Friday, 26 March 2010

Mad as Hell

Good on you, Diggers *

One often (too often?) meets the word 'mad'  in conversations about Conductive Education. In English, of course, the word bears two major meanings:
  • deranged, insane, bonkers
  • exceedingly angry, furious
Within Conductive Education it is the first of these meanings that is usually needed and intended. Here, though, we shall be invoking the second meaning, furious, in which sense Australian parents and carers, disabled people themselves, and service-providers too, are as mad as cut snakes, and that in a context wider than Conductive Education.

They are mad for the wholly rational reason of the deplorable failure of the state in that their rich country of theirs to ensure a civilised welfare system for those affected by disability. And with a General Election coming up soon, some of them are responding in a thoroughly rational way. They are forcing their case vigorously into the political arena.

Mad as Hell

Sue O'Reily writes –

Launched today: a journo mate of mine in Brisbane, Fiona Porter, has been working with me on a national, grass-roots, web-based political campaign in the lead-up to the next federal election due around October, to mobilise the votes of around two million Australians, some fifteen per cent of the national electorate who are fed up to the back teeth with Australia's cruel, dysfunctional, shambolic, wasteful and crisis-driven disability support system.

Attached is the media release we're issuing tomorrow, plus the national email alert we're sending out tomorrow directly to all our networks, and following is the website link.


Mad as Hell's media release is appended to this posting, below. So is a copy of the email that is being circulated, and repcirculated, through individuals' personal networks (do pass it on yourself).

That's the way to do it

Fiona Peter writes –

This website took us just under four weeks – from 'having an idea' to completion. Fingers xx, it becomes the central rallying point to get sufficient numbers of voters to demand politicians fix disability services in this country.

Early days yet, the media release has only just gone out. How things will develop and the matters arising will unfold over the coming months. Here, though, are some immediate questions.
  • What about the big, established organisations and professional bodies and individuals with established positions and reputations in the field? What about their colossal resources of money, staff, establishment links, supposed influaence etc? Simply, Mad as Hell is by-passing them. because they are too deeply involved in the status quo. This is a matter for individual citizens, the new politics of 21C.
  • What about the media? In the new politics of the twenty-first century the media of course have a role – but the very meaning of the word 'media' is evolving fast. Mike Steketee is writing a column in the Weekend Australian, and that's the sort of contribution that we valued so much when Conductive Education in the UK was run as a political campaign. There will be news stories too and, properly managed, these are invaluable too. But, Sue writes, 'This is individuals, and thank God for email and internet because that what makes it all possible. The beauty of this campaign too is that it completely bypasses the traditional media. Again because of email and internet, we get the message DIRECT - to millions.'
  • What has any of this to do with the rest of us, outside Australia? Well, in response, here are two more question: Which of you reading this lives in a country, rich or poor, where services are adequate? What are YOU going to do to achieve meaningful change in your own country?. This Australian campaign looks like being grown-up politics, and Australian politics can be very outspoken and very rough and tumble.(and great fun to watch!). It will be instructive to see what this political action takes down there, what the campaigners will have to do, and what they get out of it. Not least, some other people have General Elections in the offing, the United Kingdom for example. Of course, the UK voters have not been told yet when this will be, but very soon now. No time probably for getting a similar act together in the UK – but this Australians' grown-up, individual politics should not be just for General Elections, but for life.
  • Will Conductive Education be featuring in any way in these Australian shenanigans – either as something to be mentioned or participating actively in the campaign? As far as Mad as Hell is concerned, Conductive Education is far down the track yet – part of the longer-term strategy for the future. Sue writes  'Once Australia gets its NDIS [National Disability Insurance Scheme], then those Aussies who want CE will have much more chance of success, because funding will be much more individualised, 'person-centred' as they say these days and under our own direct control.'
Meanwhile it will be up to everyone involved with Conductive Education in Australia, individuals and organisations, to decide whether they wish to take part in this campaign, and judge for themselves what along the way it might contribute to their concerns.

And act. 


* Pedantic footnote

Strictly speaking and historically, the word 'Digger' refers to both Australians and New Zealanders. My impression is that in recent years anyway, outside the Antipodes the word is understood mainly in respect to Australians. If I am wrong in using bit here in this way, then do please suggest an alternative word to imply the same rugged, respect.



