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Senator Malowney? – Surely It Is Time


Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 10:51 am
Tricia Malowney
I think it is time for a Senator Malowney…if the senate nomination to replace Stephen Conroy following his recent resignation needs to be filled by a woman, why not a woman with a disability, writes systemic advocate for inclusive practices Tricia Malowney.


Tuesday, 11th October 2016
at 10:51 am
Tricia Malowney


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Senator Malowney? – Surely It Is Time
Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 10:51 am

I think it is time for a Senator Malowney…if the senate nomination to replace Stephen Conroy following his recent resignation needs to be filled by a woman, why not a woman with a disability, writes systemic advocate for inclusive practices Tricia Malowney.

I recently wrote an opinion piece in support of Tony Clark’s nomination to be appointed to the senate to replace Stephen Conroy following his recent resignation. And I still support Tony’s political aspirations. We need people like him in politics.

While many colleagues agreed that we needed a person with a disability to represent us in federal parliament, they also noted that we need to have a woman fill this vacancy.

So, because at the moment, across Australia, we only have Kelly Vincent who has a visible disability in the upper house in South Australia, I have decided that if it needs to be filled by a woman, why not a woman with a disability. The logical step therefore is for me to take the plunge and nominate for the position.

Wow. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

That makes it one representative out of 840, and yet one in five Australians have a disability. I do acknowledge that some parliamentarians have disclosed mental health issues, and I admire them for telling us, given Australia’s attitude towards disability and mental health.

Graeme Edwards was a double amputee ex-serviceman who was a lower house member in the 1990s. The commentary in relation to his service was that it was ok “I didn’t notice his disability”. Which sort of misses the point. I can tell you that having no legs is noticeable, and that a chair is a tool used for mobility, but it is also very noticeable as well.

I am proud to be an Australian with a disability. I don’t want people to not notice that I have a disability, I want them to include me with my disability and understand the unique skills that I have and the unique person that I am because of my disability.

The question is, why should I take Stephen Conroy’s place? He is a man of great integrity and knowledge, and pretty politically savvy. I would be able to contribute a largely untapped influence that would enhance the discussion, by working towards:

  • building the economic and social wellbeing of Australia through real employment with real wages
  • demonstrating that Australians with disabilities are competent
  • demanding that people with disabilities are employed to give advice to government and non-government agencies about issues which impact on our lives
  • ensuring that a gender lens is applied to all disability related policies
  • ensuring that a disability lens is applied to all mainstream policies
  • demanding that we stop using the term abuse and neglect, and call it what it is – violence
  • demanding that we have real data collection about our health, including cancer rates, morbidity rates and whether we are dying young and if so why, are we getting access to appropriate treatment or are we left to die
  • demanding that we have real data collection about whether we are able to access justice, whether we are believed, and whether we are denied access to justice because of our disability
  • demanding that we have equal citizenship rights, including the right to vote and the right to serve on juries
  • demanding that we have equal access to justice
  • demanding to know why so many men with cognitive impairments are in prison, including indigenous men with cognitive impairments
  • demanding that information is provided in languages we can understand
  • demanding that women are able to escape violence through the funding of appropriate family violence mechanisms and access to appropriate housing
  • building partnerships with families and the disability support industry so that our issues are included in policy
  • implementing access to the built environment  
  • promoting inclusive schooling
  • promoting inclusive housing
  • promoting inclusive sport
  • promoting inclusive employment
  • ensuring that parents, particularly mothers, do not have their children removed because they have a disability
  • making sure that the NDIS is more widely understood by the general population
  • making sure that the NDIS is implemented in a way that benefits people with disabilities
  • making sure that every politician reads and understand the Price Waterhouse Cooper analysis of the Productivity Commission Report into Long Term Disability Care
  • making sure that all Australians understands that the NDIS needs to be read in conjunction with the National Disability Strategy
  • ensuring that all mainstream services understands their obligation to provide services to all Australians, not just the easy ones
  • ensuring that diversity of disability and the diversity within disability is recognised and that supports recognise the compounding nature of disadvantage

So at the end of it, I am proud to be an Australian with a disability. I am not ashamed of my status. But we need to acknowledge that we have no real idea of who has a disability in Australia. After all, the only questions on the last census related to my dependency, were questions relating to my lack of ability to self-care.

Where were the questions about whether I have a disability, after all, I need access to health, justice, education, housing all the other things that a good census is supposed to help us plan from. And I certainly don’t rely the ABS Disability, Aging and Carers data collection methodology as we are the only cohort that has comprehensive data collected by means of random sampling and extrapolated data.

I think it is time for a Senator Malowney because we need the rest of Australia to acknowledge our presence and recognise our status as equal citizens.

Or was the signing of the Convention of the Rights of People with Disabilities a public relations exercise.

About the author: Tricia Malowney is a systemic advocate for inclusive practices and regular contributor to Pro Bono Australia News. She is a former president of the Victorian Disability Services Board. In November 2013, Malowney was awarded the inaugural Brenda Gabe Leadership Award for her outstanding contribution to women with disabilities in Victoria. She was the inaugural Chair of the Royal Women’s Hospital Disability Reference Group and was able to influence policy and planning on key issues including the Family Violence Protection Act 2006. She has successfully lobbied for women with disabilities to be included in the United Nations Population Health Research.


Tricia Malowney  |   |  @triciamalowney

Tricia Malowney is a former President of the Victorian Disability Services Board.

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