When I was 27, my life changed — and that’s good news for the economy

Data released as part of the Australia Talks National Survey shows that most Australians, in fact 82 per cent, believe we should spend as much as is necessary to ensure that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.

As a disabled woman, this overwhelming expression of support fills me with a great sense of hope and immense pride.

If so many Australians can agree to spend as much as is necessary to give people with disabilities like me an equal chance, surely there is nothing stopping us from getting it done?

But what does this support entail? Let me tell you something about my story.

I was 27 when my first National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan was approved. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, my family and I had not received a single dollar in disability support until that day.

Before I finally got into the NDIS, I couldn’t work. My health had deteriorated to the point that I had been hospitalized more than a dozen times in the past two years, including several times in intensive care.

With no other support available, my partner was forced to take time off to look after me as well.

The little money we had went to medical expenses, but it was impossible to cover the treatments I needed.

Each week, we sat down to decide what to make work—go to physio or see my psychologist—because I couldn’t afford both.

My ability to get out of the house was severely limited and made worse by the ill-fitting wheelchair we bought from a cheap supermarket because it was all we could afford.

Fast forward two years and the NDIS has not only changed my life, but the economic and social benefits are obvious.

Because of the NDIS I went back to work full-time and so did my partner. So now we both contribute to the economy with our taxes.

I can afford the treatment I need, meaning I haven’t had a single unplanned hospitalization in 18 months.

Thanks to the NDIS, I now have the equipment I need to get out of the house, enjoy life and contribute to the community I love.

Even the cost of these tools has provided great economic bang for the buck. That unreliable wheelchair has been replaced with a modified wheelchair built by a local small business, which saw a 20 percent increase when the NDIS was introduced.

Due to the NDIS, I have employed two support staff to assist with my daily needs, which is great for me and takes the pressure off my family, but also came at a critical time for both women (and our national economy) after COVID-19. 19 decimated the industries they had previously worked in.

But this is only one story. How far are we from all the people with disabilities who have the same experience as me? And is the NDIS worth the investment to give people with disabilities the same opportunities as everyone else?

What progress is the NDIS making?

The National Disability Insurance System was established in 2013 with bipartisan support to replace a state-funded system that was underfunded, unfair and cruel.

It was not uncommon for people to be forced to choose between using their limited support to shower daily or eat a healthy meal because there simply wasn’t enough to cover both.

The NDIS turned this broken system on its head. Any Australian with a disability that has a significant impact on their daily lives would receive the “reasonable and necessary” support they need to live a normal life.

It has undoubtedly changed lives – it has certainly changed mine.

But most people with disabilities will tell you that the NDIS is far from perfect.

Too many people with disabilities, particularly Indigenous Australians, women and those living in rural or remote areas, still struggle to access the scheme.

If you are lucky enough to get approved, the system is too bureaucratic and complicated. In recent years, successive federal governments have tightened rules about who qualifies and what can be funded, leading to even more confusion and fear.

There are also those who have doubts about the NDIS, stating that Australia can no longer afford the price tag.

In recent months, this argument has gained traction. Scott Morrison has said that while some argue that “the sky should be the limit” on NDIS funding, “that is not a realistic target”.

Government budget documents show that the scheme is on track to match the Productivity Commission’s 2017 forecast.

I am afraid that the support that has been so revolutionary for me will be perceived as something Australia cannot afford.

The NDIS cannot solve it all

While my story is cause for celebration, it certainly does not reflect the experience of all Australians with disabilities.

And the hard truth is that the NDIS alone would never lead to an equal opportunity life for people with disabilities.

The NDIS alone cannot prevent a third of people with disabilities from experiencing violence or abuse in their lifetime.

The NDIS alone will not help the 50 percent of people with disabilities who say they feel unsafe where they live now.

The NDIS alone will not repair the damage done to 75 percent of Australians with disabilities who say they have been discriminated against based on their disability.

And in a year when violence against women is finally getting the attention it deserves, we should all know by now that no amount of government funding will stop only young women with disabilities from experiencing sexual violence at twice the rate of women without a disability. incompetence.

While governments play a key role in driving systemic change, these barriers have been created by all of us – and they will require all of us to break them down.

But that does not detract from the importance of the NDIS.

The culture change that is needed is only possible if it is supported by the funds and support needed to support people with disabilities in their daily lives. We can – and must – do both.

The Real Cost of Equality for Disabled Australians

Still, the results from Australia Talks suggest that Australians do not believe it is “unsustainable” to spend money to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

Australians know that spending money to support people with disabilities is not just a cost, but an investment. An investment from which we all benefit.

Is it sustainable to have disabled Australians, like me, unable to contribute, locked in our homes or hospital beds, living in poverty?

It seems to me that the “as much as necessary” spending on people with disabilities that most Australians support is not only the right choice, but also the most sustainable investment.

Elly Desmarchelier is a senior policy officer at Women with Disabilities Australia.

The Australia Talks National Survey asked 60,000 Australians about their lives and what keeps them up at night. Use our interactive tool to see the results and how your answers compare.

Tune in on Monday, June 21 at 8pm to see hosts Annabel Crabb and Nazeem Hussain walk you through the key findings and explore the survey with some of Australia’s best-loved celebrities.


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