Appendices


MEDIA RELEASE
Enough’s Enough 
We’re Mad as Hell about Australia’s disability support system
We’re not going to take it anymore 
And there are millions of us 
A national, grassroots, web-based political campaign is today being launched to harness the voting power of millions of people with disabilities, carers and family members infuriated by Australia’s broken, dysfunctional disability support system.

With a federal election due later this year, the Mad as Hell Campaign features as its centrepiece a Pledge of Voting Intent, stating that signatories will only vote for a party or parties that unreservedly commit to introducing, or supporting the introduction of, a National Disability Insurance Scheme immediately following the completion of a Productivity Commission feasibility study in July next year. 

Joint national convenors of the Mad as Hell Campaign, Brisbane-based communications consultant Fiona Porter and Sydney-based journalist Sue O’Reilly – both mothers of sons with disabilities - say that in every State and Territory, disability support services are now so dire that many people are being driven to vote solely on the basis of each party’s disability reform promises.

“The strategy for the Mad as Hell campaign is based around the fact that there are between two and three million Australians of voting age whose lives are directly and grievously affected by this country’s disgraceful, Third World disability support system,” Ms Porter said.

“This includes more than one million Australians who were born with or have acquired disabilities as the result of catastrophic accidents or chronic illnesses, more than half a million family members who are full-time, primary carers of people with severe to profound disabilities, and numerous other family members such as sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and grandparents.

“There are also tens of thousands of health professionals, teachers, therapists, disability support workers and close family friends who witness every day the suffering caused by grossly inadequate funding for basic equipment such as wheelchairs and hoists, essential therapy services,  targeted educational support services, choice in accommodation, relevant in-home support services, respite, and genuine employment and other post-school opportunities.”

Sue O’Reilly, who lived with her family in “disability exile” in the UK for 12 years and last year, after  returning to Australia, founded a charity called Fighting Chance to help fund essential therapy services for children with disabilities, says: “It’s hard to describe how galling it is for people with disabilities, families and professionals to be forced to watch as vast sums of taxpayer funding - supposedly allocated for disability services - are squandered, year in year out, on mountains of red tape, bureaucracy and an entirely crisis-driven approach that withholds cost-effective support or intervention until the last possible moment, not infrequently when people are beyond desperate and in complete crisis.

“The current system utterly demeans people with disabilities and their families and carers by making us apply, cap in hand, for services or equipment that usually aren’t available anyway. Without the legislated rights to basic, essential services that exist in the UK and other countries, Australians with disabilities and their family carers have to put up with being told, over and over and over again: ‘Good news, you qualify for this or that service – but bad luck, the funds ran out two months ago’, or: ‘Sorry, but you are at the bottom of a three- year wait list, so if you really need a new wheelchair, you’re just going to have to go out and buy it yourself’. But many carers and severely disabled people live in poverty, because of the impact of disability, and can’t afford to buy even basic equipment.  So they just have to go without.”

The Mad as Hell convenors say there are now thousands of elderly Australian parents aged in their 70s, 80s, even 90s, still expected to struggle on as sole carers for sons and daughters with severe disabilities aged in their 40s and 50s.  Porter and O’Reilly say that everyone who has witnessed or experienced the extreme inefficiency and cruelty of Australia’s current disability support system, either at first hand or through media reports, is shocked.

“That even includes the federal parliamentary secretary for disabilities, Bill Shorten, who has had the courage to say publicly that Australia’s treatment of people with disabilities is a ‘disgrace’, and who has been a strong advocate within government of the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme,” says Mrs O’Reilly.

However, while the Mad as Hell Campaign acknowledges the efforts of the Rudd Labor Government to date to improve disability services, including asking the Productivity Commission to report on the feasibility of a long-term disability care and support scheme, all Campaign supporters will reserve judgement on which party to vote for in the forthcoming federal election until all parties’ election manifestos are unveiled.    

“Because there are so many Australian voters directly affected, and because the current system is so dire, the national, grassroots coalition of people with disabilities, parents and other family members who have come together to launch Mad as Hell firmly believe this campaign could become one of the most powerful single issue electoral forces in Australian political history,” both mothers said.


