Paralympian Supports NDIS in Australia Day Speech
23 January 2013 at 10:51 am
Kurt Fearnley. Picture: corporate.olympics.com.au
The 4-time Paralympic gold medalist, Kurt Fearnley, has used part of his Australia Day Address to support the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Fearnley’s address from Sydney’s Conservatorium of Music was televised live nationally.
The wheelchair athlete told the audience that pride in a socially just country has no price tag and the NDIS needs to happen.
“In the coming months we're seeing the roll-out of trial sites of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the NDIS. The largest will be in my current home, a place I love, Newcastle and the Hunter," Fearnley said.
“You may have heard about it in the news but there's a good chance you still don't know much about it. I'd say you know more about the arguments and disagreements about how it will be funded than the nuts and bolts of what it proposes to deliver.
“Ironically enough, the year of my birth, 1981, was declared the International Year of Disabled Persons by the United Nations. It called for a plan of action at national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalisation of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities.
“Thirty two years ago the action plan was set. And we have made progress in the right direction.
“Through the Disability Discrimination Act and the tireless work of individuals such as our Disability Discrimination Commissioner here today, Graeme Innes, we have made improvements in opportunity and equalisation.
“Overall though, I believe that in Australia, we have failed to make enough progress on the action plan and we need to improve. Now.
“If you have a disability in our country, you’re more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be living in poverty and more likely to be less educated than if you didn’t have that disability.
“The introduction of the NDIS won’t be an instant success and fix all wrongs, but it will help. We must make the realisation that change is the only way forward.”
His speech drew high praise from Greg Hartung, the President of the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC).
“Kurt is to be congratulated for his delivery of the 2013 Australia Day Address. It is a rare honour extended to outstanding achievers in their chosen pursuit, and as a multiple Paralympic gold medallist who has also excelled in other fields, Kurt is certainly worthy of such an honour,” Hartung said.
“The speech was given with Kurt’s typical spirit and passion, and most notably, provided strong insight into living with a disability.
“Like the APC, Kurt has always been a staunch advocate for disability rights and improving the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Australians who live with a disability.
“The views Kurt expressed regarding the introduction of the NDIS are strongly supported by the Australian Paralympic Committee, and he is to be commended for using this important stage to highlight the challenges people with a disability are still facing on a daily basis.
“The NDIS is of critical importance, and while the details of the scheme that have been provided are a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before a reasonable outcome is achieved,” Hartung said.
It is an outlook shared by Fearnley, who stated that while improvements in medical research and technology had reduced the impact of disability in Australian society, more needed to be done without further delay.