Australia’s Favourite Advocate

That’s me you know. I have anointed myself. I cannot come to any other conclusion. I know it sounds like I have tickets on myself, and I probably do, but everyone seems to be asking for help at the moment. You have to ask whether our paid organisations are actually missing in action.

Now let’s be clear. I sometimes get paid for the advocacy work that I do. Sometimes I don’t. I work full time, not as an advocate. Often people or families simply do not have funds to pay. Nevertheless, I will still help them. You cant really leave them in the lurch. I will disclose, however, that I often say to people to contact X, Y or Z. They often tell me they did but got nowhere, or worse, that no one got back to them.

I willingly help. It isn’t a stress really. It helps me flex a bit of brain muscle and adds a bit of spice to my life by way of variety. Let’s look at a small sample of what I did in the last two months.

  1. Helped family review their daughters NDIS plan and have Auslan training funding reinstated. (The NDIS apologised and said they forgot to put the Auslan in .. PFFFTTTTTTT!!!! )
  2. Helped man B do a change of circumstances review. Arranged for new evidence by way of report to be made which looked at legislation and compliance. This was for the much vaunted Visualert system that the NDIS dont want to pay for. The team won by the way …. Yes we did, GO TEAM (Team was me, audiologist, OT, participant and his family.)
  3. Just today sat through an AAT appeal where the NDIS wanted the treating OT removed from the hearing and new evidence be submitted by their “Expert OT”. NDIS sought direction from the Tribunal and the Tribunal found in favour of the participant. The NDIS lawyer couldn’t even get the name of the OT right and contradicted themselves three times. It was pure incompetence.
  4. Assisted a man with his Workcover appeal and to get his workplace to recognise his skills and abilities. They agreed to provide him with meaningful work that was commensurate with his abilities. The man was very stressed but I have to say his workplace were wonderfully accommodating and understanding. He is now back at work with a new team and meaningful duties.
  5. Assisted an organisation to write a community impact statement for a scholarship program that they were developing. I could have charged for this but the CEO is a great mate so I was more than happy to help. it was to do with Auslan, so hopefully they will get what they ask for.
  6. Unsuccessfully tried to get Auslan interpreting for three deaf people that want to do training through a private training organisation. The organisations cry poor. The NDIS say education is a State responsibility and won’t help … Meanwhile the three are in limbo while these arseholes shirk their responsibilities.
  7. And my favourite – I was asked to help out remote communities in Northern Queensland to assist them to get the most out of their NDS plans. All going well I take leave from work and fly up there for a week. (They pay the flights, but I have volunteered my time.)

That is just a little snapshot of what I am doing. I have left several examples off the list so as not to sound too bigheaded :-D. I raise these snapshots because clearly there is a need out there but organisations don’t appear to be hitting the mark. These people are from South Australia, Queensland, NSW, Northern Territory and Victoria – All over Australia. I am not saying that our paid organisations are doing nothing, but clearly there are many people falling through the cracks and something needs to change.

So as Australia’s self anointed favourite advocate I am going to offer our organisations some free advise. It’s free so they can either like it or lump it!

Here is my advice.

Firstly, on priorities:

  1. Employment sucks. people with a disability in Australia still are grossly underrepresented in the workforce. They are either not employed or underemployed. Even those that graduate have worse employment outcomes than able bodied people that graduate.
  2. People with a disability, people who are Deaf and people who are hard of hearing people have a right to access whatever training that they want. Whether it is State funded, a university or a private training organisation. Just today I got wind that a TAFE were trying to make deaf students use their NDIS funding to pay for interpreters to attend course information sessions. This is illegal under the NDIS agreement with State Governments. When is this shit going to end????
  3. The NDIS is paying more money to deny supports through their lawyers than the cost of actual supports themselves. They are putting people with a disability through enormous stress through reviews and appeals. Participants are waiting months and even years for resolutions. Who is doing any thing about this?
  4. Deaf and hard of hearing is a very broad church. They have a a variety of needs across many areas. Employment, Education, language acquisition, access to services, access to communication. For the latter, it is not just Auslan – A very small percentage of people that have a hearing loss use Auslan, who is speaking out for the very large percentage that don’t? Please do not get me wrong, Auslan interpreters are crucial, but who is speaking for the rest???
  5. Hospitals – Where do we start!

