Open Letter to Minister Reynolds

Image show two hands seemingly counting money.

Dear Minister,

I have never met you. Until this year I had actually never heard of you. A certain Ms Higgins brought your name to the fore. Among other things I found out that you were the Minister of Defence. You came across as pretty feisty, even going as far as calling Ms Higgins a liar and comparing her with a female of the bovine family. It seems that the stress got to you and you became quite ill. I sincerely hope that you are well now and on the mend.

What I am about to say may hurt, even make you angry, It is possible that you will even compare me to an animal and and label me any number of things that might include a liar, shit stirrer, A/hole or whatever. I understand that your job is thankless and that toeing the party line is something that you must do, even if you do not agree with it. I get it, and I don’t want to get personal. However, I fear that I will.

I am angry and very frustrated with ongoing comments about the “cost blowout “of the NDIS. I am tired of hearing it. As a person with a disability I am also tired of being labelled a burden to society, which I assure you, I am not. I am exasperated that no one in Government ever talks of the benefits of the scheme, and not just for people with a disability. As the Minister responsible for the NDIS, I and the Disability community expect you to be across this.

Let’s be clear, although the NDIS is expensive, it also contributes. It is creating employment, It is creating new markets. It is creating opportunities for greater economic input from people with a disability, their families, their friends and their colleagues. Indeed there is a figure in the old Productivity Commission Report about the NDIS that neither you, or anyone in the Government that you work for, ever mention.

You will see that the report estimated that the NDIS would increase the GDP by 1% and that the benefit was not just good social policy but good economic policy too. As the Minister responsible for the NDIS I expect you to talk the NDIS up, not down. I expect that you provide us with all the figures, not just the outgoings!! (Read this Ms Reynolds, it is hidden away in the NDIS own archives )


I am also frustrated that a lot of the unnecessary costs that you talk about are actually the result of having a workforce, including you as Minister, who don’t get the NDIS or disability. I assist NDIS participants to review their plans. This happens because decisions are made by the Agency that make no sense, whatsoever. You are fond of talking about inconsistencies. Let me tell you a couple of home truths.

Firstly, inconsistencies happen because no one person has the same needs. In my case I am deaf. I don’t need hearing aids because I am too deaf. My deaf friend up the road does. But she needs a specific hearing aid for her particular hearing loss. They are above the standard costs of hearing aids and needed because standard hearing aids will not assist her. She is socially and economically isolated because she has had to adapt to her hearing loss as she is latter deafened. Her NDIS plan is necessarily more expensive than mine as her needs are different. That’s how it works, there is no one size fits all.

Inconsistencies occur because a lot of the NDIS workforce, including you, don’t get this. As a consequence they make absolutely bizarre decisions that are constantly going for review. So bad is it that the NDIS reviews team cannot keep up and people are waiting months and months for decisions. Often they end up at AAT with all of the fat cat lawyers. Was it $23 million that the NDIS forked out on legal fees last year, much of it trying to defend some of the bizarre decisions that they make. If you want to investigate costs, look at the decision making process area first and don’t blame people with disability.

I have said it often, when the NDIS get it right it is a game changer. Thankfully this does happen a lot. However, there are too many crackpot decisions being made by people that do not know what they are doing, including a succession of Ministers like you.

Now let’s look at the blame game. It’s our fault you see. Us expensive disability folk are the reason the NDIS is not sustainable. (It couldn’t possibly be the ignorant ablebods screwing up the decision making could it?) Let’s look at some of the reasons you gave in a recent interview – You can read it here if you want to remind yourself –

Your first argument was that it is the Autistic’s fault. Apparently, it was expected that kids who are autistic would leave the scheme at some stage and not need ongoing support. They enter the NDIS as babies and they don’t exit when they are six. This means, according to you, there are more people with Autism on the scheme than anticipated and its expensive. This is why you need to employ people that get it. I despair!

I mean, what did you and they expect? That kids with Autism would get therapy and suddenly become “All Better” I am sure, in fact I know, that there are some that need less support over time. I know that there are others that continue to need support because our world is simply not designed for the way that they see and experience the world.

Like me and my deaf friend, people with autism don’t all experience autism in the same way and their need for support varies greatly. I dare say, a society that tries to make everyone fit the norm causes a lot of actual harm through the so called therapy. This, in turn, leads to the need for even greater support. It’s not the fault of people with autism that they require support, its the fault of a society that tries to mould everyone in to one size fits all. Please stop blaming them.

