Keeping Us In Our Place

Julie Bishop resigned. She went out with a bang. In her own subtle way she hinted that the Liberals are not giving women a chance. She suggested that quotas maybe the way to go. The Liberals are a party of sexist old men who think women must compete on merit. Which is fine except that women traditionally do not enter politics or big business at the same rate as men. So what do we do?

If women are to compete solely on merit they will be royally screwed. Simply because there are just so many more men that are in big business and politics, particularly in the Liberal Party, that men are always going to be over represented. If you ask most women to compete based on only on their business and political experience then they will have no chance. Why? Well because men have simply had that much more of a head start. On merit alone women will not be able to compete.

So Bishop is suggesting that the Liberals need quotas for women. She is suggesting that she be replaced by another talented woman rather than a man. And why not? The Liberals don’t have enough women. Why not aggressively target women to fill vacancies at the expense of men. I say go for it because merit as a principle sounds great but when it comes to disadvantaged groups it is simply a tool to keep them in their place.

I have been thinking of this lately. I have been thinking about how people with a disability are kept in their place. I started thinking about this because a friend asked on Facebook whether Advisory Groups are much chop. Advisory Groups abound in the disability area. They are a tool used by disability organisations and the Government to show that they are actually listening to people with a disability. Problem is – Advice is one thing having to act on it is another.

Consensus seemed to be that Advisory Groups really are not much chop. Giving advice is fine, but useless if it carries no legal bearing. Agreement seemed to be that advisory groups are simply tokens to show that orgs and the Government have made an attempt to listen and implement the views of people with a disability. PFFFFFT!

What people with a disability want is real representation and power. They want a real say in the decisions that are made about them. They don’t want to be on a group where they are flown business class, given a nice scotch and a fancy lunch. They want power. They don’t want to just say, “Please consider this…..” They want to be in a position to say “WE WILL DO THIS…” There is a difference!

But of course even when people with a disability are in a position of power on Boards they are often out voted. They are usually the sole person with a disability. People nod sagely at them. “Hear, hear…” they will say when token Deafy speaks up and then just do the complete opposite. When asked they will say that they have disability representation on their Board and that they take it seriously. Usually something like 8:1 in favour of non-disabled. Yup that will work.

I was once on a board of a reputable deaf organisation. I was token deafy among ten to 12 others. In Board meetings the hearing members would all talk at once, interject and generally make it nigh impossible for me to partake fairly.

One day it got particularly bad. The Auslan interpreters looked at me imploringly to take control as everyone spoke at once. It is fair to say I lost it. I told the board it was pathetic that a Board representing the needs of Deaf people could not even conduct itself in a manner where deaf people could participate equally. I remember bellowing – “150 years of service to deaf people and what have we here??? … A bloody shambles!!!!” or words to that effect.

And what happened? Well a Board member piped up and said, “ …. Well if you don’t understand something Gary, just put your hand up and tell us.” I lost it and demanded he take his patronising drivel elsewhere and take some responsibility instead of expecting it all to be on me. It wasn’t a pleasant meeting but it is an example of the ableist and audist attitudes that we people who are Deaf or who have disabilities must confront every day. Especially at work or at executive level where you expect people to know better.

And you know this same organisation asked me in for an interview to discuss a management level job. I had let them know I would be interested. So they called me and asked if I would like to come in and discuss the position.

Now before I go on I should tell the reader I am pretty hot. I am skilled. I got experience. Lots of it. I have written tenders. Business plans and funding requests. I have been involved at Government level developing tender documents, deciding the successful tenders and then part of committees that evaluated performance against the tender requirements. I wrote my organisations submission to continue the delivery of the program that I was employed. This had a three year strategic plan to go with it and a yearly business plan for each of those three years. I am hot, not too modest, but I am hot.

So anyway I came into “discuss” this position. First thing that was said as I walked through the door was basically – “We don’t think you are right for this position.” No questions about any of the skills or experience that I have. Nope, just a pre-judgement and then informal discussion. No questions about how I might transfer my considerable skills to the job. Just dismissed even before I had walked in the door.

And you know this same organisation appointed its CEO from its Board who has even less experience than I do. But it is ok. You see the person is not disabled. So it is ok. That my friends is how it works. One rule for them and another rule if you are disabled. Do I sound bitter? I am not, I am just supremely frustrated.

Merit? Not in this world my friends. Like the women in the Liberal Party – The barriers to equality for people with a disability seem almost insurmountable! It is how they keep us in our place.

Real Heroes



I’m a neurotypical, supposedly. A neurotypical is defined as a person not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behaviour. Neurotypical seems, to me at least, to be one of those awful PC definitions that non-disabled people come up with to set them apart from other folk. Who knows?

In my work I work alongside people who might be considered the opposite of neurotypical, whatever that is.  I meet a lot of Autistic people. (No I am not going to call them people who are Autistic, thank you very much.) They are like snowflakes. No two are alike.

