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State citizenship prisons state segregation of people with disabilities

By Fran Vicary - posted Thursday, 1 May 2014


When I heard Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, say he accepts "the fact that sometimes the states for all sorts of good reasons will want to do things their way" with regards to allowing Western Australian to run a state-based disability scheme (Sydney Morning Herald, 31st March 2014), I wonder if he also supports the "state citizenship prisons" for people with disabilities that such parallel systems effectively create - forever contained within whatever state first funded their support needs?

I know, I should 'get used to it'. I mean I've lived with a disability all of my 46 years on this earth. But sometimes, even I am still shocked by the way this country treats people with disabilities. This is especially shocking as all political parties acknowledge the votes in supporting the NDIS but remain like nervous bridegrooms when it comes to full commitment.

These times usually happen when I do things that could be described as 'rising above the suppressed, poverty-stricken state' in which people with disabilities are meant to live. It's happened to me several times in my life – I obviously don't adjust well.

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When I met my partner and he suggested we make it legal - you know, get married. My first response was, "Oh dear, how wonderful, but I'll have to ask Queensland Disability Services first because it might mean I could lose personal care support and be reliant on you for all showering, dressing, eating – everything".

Can you get more unromantic?

Yet these are the things that colonise the minds of people with disabilities who know that their access to personal care support is mediated by non-benevolent governments who can retract support as quickly as they can grant it.

When I had been Chief Executive Officer of Queenslanders with Disability Network for over four years and wanted a career change, I didn't limit my search to job adverts in Queensland. I must really have a problem with comprehension and learning to live within the politically defined disability prison in which I find myself…. because I applied for, and won on merit, an Executive Management position in Victoria. So I came to work with Yooralla.

Oh no! I forgot! I have a disability! I'm NOT meant to migrate between states. How can I work at executive level, but have such problems conforming to politically defined disability rules? It's quite distressing; maybe I have disability dysphoria?

You see, under Mr Abbott's state disability systems, I was a captive of the Queensland Government's disability system and should not be moving states! So I now find myself in the situation where the Queensland Government has transferred my funding to the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS).  DHS have made me prove I have a disability (again) and are deciding whether and how they can pay my Queensland Service Provider. And, I have been told that I have to go on the Disability Service Register and wait for a package to become available.

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Didn't you know: people with disabilities are not to migrate between states and, if they do, there's a chance that crossing state borders could cure them of all support needs?!

When will Australia stop running state disability prisons or having people with disabilities become political disability support refugees because they move states? Please can some politician tell me? Also, refresh my memory because I thought this one of the key reasons why the NDIS was so needed?

Foolishly, I'd hoped we were closer to an NDIS type system than we are and moved. Now I must hope the system catches up with the reality that people with disabilities do relocate for work; do move for family or education, all kinds of reasons. Come on, Governments truly deliver on citizenship and the right to move and live freely in whatever state of my native country! Don't imprison me in a state! Don't treat me differently to how you would treat people without disabilities!

Transferring our dog's registration was the easiest transition of moving interstate. Does this mean we live in a country that accords more rights to dogs than people with disabilities?

Until these things change……….. I'll just keep my head down and wait for the next time my physical disability and political or other systems decide that I'm over-reaching my station and decide to shove me sideways… or should I just get body-armour and live on?

 
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Article edited by Lynelle Osburn.
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About the Author

Fran Vicary is a well-known advocate for the rights of people with disability. She has a Masters in literature and is former CEO of the Queensland Disability Network. Fran was on the on the NDIS Advisory Group and the NDIS Expert Group and is currently Director Assistive Technology, Community Living and Learning for Yooralla, Victoria's largest disability service provider.

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