Then you said that when people with a disability get old and go past the age of 65 they are choosing to stay on the NDIS rather than go to Aged Care. This might be because Aged Care isn’t really designed for people with a disability in the same way that the NDIS is. The law is clear, if you are over 65, have a disability and are not on the NDIS you are not eligible. It is equally clear that if you are an NDIS participant and you turn 65, you can decide to remain on the NDIS or go to Aged Care.

This means that many people choose to remain on the NDIS rather than go to Aged Care because they know Aged care will not meet their needs. Why are you surprised? That’s the law and why it was written. Please stop blaming people who are turning 65 for making a decision that they see as best for them!

My favourite is that it is the fault of the obese. Apparently, there are too many people on the NDIS that are getting support because they are obese. Let’s be clear, obesity is not a disability. Any person worth their salt and works for the NDIS knows this. It is a medical condition. BUT!

  1. Some people who are obese have resulting and permanent physical disabilities. As a result they may need equipment and support because of those physical disabilities. Obesity is not the disability, but the other physical conditions are.
  2. Some people who have disabilities become obese through poor nutrition, social isolation and lack of physical activity. These people need support for their disabilities and this may lead to better nutrition and more exercise. This, in turn, may actually assist them to address their obesity.

BUT, lets be clear, it is the disability that is funded not the obesity.

This rationale that I have explained is what happens when you get it. This is what happens when you understand disability. I dare say, if anyone in the NDIS has classified obesity as a disability, well they need to review the legislation. It will be clear that obesity is not a disability but obesity may cause disability and visa versa, disability may cause obesity. Blaming people who are obese for some of the NDIS so called “cost blowout” is the most bizarre thing that I have read so far. And it came from you Minister Reynolds. That is scary!

I know that some of this will hurt and anger you. But I am hurt and I am angry too. I ask that you consider the points that I have raised. I ask, particularly, that you become more open minded of the broader benefits of the NDIS, that you acknowledge some of the internal reasons for “cost blowouts” and, more importantly, stop blaming people with a disability – That hurts!

Thank you for reading. That is all!

Kind Regards

The Rebuttal Team

This is Australia!!

Image is of a man at his laptop. He is clearly frustrated. His spectacles rest on his head while he rubs his eyes and nose with one hand in obvious tension.

This is Australia, as I am sure is most of the world. It has become fully automated. Phone calls are inevitably answered by robots.  You call and any number of options are provided so that you can be directed to the right person. Often the right person is another robot who then processes what you need automatically. If you are patient, you may actually get to talk to someone.

In recent years Deaf and hard of hearing callers have been able to bypass calling through the National Relay Service with the introduction of Chat. You could go to a website and send a text message and bypass the robot and actually deal with a person by text. The great thing about these Chat things is that they often allowed you to bypass long queues. So, where hearing people were waiting hours and hours to get a Telstra operator the Chat feature took you straight to someone. 

Sadly, even these Chat features have now been replaced by bots. You are encouraged to ask Sharon:

G: Hello?

S: What does your enquiry relate to?

G: I’d like to buy a new washing machine.

S: Front-loader or top-loader?

G: Front-loader.

S: We have some fantastic deals for you, call 08 8258 8682 and one of our friendly customer service staff will be more than happy to explain your options.

I mean, fuck, one of the few advantages we Deafies had, hearing bums have managed to take it away from us.

This week I resigned from work. I work for the Centre of Disability Studies (CDS). I reluctantly resigned because CDS are a wonderful place to work. I accepted a Team Leaders role for a disability advocacy organisation. Covid has caused all sorts of problems getting to see my family because of lockdowns and border closures. The new job will help lessen this problem. And hey!, I am an advocate at heart, so the job is ready made for me.

The great thing about this new role is that it is part-time. Gives me some time to do projects. One such project is to do my Certificate IV in Assessment and Training. This will allow me to do some adult education, teaching at TAFE and pass on my knowledge. I found one at a company called Inspire. They offer it Online and are way cheaper than others.

So, as you do, I sent an online enquiry. And within 15 minutes they called me. I kind of knew it was them cos they were the last people I provided my number to on their online enquiry form. I waited a bit, unsurprisingly an email followed:

Hey Gary.  I know you have been trying to reach me about your Cert IV TAE course.  Tried calling, but you didn’t pick up – so I thought I’d better get back to you ASAP. Gary, I have critical information about your Cert IV TAE for you. Please call me back ASAP at 1800 506 509.”

Of course, I replied that I was deaf. Could they please email me and that I would be happy to correspond that way. I didn’t hear anything straight away but when I awoke in the morning there was a missed call from them and another email:

“So sorry.  Still haven’t been able to reach you.  Really hoping we could connect before this enrolment window ends. The course options for your Cert IV TAE are really awesome at the moment, and I reckon the delivery of this course particularly may work well for you. Gary, is there a best time for me to call you to talk you through them?  Alternatively, please call me back ASAP at 1800 506 509.”