Our world seems to think that the way to “help” Autistic people is to make them as close to what neurotypicals are as possible. I have always felt really uncomfortable with this because it is the way of us so called neurotypicals that often causes Autistic people so much stress. I’ve often thought that what we need to do is try and understand how individual Autistic people are thinking, how their brain works, and then fit in with that. Rather than “fix them” so to speak.

I am no expert but what I do try to do is get an insight as to how Autistic people think. Particularly the ones who I know as friends and colleagues. So I watch, listen and ask. Or at least try to. Last week, just by chance, I got a real insight into the mind of an Autistic person.

Now this person is Disabled. Her whole identity is Disabled. I wouldn’t be game to call her anything else. She is a feisty woman, and quite scary. Loveable, but scary. But anyway part of her Disabled identity is that she is Autistic too. She, through her several million Facebook posts, gave me an insight into how her Autistic mind works.

It was harrowing to be honest. Because my friend is a highly energetic and effective disability activist. Of late she has been particularly active in the abuse and deaths of people with a disability space. She, along with many others, has been pushing hard to get the Royal Commission up to investigate the abuse and deaths of people with a disability. She even, at the last minute and at her expense, booked a flight from Perth to Canberra to be present at the reading of the Bill into this matter.

After this she posted on Facebook as to how this was impacting her and her Autistic mind. I think it is best told in her own words:

A politician asked me yesterday what I’d said.
‘Hooray fuck,’ I repeated. He laughed and told me he’s stealing that line.
It’s one of my favourite phrases. It describes things so perfectly – when things are entirely shit but there’s a glimmer of joy, or the reverse. Think people who are dying in horrible pain of incurable cancers who die quickly. Or when you get a Royal Commission but know you’re going to have to fight your arse off every step of the way. 
It’s how I feel about my autistic-brain, which neatly catalogues every single abuse case and Coroner’s inquest I have ever read into neat filing cabinets, ready to be recalled in a second. We were at DHS with the redress team today and talking about banking, capacity and safeguarding. 
You don’t need my vicarious trauma and you probably read about Janet Mackozdi. But there are fifty, a hundred stories like hers. Not all of them have been investigated. 
It’s a good thing, carting this around. It helps me be a better activist in this space and understand patterns and where there are common issues. It helps me explain issues, using stories. It’s also a horrible thing, carting this around. Because when politicians like Scott Morrison deny the need for a Royal Commission or dismiss family abuse, those stories, all the stories, come flooding in. 
All the dates. The places they died. The horrible little unforgotten details. They are the facts that keep me awake at night and refuse to be silenced. They are barely concealed secrets that roar, never whisper. 
If I had a different brain, I would sleep. Be still. Maybe garden. I don’t put things down lightly. But this is a good thing, because it means someone else may never need to pick it up again. 
I have a theory that this is why so many autistic folk have a difficult time with life. It’s that combination of rote memory and experienced or observed trauma, carried. It makes us very good at some things – it makes us often completely unable to deal with life as it’s presented to us.

Imagine that. All these facts stored in your brain in little filing cabinets. Just ready to be remembered and regurgitated at the slightest trigger. Imagine driving and hearing on the radio of yet another death or abuse case concerning people with a disability. TRIGGER – Bang – hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of gory details of disabled children abused, disabled people strangled, disabled people left to starve or rot in their own waste. Imagine at the slightest trigger all of this flooding your mind.

How would one cope? I would curl up in a ball and most likely cry Instead my friend gets angry and fights for the rights of these disabled people virtually every waking moment of her life.

And then when the Bill concerning these deaths and abuses of disabled people is read in parliament, imagine her feeling of disgust as Liberal politicians left the chamber. Imagine watching Julie Bishop, this most senior politician, walking out when it was time for this Bill to be read.

A Bill concerning 572 deaths of people with a disability in Victoria in the last decade. A bill concerning 1459 reported incidents and a further 141 deaths of people with disabilities in South Australia and NSW alone in I know not what time frame. These cases being just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine this swirling in your mind and engulfing you as politicians show apathy and walk out. While Cormann gets freebies from his mates. While Hockey gets profits for himself and his mates through Government contracts. While half a billion dollars is wasted on a security company registered at a shack on Kangaroo Island that allegedly doesn’t even have electricity.

Imagine being told we support the Bill in principle but …. While money is handed out like confetti by inept and corrupt officials. Imagine that and then imagine what was going on in the brain of my friend as she witnessed this first hand.

She is still standing and she is still fighting. I know not how. That is what heroes are made of.

What Really Matters


Image shows person kneeling and bent over in shame. background has haunting mist.

