Former Disability Commissioner Launches Memoir
12 July 2016 at 11:12 am
Former Human Rights Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes has used the launch of his memoir, called Finding A Way, to push for more jobs for people with disability and electronic voting.
After a long career in the public spotlight – from lawyer to company director to Human Rights Commissioner – Innes’s book looks at family support, his challenges and failures, and overcoming the discrimination he said people with disabilities face.
Innes told ABC TV at the launch of the book that the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) offered big change for the disability sector.
“It’s a huge change and there will be glitches. What I keep going back to is the voice of people with disabilities and the NDIS has 95 per cent support from the surveys that are being done of the clients of the NDIS,” Innes said.
“It will absolutely be sustainable. The question is whether it will receive continued funding and I think it will. Both sides of government have said that they support it. It is completely on time and on budget.
“The exciting thing about the NDIS is that it means huge economic change for Australia. If we can move a third of people with disability off welfare and into jobs, and the NDIS will contribute to that, the NDIS will actually run at a profit in a decade.”
In 2014 the full time position of Disability Discrimination Commissioner was abolished after Graeme Innes finished his term.
Aged Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan was given the additional position of Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner.
Innes told Pro Bono Australia News at the time that the government’s decision to split Ryan’s responsibilities between the two roles was actively increasing levels of disadvantage for people with disability.
However in March 2016 the Turnbull government moved to restore the position of Disability Discrimination Commissioner following two years of controversy surrounding the post. In May former chief executive officer of People with Disability Australia Alastair McEwin was appointed to the role.
Innes’s memoir also explores his family’s approach to his blindness from birth.
“The doctor said to my parents ‘your sons eyes haven’t formed’. It was tough for mum and dad. But they took the view they would get on with life. I was the middle child and they would treat me the same as my brother and sister,” he said.
“That gave me a fantastic start in life. It meant that I wasn’t treated like ‘the special’ [one] – and I use that term with all the negative connotations that the disability sector has for it as a child with a disability– but rather I was just one of three siblings.
“The bar wasn’t set low for me. Sadly when the soft bigotry of low expectations is set – and that bar is set low – that is as far as [people with disability] will go… For me it wasn’t set low and that gave me a really positive start.”
Innes said his book promotes the theme of positive talk.
“I really do believe in focusing on where you want to get to and that positive approach. I have always been of the view you play the hand of cards that you are dealt the best way you can.”
Innes also told ABC TV that he was in favour of electronic voting.
“Electronic voting means that for the first time in my life I get a secret independent ballot,” he said.
“I had that at the last NSW election I had it at the 2007 election. The last two elections didn’t have it because I had to phone someone and tell them who I wanted to vote for.
“Electronic elections is a way to provide me with a secret ballot which I haven’t had for most of my life and that is one of the many reasons why we should be moving towards it.”