And so, once again I emailed and said that I was deaf and that I could not speak on the phone. I asked that they email me the course outline and how the course was delivered so that I could then consider whether it was right for me. I was not confident that I would get a response because I was aware that these Emails were fully automated. For all I knew Manny was a microchip of some sort. (Readers, please don’t get technical with me, I am well aware of my limited PC knowledge :-D)

So, blow me down with a feather. Manny was actually a person and he did respond to me, and in person. He took the time to outline the course in more detail. I responded and asked Manny to outline a little more of the method of delivery. What tools were used, what media was used and so on so that I could then work out what adjustments needed to be made.

Sadly, Manny blotted his copy book, or at least Inspire did. They sent me another email:

“It was great speaking with you with regards to your goals for completing the Cert IV TAE.  I know at this stage you are doing some research, which is totally fine.  You definitely want to make sure this course is right for you before you enrol. Based on our conversation though Gary, the Cert IV TAE may be perfect for you.  By studying with Inspire – you will gain instant access to our leading course delivery platform.  As well as completing your course in style – you can complete it in the shortest possible time frame you can manage.”

Of course, I had not spoken to anybody. Not Manny, not a bot, not a chat bot – No one! I had, until that time, received just the one personal email. I was naturally quite peeved and my saracasm kicked in. I sent Manny the following email:

“Dear Manny

I know that you are restrained by your firms automated system.  You just sent me an email saying it was nice to have spoken with me. We didn’t speak because I am deaf. I have, however, sent emails. One that you have responded to personally.

Manny, I am very interested in enrolling, which I assume will be a feather in your cap. However, being deaf I need to understand the structure of Inspires online course to be able to pin-point accessibility issues and address them. For example, videos without captioning. 

So, in the meantime, if you can give me an idea of how the course is taught, in what mediums etc  I can begin to ascertain what adjustments need to happen so that I can access the course.

Of course, being one of Australia’s largest providers, I am sure Inspire will be keen to assist me to make the necessary adjustments where possible.

I look forward to your response.



I can see a few people going, “OH GAZ, that was mean!!” Possibly it was, but sometimes this world that is built fully for hearing people, with no thought to others, just gets up my nose and I have to offload somehow.

As I write this Manny has just sent another email. And this is what he says:

Hi Gary,

As we specialise in online delivery, it will be pretty hard for us to cater to you as CERT IV TAE requires you to do presentations, listening to presentations, assessments tasks etc. I would recommend that you find somewhere who can face-to-face learning which may be easier for you”

And, of course, I have replied:

“Dear Manny

You are in luck. I am the co-author of Guidelines for Supporting Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students Online.  Please see the attached link.  You are in luck, you have an expert who can assist you to adapt your course, not just for me, but other students who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

Let’s get to work. I look forward to studying with Inspire! “



As an epilogue to that last email from Manny, automated Manny sends me another:

Gary, as you know you have actually enquired at a great time!  Our ‘Pandemic-Support Initiative’ Sale is on now…  Massively Reducing the Cost of your Course! This means that you can get started with one of the best prices we have offered. Remember, this sale is until 31st August only – so why wait any longer?”

LOOOOOL – This is Australia, isn’t it fun!??? Watch this space!

Michael Lockrey – Palindrome Man

It was a glorious spring day in Adelaide around 2001. The tennis was on. Deaf tennis, that is. Glen Flindell thrashed all and sundry that weekend. He went on to dominate Deaf tennis in Australia and the world for many years to come. I think he is over 40 now and still can’t be beaten. At this tennis tournament I met a balding and jolly man called Michael. He signed haltingly and with some difficulty. He struck me as a jovial, gentle and genuine human being. Over the years, he would seek me out at various sports events or Deaf conferences. He was always pleased to see me and always friendly. We were not close friends but we had a mutual respect for each other based on our love for sport and equal rights for Deaf, hard of hearing and all people with disabilities.

Michael was born at Crown Street Hospital on the 28th of December, 1968. He grew up in Blaxland in the Blue Mountains. His father, Lyn, recalls fondly that even at an early age, Michael loved sport. “He was a bonny young lad who loved kicking his rubber ball up the hallway, yelling DOAL DOAL DOAL.

Around the age of two and a half, his parents noticed signs of hearing loss in Michael. His hearing deteriorated very quickly. Initially it appears Michael had a moderate hearing loss, possibly from mumps. As he grew older and entered primary school, his hearing loss reached a point where Michael was profoundly Deaf.

