I wrote a column for the Chronicle newspaper recently about the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme.
National Disability Insurance Scheme
The Chronicle

If you ever feel like you’ve had a tough week, try chatting with a parent who’s caring for a child with a profound disability. Chances are, they’ll be bleary-eyed and bone-tired. They may be struggling to make ends meet, and often contending with health issues of their own.

Like every parent, they love their children – but their parenting journey is harder than most. The regular cycle of life is that children leave home and start families of their own. But parents of children with a disability can find themselves caring for a 40 year-old with the mental abilities of a toddler. Many face a searing fear: what will happen to my child when I die?

In recent weeks, I’ve attended two events to recognise Canberrans with disabilities and the people who care for them. In Hackett, I spoke at the opening of Ross Walker lodge – a supported accommodation facility for six people with intellectual disabilities. Ross Walker preached the social gospel, and was a strong advocate for the most disadvantaged people in our community. (By coincidence, his life followed a similar trajectory to that of my paternal grandfather, who was also born in the 1920s, and entered the Methodist ministry after World War II.)

In Holt, I visited Sharing Places, one of the many organisations that care for people with a disability. Sharing Places has a focus on providing day services to adults with an intellectual disability. I met with several clients, and the people who care for them. Some had been working in the sector for decades, and found it the most rewarding activity they’d ever done.

The Sharing Places event was a DisabiliTEA morning tea, part of a campaign for a National Injury Insurance Scheme and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). An NDIS would provide better care to people with a disability. It would help resolve some of the anomalies in the current system. For example, if you become a paraplegic in a car accident, you’re more likely to get a payout than if you fall off your roof while cleaning the gutters. Under the current system, people who are born with a disability often receive insufficient care.

An NDIS isn’t cheap, and it’s not straightforward. But when the Gillard Government commissioned a report on it from the Productivity Commission, they came back with a strong recommendation that we should go ahead. So we’re working with the states and territories to build the foundations of an NDIS.

If you want more details, I’ll be holding a community forum in Belconnen at which I’ll discuss what an NDIS would mean for Australia. And if you’d like to volunteer, there are community organisations looking for people to help in the disability sector. Check out www.govolunteer.com.au and www.volunteeract.org.au for more details.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.