Well that was a week in politics wasn’t it? Make that a fortnight. It’s been so shambolic I have lost track of time. First there was the Royal Commission into Banking. To the surprise of no one the big banks have been ripping us off. The Government, who were dragged kicking and screaming to have the commission, have done – Nothing.

Then there was the Asylum seekers who are on Manus island. They can now come to Australia if they are sick. Mind you it is only them. Any new asylum seekers who are sick who and who wind up here on a boat can go and die. They don’t matter. Of course the Government is now trying to scare us all silly that the floodgates are going to be open to terrorists  and rapist from the lands of brown people.

You see they lost the vote and are the first government to lose a vote in Parliament for 90 years. That being the case they threw their toys out of the pram. Then Pauline Hanson was  accused of sexual harassment and two guys had a fight outside her office. Blood ended up smeared all over her door. Let’s not mention Trump who is apparently fat and healthy. Inspiring stuff this, hey?

In the midst of all this something that really does matter was lost. That is the push for a Royal Commission into the Abuse of People with a Disability. Senator Jordan Steele has a bill that he wants passed in parliament so that there can be a commission to investigate this abuse.

The Government, those jolly people, played delaying tactics and had this bill left hanging because they thought they might yet lose another vote in parliament. Meanwhile, people with a disability are being abused and are dying all over Australia. The Government is doing what it does best, nothing. I don’t say this lightly, but the current Liberal Government is the most appalling and disgusting Government, ever, in Australia’s history.

Let’s look at the figures for the abuse of people with a disability that I can find. Credit here to disability activist, Samantha Connor. I will list a few below;

  • Feb 6 2019 – Carer sacked after being charged with indecently assaulting a teenage girl with a cognitive impairment while employed as a carer at a facility in Sydney’s southwest in July 2018.
  • Feb 2 2019 – Three teenage girls fiercely attack, beat and kick an eighteen year old intellectually disabled man in an act of hate crime.
  • Feb 2 2019 – The carer of a disabled teen faces court after being charged with torture and assault after allegedly strangling him with his own bib. He was aged seventeen at the time and required around the clock care.
  • Jan 31 2019 – FaCS respite centre worker is found guilty of assaulting an autistic boy by trying to force feed him. The man was heard aggressively ordering the boy to “eat”, saying “f…king spit it out and I will f..king open your mouth” and told him he would break his neck.
  • 11 January 2019 – Mentally ill man, Kenneth Francis Dunster, who was identified as a choking risk, chokes to death at the Millbrook Rise Rehabilitation Centre, New Norfolk in Tasmania.
  • 9 January 2019 – 62-year-old support worker charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 38-year-old cognitively impaired woman in October 2018.

In all Connor lists 18 cases that have been heard in 2019. Note we are only half way through February, less than two months into the year. All over Australia similar incidents of abuse are happening to people with a disability. What does the Government do?  It plays delaying tactics in parliament to save its own skin. Meanwhile Senator Jordan Steele is  trying to get this enquiry legislated. But what do the Government care? Those bloody brown skin people are gonna come in their millions and kill us all. Yep, this is Australia today.

And this abuse of people with a disability is well known. It’s been well known for a long time. Successive Governments have chosen to ignore it. People with a disability are being killed, assaulted, raped and systematically abused. Again Connor brings this to our attention;

30 June 2018 – Victorian Disability Services Commissioner releases report saying that there is widespread abuse and neglect of disabled people in Victoria, including 570 deaths in residential care facilities in a decade. The deaths included physical restraint, accidental choking on food and other items, inadequate supervision and inappropriate access to medication.

If you want to read this sordid tale click on the link above. Let it sink in – 570 deaths in a decade, just in Victoria! Just for having a disability. The majority of these appear to be at facilities run by the Government.

And there are more. A mother injecting urine into her disabled daughter to make her sick. A 44 year old man charged with drowning a disabled teenager. Carer charged for killing a disabled person, praying over its body and beating it with a belt. Autistic boy locked in a dark room and forced to urinate in a bucket. Mother sends disabled daughter to an aged care facility and the poisons her. These sordid stories go on and on.

What is our Government doing? It’s trying to save its own skin and fear mongering about asylum seekers who, in most cases, are doing nothing more than trying to save their own lives.

There is hope. Perhaps next week the Government will get its head out of its own arse long enough to listen to Senator Steele’s bill for a Royal Commission into the Abuse of People with a Disability. I hope so. I am not holding my breath because inevitably humans disappoint inevitably .… This week taught me that much. But who knows, they may surprise us!





Oh Sod Off

Sometimes I think we are making progress in this world. I think things are better. There are more opportunities. There is access and immediate communication. The government is funding some great stuff. We have the NDIS which has a long way to go but it is world leading. Given time it can and should be the best thing for people with a disability in Australia. Admittedly we are a long way from there yet. It’s a start though and we need to be patient. I tell myself and others, always, Rome was not built in a day.

