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Disability NFP's Future in Doubt

4 December 2014 at 9:41 am
Xavier Smerdon
An Australian Not for Profit that was established by the wife of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Hazel Hawke, has warned that it may have to close its doors after 26 years because of Federal funding uncertainty.

Xavier Smerdon | 4 December 2014 at 9:41 am


Disability NFP's Future in Doubt
4 December 2014 at 9:41 am

An Australian Not for Profit that was established by the wife of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Hazel Hawke, has warned that it may have to close its doors after 26 years because of Federal funding uncertainty.

The organisation called Nican provides people with disability anywhere in Australia with information on sport, recreation, the arts, tourism and travel.

On top of the information service funded by the Australian Government, Nican administers a concession card which provides a 50 per cent discount to over 1,000 Australians who are sick, elderly, have disabilities and need a carer to manage on domestic flights.

A statement issued by the charity said that they were “anxiously awaiting news about the future of our funding under the DSS New Way of Working with Grants process set to be announced by the end of December”.

“Without additional funding information services for people with disability are set to cease after 26 years of operation in February 2015.”

Executive Director of Nican, Suzanne Bain-Donohue, said the charity meant a lot to many people.

“Just recently we heard from one of our regular users, Skymed Aeromedical, how the Nican card had enabled a frail Catholic Nun in her 90’s with no living relatives to travel with a carer to reconnect with the surviving members of her religious order,” Bain-Donohue said.

“We also heard how the card helped a man who suffered catastrophic injuries while on holiday transfer from Perth to Melbourne to reunite with his family and enter nursing care, while avoiding the $25,000 cost of a private charter”.

Sean Fitzgerald from Canberra became a high level quadriplegic in 2000 as the result of a mountain bike accident.

An active volunteer, entrepreneur and advocate focused on accessible technology who was the ACT’s Australia Day Ambassador in 2013, Fitzgerald said he would be lost without Nican.

“It’s hard to know what you need when travelling with a disability and even harder to know what facilities are available at specific locations so its great to have a reliable place to start information gathering,” Fitzgerald said.

“Not having the right information can mean having to beg, borrow and steal on the spot. The general website allows you to get information where you are – such as when travelling to Brisbane – and find out what shower, chairs, commodes and other equipment is available.”

He also uses the concession card provided by Nican, which he said was the only way he could afford to travel.

“I was booking flights and Qantas recommended I come to Nican and get the card. An extra discount for Business class is better because I get lifted directly into the seat. More room means that a carer can get past my legs and help adjust in that set space,” he said.

“If I had to get on a plane without a carer because I couldn’t afford one, it would be a shambles. I could easily get injured, tear skin or acquire a pressure sore. Pressure sores kill people. The airline staff would probably just say no which would leave me stranded.

“The discount means I travel. I travel for medical reasons from Canberra to Northshore.”

In October the Federal Government was forced to extend the current funding arrangements for more than 5000 welfare charities for up to four months as it tried to respond to an “avalanche” of applications.

A Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra was told that the Social Services Department received 5,572 applications from welfare groups seeking $3.9 billion over four years when there is just $800 million available after cuts to the program budget.

Dr Tim Reddell from DSS told the Senate hearing at the time that a notification had been placed on the Department website offering two month funding extensions to the majority of existing grant agreements due to expire on 31 December 2014 to ensure continuity of important community services over the Christmas/New Year period.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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One comment

  • Bill Forrester says:

    Unfortunately the opening of this story tells the underlying truth. NICAN has in fact had its day. Internationally information about travel for people with a disability is being taken over by the mainstream tourism authorities as it should be. All tourism information needs to be owned bu the tourism authorities and destination mangers as part of the total information provision. More and more this information is being required by the ageing population who are not identifying with the disability sector and are completely unaware that NICAN exists. NICAN's database is out of date and is not up to the latest in world standards for the type of information that the world is now demanding for travellers with a disability. In our view NICAN should no longer be funded and its database turned over to the Australian Tourism Data warehouse and brought up to speed and be made available through all of the tourism distribution channels. We believe the Qantas carers card is a red hearing in this fundamental argument as Qantas will find another to make this card available and if not through its own commercial network of agents it ought to be integrated into the NDIA administration. Nican is underfunded to do its job and it lacks the expertise to integrate its information onto the wider tourism system. The vision was good 26 years ago but Accessible Tourism has moved on and NICAN has not.

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