Michael was a resolute human being. Recalls Lyn, “He was determined to succeed. He would often come home exhausted from his effort to keep up with his peers.” Lyn’s pride in his son is on show for all to see. “…Michael did extraordinarily well, despite hearing almost nothing.” With support from his itinerant teacher for the deaf, he gained his high school certificate in 1986.

Michael enrolled in business studies at Southern Cross University. He graduated with a number of high distinctions. It appears that Michael had some support from the university. His father, Lyn, thinks he learned mostly from what he read and what he saw. Lyn tells the story of a vision impaired man who Michael befriended and who was studying the same course. What Michael saw on screen or in lecture, he would note. What his vision impaired friend heard, he would note. At the end of the lecture, they would exchange notes. In this way, they supported each other throughout their studies.

Michael graduated and started work as an accountant. He was successful at work but he had his struggles. Those struggles really opened his eyes and inspired him to lobby and fight for equal rights around accessibility for people with a disability.

Along the way, Michael found the Deaf community. This really changed his life and perceptions. Writing in The Rebuttal in 2010 he had this to say:

I was schooled in the lipreading /auditory approach from a very young age. It was certainly effective – as I can still recall meeting my first Deaf (signing Deaf) person in my teens and I really thought that I was nothing like him and that I was really a “hearing” person! Obviously, this was a fallacy (and a half)!

My biggest personal regret of my life to date is that I didn’t learn Auslan until I was 30! Looking back over my life I can see countless missed opportunities – both professionally and personally – as I simply couldn’t measure up as a “hearing” person. 30 years of butting my head against a brick wall in the mistaken belief that I could be a “hearing” person (when I was profoundly Deaf)!

Michael, like many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, entered the Deaf community well into adulthood. It was not until he was 30 years old that he started to learn Auslan. Lyn recalls that there was one Christmas that Michael was hit by the stark realisation that his hearing loss had deteriorated to the point that he could not hear nor lip read his mother effectively. From there, he researched deafness and solutions and came across the Deaf community.

Of this journey, Lyn had this to say:

This became a turning point for him. He resolutely faced the challenges and sought solutions to the many  issues  concerning inclusion, fairness, accessibility and justice for people with disabilities and in particular for the Deaf and hard of hearing. He became a fierce advocate for them on a number of fronts. He developed the ability to view life, it’s challenges and solutions from two worlds, the hearing and the deaf. Hence, I think that’s why he used the term, “The Palindrome Man”. Fairness, justice, inclusion, accessibility, equity, being seen and experienced, “the same”, from both ends of the spectrum.

My own recall of Michael is as a supremely intelligent, compassionate and empathetic human being. His friend Barney Lund agrees: 

I remember my Mum, Hillary Mcpherson, saying to me that I should meet this guy Mike who owns a 10 seater bicycle and who is also Deaf. I never did get to see the bike but I did get to meet a really down to earth guy with a great sense of humour. 

I didn’t really get to know him well until after we connected at the World Congress on Mental Health and Deafness in Brisbane in October 2009. . I had never really had much contact with other deaf people growing up, so it was really nice to meet someone with some common interests and experiences. That chat with Mike and attending the Mental Health and Deafness Congress were two really pivotal moments for me. A lot of the issues I experienced as a kid and young adult started to make sense, and also helped me to connect with more of the Deaf community in Brisbane and on the Northern Rivers. I will be forever grateful to Mike for taking the time to sit and chat that day.

Michael did many great things for Deaf and hard of hearing people. Perhaps he is best known as the chairperson for the Australian Communication Exchange, a position he held for 6 years. He campaigned tirelessly for the introduction of new technologies such as Captel. Barney recalls that Captel was a life changer.

At the time Barney was working for the State Government and struggling with the phone work. Captel enabled him to speak on the phone and he no longer had to struggle with accents and bad phone connections.

Barney credits Michael with having opened his eyes to the benefits of captioning. Through Michael Barney began to explore the use of live captions in work meetings. Says Barney: 

Mike and I thought live captioning had masses of potential for people like us who didn’t have enough sign language proficiency to benefit from Auslan interpreting alone. Live captioning has had a huge impact on my life ever since.

So much, in fact, that Barney works within the captioning industry. I can vouch for his knowledge, because he is my go-to person whenever I need advice or support around live captioning.

What is not so well known about Michael is his ongoing campaigning for captioning in all of its various guises. Barney explains that Michael had an end-to-end strategy around captioning. For example, Michael worked with young film makers to increase their knowledge of captioning and its benefits. Those filmmakers are the future and by making them aware of the benefits and how to caption, Michael knew greater accessibility would happen into the future.