It is my view that all of the above are critical issues. Sadly, I never hear anything about them from our organisations. I never hear of how they are all working together to address these issues and bring them to the attention of the Government at State or Federal level.

Did you know, for example, that Auslan for Employment (which you can also use for captioning) has not increased since 2007/2008. Did you know that it is a flat rate of $6000 per year, no matter where you are. Whether you are in regional area or whether you are in the city, whether you are a professional or a McDonald’s worker – you still get only $6000. Did you know mine was spent in 8 weeks? Did you know that when I was working at the Brotherhood of St Laurence, that in 8 months the bill for two deaf staff was $84 000 and that I was told to find ways to cut back. (My suggestion that they have less meetings didn’t go down very well.) Yet I, and professionals like me, are supposed to survive on $6000 year! No wonder employment opportunities are limited!

My question is – Deaf Australia, Deafness Forum – This is clearly a crucial policy area that will lead to better employment outcomes for Deaf and hard of hearing Australians. Are you working together to bring this to the attention of the Government. Are you partnering People with a Disability Australia, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations or our rapidly expanding and increasingly wealthy Deaf Societies to do something about this? Hmmmmm?

Our NDIS is a mess. Deaf and hard of hearing participants have to jump through hoops to get basic safety technology. In some cases they are being denied interpreting. In some cases, unless they ask for it, Local Area Coordinators and planners don’t even raise the fact that they are entitled to it. Hard of hearing people are being told that Interpreting and Translating funds do not cover captioning (This is false.) Deaf and hard of hearing participants are CALLED on the phone by the NDIS everyday. When they don’t answer, they get a letter some months later asking them to contact the NDIS and that their already inadequate plan has been rolled over. They cant get hearing aids that they need. Parents that choose Auslan for their kids are being told that they cant have Auslan training because thats a parental responsibility (Again false) What are you all doing to address this? Yes, YOU, the organisations.

Many of our state run deaf advocacy bodies are unfunded. State disability advocacy bodies have huge waiting lists because they cannot support all the people that need advocacy. What are Deaf Australia or Deafness Forum doing to work together to build capacity of our State based advocacy. Just yesterday a Deaf person contacted me because they had been denied interpreting by a large public hospital, allegedly because the hospital said that it could not afford it. They asked me, presumably at the hospital waiting room, if I knew what part of the “Disability Act” compels public hospitals to provide interpreting – There is a readily available policy in South Australia, available on the internet, that outlines the responsibilities of hospitals in this regard. I emailed them the link to it. The bit that Deaf people need is on page four of this booklet if you ever need it –

https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/38291aa9-cdce-44ff-8d2c-79504413950a/Directive_Equity_of_Access_to_Health_Care_Incorporating_Interpreting_and_Translating_Requirements.+V1.1.15.05.2020.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-38291aa9-cdce-44ff-8d2c-79504413950a-ny0-WqV

Who is helping the States? Why am I doing this work when funded organisations should be doing it? Where are the partnerships and campaIgns to address all of these issues? What are our orgs all doing together to raise and tackle these crucial issues. ( Please don’t tell me you are on 31 committees and attended 5 billion meetings last year, Ive heard it all before!)

So these are some of the things that I think need to be tackled and addressed. Possibly they already are and we don’t know about them. I looked at one organisations website and I could not even work out what they were doing, what coherent strategy they have, what they were wanting to achieve or even what their staff do. If you are working on these issues COMMUNICATE it to us! Get the community behind you! And most importantly – join forces and work together – FFS!!

That is all!

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