And then I have days like today when I realise disability rights are a constant one step forward several hundred backwards. So often it seems like we are getting nowhere.

For example a disabled friend who does not have an NDIS package yet was trying to book supports to attend an event. The service organisation appeared quite happy to assist, given my friend did not have an NDIS package. The bubble was burst, however, when the organisation asked my friend if there were any other people with a disability attending the event who had NDIS funding and if my friend could let the service organisation know who they were. Presumably so that these people could pay for the supports my friend required. I mean – What the fuck? Not only is this unethical but it is a gross breach of confidentiality. Worse, its demeaning to my friend!

But worse was to come. Another friend posted an article to me. The article was about Australia’s Disability Discriminateasmuchasyoulike ACT.  Yes our famous DDA. The article was published at the People with a Disability Australia website, It basically said what we all know, that our DDA is rubbish. If you want to read the article the link is at the end of this Blog. What got me was that a seemingly intelligent judge could rule what he did.

It seems that there was a case where a person with a disability took a training organisation to the task. There is a college, you see, that teaches people about skin and other what nots to do with skin. This is the Australasian College of Dermatologists. I can only assume that some poor blighter with a disability wanted to attend the college and was refused access supports that would enable them to study.

Like any tertiary learning institute the fees are astronomical. A masters course in dermatology at the college will set you back $18 000. If you are going to fork out that kind of money one would hope that you would get full access. Well it appears not if you have a disability. Our hero seems to have asked for support through reasonable adjustments. The college seems to have dug in its heels and refused to provide the  necessary support.

For its obstinateness the college got taken to court for discrimination. The college, as is usually the case, won. The poor person with a disability missed out again, to the surprise of no one.

The article does not say what disability was involved. Nor does it state what the person with a disability was asking for in terms of access. All we know is that the person lost their case. Some bright as a knob judge decided that the college was under no obligation to provide any reasonable adjustments UNLESS – Now don’t laugh, this is serious – Unless the person with a disability could prove that the college  had refused them reasonable supports because of their disability. BECAUSE OF THEIR DISABILITY. Let that sink in for the moment.

So let’s say Gazzles, deaf as a post, wants to study dermatology. He gets accepted and goes to the college and says – ” I want captioning so I can access the course.” This is an entirely reasonable request. But the college says no. Not providing. “Why?” asks Gazzles. The college looks Gazzles in the eye  and says – “Because we don’t want to.”

“Not fair” says Gazzles. “I need it so I can know whats being said.” And the college replies, “Sorry, don’t want to.”

Discrimination I hear you all crying. Not according to the supremely intelligent Judge. The onus is on Gazzles to prove that the college didn’t provide the captioning because he was deaf. The dialogue might go something like this:

Gazzles: “Judge they are discriminating against me because they won’t provide me access to the course even though I met the criteria and I can pay.”

Judge: ” Well you skin experts, what do you have to say to that? Did you discriminate  against Gazzles?”

Skin Experts: “Nope”

Judge: ” It doesn’t look good from where I am standing, why cant you provide Gazzles with support?”

Skin Experts: ” Well cos we don’t provide captions to anyone, We don’t do it. It’s not our policy.”

Judge: ” Are you sure you are not refusing because Gazzles is Deaf?”

Skin Experts: “Quite sure – Providing captions is simply not something that we do.”

Judge: ” Gazzles, they say they are not refusing support to you because they simply don’t provide Captioning to anyone. What say you?”

Gazzles: “Judge, its obvious, it’s because I am deaf and they don’t want to pay.”

Judge: “Is that what they said to you? Do you have that in writing?”

Gazzles: ” Well, No.”

Judge: ” So you have no concrete proof support was refused because you are deaf?”

Gazzles: ” Well no, but its obvious isn’t it?”

Judge: “Not without any proof, no. Case dismissed!”

Ridiculous isn’t it – But this is exactly what has just happened. A court ruled that if the person with a disability cannot prove that support was refused because of their disability they are – In the Queens English – Fucked!

And that is our DDA. Pathetic, useless and totally only worth the paper that it is written on. It is shocking. It is time to fix this mess now before Australia becomes the laughing stock of the world in terms of disability rights.

I mean even our Disability Commissioner makes the point in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 3rd. The Commish had this to say:

” Progress has been incredibly slow,” Mr McEwin said. “A lot of politicians have assumed, ‘Oh we’re great we’ve got the NDIS, we don’t need to do that much more.’ But we’ve got the issue of guardianship laws, the issues of physical access, and the issue of young people missing out on educational opportunities or not getting a job.”

There you have it. Straight from the horses mouth. Human Rights for Australians with a disability are a mess. We need to fix this now. Let’s start with that useless DDA! And if we can’t commit to that we may well just sod off!

And that article – Am I being overly dramatic? Well read it and you be the judge, click on the link below: