Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Australia to clean up its act

Prime Minister's pledge on disability

Why, people have asked over the years, has Conductive Education done so well in New Zealand – and, just across the Tasman Sea, so badly in Australia. They are both former Dominions, speak much the same way (believe it or not down there, that's how it sounds to most of us), they are both at the Antipodes – Anzacs all.

Parents in both countries woke up early to the promise of Conductive Education, in the nineteen-eighties, Australia in fact a few years ahead of the Nzers, and in both countries parents organised and set out boldly to get CE established. The Kiwis have done just what we would expect with Conductive Education. It's small, it's quiet, and it's there. So what has been the problem in Australia?

The problem of course is that Conductive Education, like any social sub-system, in any country, is not some stand-alone ideal (that goes for its situation in Hungary too). It is not immune to the pluses and minuses of the cultural, financial and social systems in which it is of necessity embedded. Some exceptional specific achievements excepted, the history of Conductive Education in Australia has been a bitter disappointment. No wonder, it has been embedded in systems of services for the disabled and their families that are awful.

Don't take my word for it. Ask Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia.

The following extracts are from a speech that Mr Rudd made last week, on 23 November, to the National Disability Awards Ceremony, in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra.

...There are many statistics that inform us about the condition of people living with disability across Australia. But they only tell one part of the story... the personal tragedies behind the statistics tell a damning tale. The kids left in respite because their parents are just too exhausted to cope. People left without the basic services and equipment they need to get out of bed in the morning. People denied the chance to work and study or take advantage of opportunities for a better life. Discriminated against, shut out and isolated because of the attitudes of others and the inadequacy of support available.

For far too long, people with disability in this country have had to battle for the right to live their life to its full potential. For far too long, people with disability have had to battle a service system that simply isn't up to meeting their complex needs.

The Australian Government is determined to work with you to make sure people with disability have the opportunity to be involved in their communities, to where possible have a job and to have a life that is meaningful and worthwhile. After years of neglect, there is a lot of catching up to do...

How we care for people with a disability is a fundamental matter that goes to our values and our character as a nation. But it is also a matter of responsible economic management....

The Australian Government believes that we need to rethink how we support people with disability and identify what new approaches are needed. We need a system that provides greater incentives for early intervention and incentives to help people with disability participate in work and the community. A system that provides some certainty for people with a disability and their families, no matter where they live, and how they acquired their disability. A system that is not based on rationed services, and is not crisis-driven.

We know this is what people with disability want and it's also the most cost-effective and efficient solution. One idea that has united disability consumer and advocacy groups, the disability service sector and carer organisations, is a national long-term care and support scheme for people with disability... It has come up again and again in consultations all across the country ...A long-term care and support scheme would look at an individual's needs, across their whole lifetime, and determine what support is needed and when...

It would require transformative change to the disability service system - how it is delivered, funded and administered.

But it could help us achieve a clear, overriding objective of the Australian Government - building a fairer Australia, with the goal that all Australians can reach their full potential in life. It requires detailed and considered examination to see if it the outcomes it promises can be delivered.

But we believe now is the time to examine this option in detail.

That's why I am pleased to announce today that the Australian Government will engage the Productivity Commission to carry out an Inquiry into a National Long-term Care and Support Scheme. Starting early next year, the Commission will look into the costs, benefits and feasibility of approaches which provide essential care and support - on an entitlement basis - for eligible people with a severe or profound disability...

Reform in this area is not something that can be undertaken lightly. Some people live with disability from birth. Others have their lives forever changed in an instant as a result of a traumatic event...

This feasibility study will look at how long-term care and support can be provided to all people with a disability, including those who acquire it as a result of a traumatic event...

Thousands of people across Australia responded to our consultations on the National Disability Strategy. At these consultations, people with disabilities, their families, friends and carers gave us a clear message. They want Australia to change. They want an inclusive Australia. An enabling Australia. An Australia that treats them equally and gives them opportunities to fulfil their potential.

The Strategy will drive improvements in performance across Commonwealth, and state and territory governments. Not only in disability systems but, importantly, mainstream systems where it is vital that we improve our responses in areas such as education, transport, housing, health, communications and human rights...

There is more. For the entire speech see:

This is not an apology as such (like the Aboriginal peoples and the child migrants won) but it does look like an admission of how awful things have been, and acceptance of responsibility now to get something done about it.

So, times look like they may be achanging in Australia. Opportunity is now ripe, therefore, for Conductive Education to start a new chapter in that country, with new positions to meet this promised new dawn.

By the way, the UK Prime Minister and the British media just loved Mr Rudd's apology to the child migrants. There is no sign of Mr Brown's and the media's having picked up on this latest mea culpa of Mr Rudd's What a surprise.

Three recent 'Australian' postings

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