttal I often get approached to write things, usually critical things. The people that approach me range from CEOs of deaf organisations, Deaf and disability advocates, teachers of the deaf or simply individuals that feel strongly about something. They ask me to write about organisations, about services, interpreting, caption cinema, Deaf education and the like. Sometimes they ask me for help to write an article because they are not confident in their writing and I am usually happy to help. However, sometimes they ask me to write because they do not want to cop the bullets themselves, they would rather I cop them. This is where I draw the line.

I have been stewing about writing this article for sometime. I have decided to put these thoughts to paper because what follows is a story of success and it is a lesson to us all.

In November last year three people from around Australia contacted me. They wanted me to write something in the Rebuttal about the nomination for Young Australian of The Year, Drisana Levitzke-Gray. I don’t know Ms Levitzke-Gray personally. Ms Levitzke-Gray comes from a Deaf family that goes back many generations. I have had the pleasure of meeting several members of Ms Levitzke-Gray’s family over the years. They are a strong Deaf family who advocate passionately for Deaf rights. It is no surprise that Ms Levitzke-Gray is following in their footsteps.

The three people that contacted me wanted me to write something along the lines that Ms Levitzke-Gray was not deserving of her nomination for Young Australian of the Year. The gist of their argument was that she had not done enough and that there were others that were more deserving. They wanted to feed me information to write an article that would paint Ms Levitzke- Gray’s nomination in a negative light.

I refused. I simply told these people that if they felt strongly enough about the issue then they should write it themselves. I urged caution, however. I said that what they were suggesting would look like sour grapes and would most likely backfire. Mostly I urged them to think of the positive publicity that would be created as the result of Ms Levitzke-Gray’s nomination. Thankfully nothing was written and Ms Levitzke-Gray made history by becoming the first ever Deaf person to win the Young Australian of the Year award. What an enormous success she has made of it.

The sad thing is that even after Ms Levitzke-Gray had won the Young Australian of the Year Award the muttering in the background continued.  The Deaf community is small and I am pretty sure that much of the negative talk would have got back to Ms Levitzke-Gray. She did what all great people do, she ignored the naysayers and simply got on with the job. I have to say Ms Levitzke-Gray has been the best thing to happen for the Deaf community for many years.

First and foremost Ms Levitzke Gray has used her success to promote the rights of the Deaf community at every turn. She has been particularly vocal about the need to officially recognise Auslan. Wherever she goes she is at ease, confident, with beaming smile and exceedingly articulate. She has the knack of being able to make the complex simple. Her passion shines through.

Ms Levitzke-Gray has been everywhere. She has met Prime Ministers and opposition leaders, royalty and politicians. She has met celebrities and every day people. Everywhere she goes she speaks passionately about the Deaf community, Auslan and the right for people who are Deaf to be able to access every facet of Australian life. She has become a media personality and when she talks, people listen.

Recently she was  photographed with Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Perhaps for the first time ever a Prime Minister has officially supported Auslan because of that meeting. In fact he officially commented on his Facebook Page. See what he had to say here – Malcolm Turnbull Facebook

I just want to publicly thank Ms Levitzke-Gray for all the work that she has done for us this year. She has been tireless in her endeavors and never missed a beat to put the needs of the Deaf community, particularly Auslan, out there in the public domain. She has been an absolute breath of fresh air from the dowdy and boring old farts, including me, that have been advocating for the Deaf community all these years.

Well done and thank you Drisana, you are a credit to yourself and your family. As for the doubters and naysayers, well she certainly showed you, DIDN’T SHE???