EMAIL

  Are you mad as hell about Australia’s dreadful disability support system? Yes? Then -
Time to make YOUR vote count
We are writing to inform you of the launch of a national, grassroots, web-based electoral lobbying campaign in support of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – a Scheme which, if designed and implemented properly, will transform Australia’s broken disability support system and finally give real hope, support and essential services to millions of Australians affected by disability.

The goal of this website-based electoral lobbying campaign, called Mad as Hell, is nothing less than to harness the voting power of all Australians who grasp the need for fundamental disability reform, so as to make political parties commit to full implementation of an NDIS – regardless of which party is in power.

 Millions of people = Voting Power

All Australians would benefit from the introduction of a national, no-fault disability insurance scheme, funded by a Medicare-style levy, because disability can strike any individual, any family, at any time.

But all around Australia, there are people – voters – whose lives have already been touched by disability, and who are as mad as hell about the state of this country’s grossly dysfunctional disability support and service system.  And there are millions of us.  If we join together, we could become one of the most powerful single issue lobby groups in Australian political history. Ordinary citizens like us have just one moment of power in a democracy, and that is when we go to a polling station on a Federal or State election day and cast our vote. Proposals for a transformative National Disability Insurance Scheme are now on the table, and a federal election is due later this year. So now is the time for all NDIS supporters to unite and harness our combined voting power to ensure fundamental reform of Australia’s disability support system.

The Mad as Hell Campaign, launched today via the website http://www.australiansmadashell.com.au/ fratures a Pledge of Voting Intent at the next federal and State elections. The Mad as Hell Pledge states:

I pledge that in the next federal and State elections, I will only vote for a political party which publicly promises to transform Australia’s broken, inefficient, crisis-driven disability support system by:
  • Introducing and supporting a national, entitlement-based disability insurance scheme immediately after the study by the Productivity Commission, due in July 2011
  • Ensuring  people with disabilities, and if applicable their
  • Families or  nominated  representative, have control over how funding allocated in their name and for their benefit is spent

The Mad as Hell campaign is of direct relevance to
  •  more than one million Australians with permanent disabilities, and the vast numbers of their family members who are either primary carers or close relatives, including mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents
  • thousands of health professionals, teachers, therapists and disability workers who witness each day the devastating impact of Australia’s dysfunctional, broken, crisis-driven support system on people with disabilities and their families   
  • thousands of Australians working for the disability service organisations that now overwhelmingly support the introduction of an NDIS.

To join in and support the Mad As Hell Campaign, you don’t have to give any money to anyone; you don’t have to write to your federal or state MP or local newspaper; you don’t have to become a member of any organisation or political party; you don’t have to march in the streets.

All you have to do is go to http://www.australiansmadashell.com.au/, click on the Pledge and type in your name, email address and postcode.

All postcodes submitted will be matched to federal and state electorates, and all candidates standing for election in these seats kept notified of the number of Pledges made by electors in these seats – with particular attention paid to marginal electorates.

The campaign will be backed by an intensive publicity drive throughout Australia, with early, pre-launch expressions of interest in covering this campaign already received from The Australian, the ABC and local radio stations around Australia.

All those millions of us directly affected by the dire state of Australia’s current disability support system need to remember this:
  • We are not just socially isolated, poverty-stricken, desperate, individual victims of the cruel, inequitable, severely underfunded and crisis-driven disability support system now in force in Australia. We are also members of one of the most numerically powerful groupings in Australian society, united by the anger and outrage we feel at the grave injustices we see all around us, every day, and united by our wholehearted desire for sweeping, transformational change, justice and equity, in the shape of a national, no-fault, entitlement-based Disability Insurance Scheme.
We urge you to circulate this email to every single person in your email address book today, and ask them to circulate it to every single person in their email address book immediately, so that information about the launch of http://www.australiansmadashell.com.au/ blankets Australia within a matter of days.

We will keep all supporters informed with regular updates about the number of pledges made, media coverage and the response of political parties.

It’s way past time for those of us who are mad as hell to get mobilise, unite and make our millions of votes count.

The national Mad as Hell Campaign Committee has representatives in each State/Territory:

 For further information, including contact details, go to http://www.australiansmadashell.com.au/

26 March 2010

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