Michael also worked with an American friend, Mike Ridgeway. Together they developed a platform called, NOMORECRAPTIONS. To explain, sometime ago Youtube introduced auto-captioning. Basically, this was technology that used voice recognition to caption videos. Voice recognition technology has come a long way since but back then it was terrible, and I mean terrible. If you want a trip down memory lane, watch this video.

Through the platform, Nomorecraptions, the user could take the Youtube auto-generated captions and correct them so that they made sense. Michael and his friend made this platform freely available so that people could improve the accessibility of their online content.

Barney recalls how Michael and his father, Lyn, lodged countless complaints to the DDA about the lack of captioning, particularly around online content. They took on the likes of Apple and Barney believes that because of their determination, all of us Deaf and hard of hearing folk are benefitting today: 

“I am not sure how many complaints they filed, but I am pretty certain their work has helped pave the way for far better online access today.”

Lyn proudly tells the story of how Michael took on Malcolm Turnbull, the then Communications Minister, and won.

He lodged a Disability Discrimination complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the former Communications Minister, and later Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. It concerned the use of auto-captions on government YouTube videos and the need to comply in having correct, closed captions on all government videos. It was resolved in 2017 with the Office of the Prime Minister committing to ensure all its future videos would now be accurately captioned prior to posting to the web. “

In 2010 Michael won the prestiges Roma Wood OAM Community Award, for his advocacy and innovative work with captioning.

I had many a debate with Michael about the benefits of Captiview. For those that do not know, Captiview is a device that you can get at the cinema that you place in your drink holder to view movie captions. The only problem is that it was and is, rubbish. So much that the Deaf community dubbed it, and continue to call it, Craptiview.

I was a staunch critic. Michael was more middle of the road and wanted to give the technology some time to settle in and develop. He was far more level-headed than I. I wrote countless articles against Craptiview, voicing the views of many in the Deaf community.

One thing that Michael and I both agreed on was that Open captions were the best. Michael campaigned relentlessly for Open captions in cinemas and was instrumental for open caption sessions being introduced in Ballina. He regularly posted on Facebook to advertise these sessions.

In later years I enjoyed following Michael on Facebook. I smiled at his surfing videos. I smiled at his videos going fishing with deaf mates on the boat (I swear he looked seasick). I loved his tireless promotion of deaf poker. He was into everything and supported so many people and causes.

Proud father, Lyn, talks about these causes. There was online captioning for which he is generally known. What is not as well known is that Michael campaigned to have Deaf and hard of hearing people be allowed to do jury duty as is commonplace in the USA. Michael staunchly insisted that jury duty was possible using either interpreters or captions that are generated by the court stenographer. He and Gemma Beasley took their case all the way to United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This was the outcome:

CRPD Committee held that the refusal to provide steno-captioning in court and in the jury-room violated the access to justice requirement of article 13 of the CRPD. The CRPD Committee further held that the failure to accommodate violated articles,  5(1) and (3) which prohibit discrimination, and also article 9 which ensures access to communication.

Sadly, State Governments around Australia still refuse to comply. The governments argue that the captioner or Auslan interpreters bring their own interpretation to the proceedings and thus constitute a 13th member of the Jury. It’s bollocks, we all know, and it is a fight that we must all continue.

This is Michael Lockrey. He was one of Australia’s great and unsung Deaf advocates. His achievements are enormous. Believe me, I have only touched the surface of what he achieved in his short time on this earth.

Michael contacted me in September of 2020. He wanted me to work with him on training paramedics around communication with Deaf and hard of hearing patients. Sadly, Michael passed away suddenly on the 24th of November 2020 and we were unable to work on this project.

I wish I had known him better but I was honoured to have known him. Like many, I miss him. We all should, because he was a real fighter and credit to all people who are Deaf and hard of hearing, and indeed all people with disabilities.

But mostly he was a credit to himself and his family. As his children said to their Nanna and Pop:

“Our Dad was the best dad you could have asked for”.

Ill leave you all with these beautiful words from his father, Lyn:

The other day I looked at his trophies that have been stored away in a box and thought about Mike and I penned this line,

“Life’s greatest trophies are the friendships you’ve made and the way you’ve played”. On Ned Trickett, his great grandfather’s grave appear the words,

A man justly honoured by all who knew him

a noble type of sportsman, 

an equally noble type of citizen”, 

Michael, you’ve taken after your great great grandfather, 

God bless you and rest you in peace, dear Palindrome Man.

With thanks to Michael’s father, Lyn Lockrey, and his friend , Barney Lund for generously sharing their cherished anecdotes of Michael the person and Michael the advocate. Mostly, thank you for trusting me with his story.