Hundreds answer call to defend NDIS
4 May 2022 at 5:12 pm
“It’s been so difficult historically for people with disability and families to get heard and be treated like their concerns are worthy and important enough to consider”
Over 1,000 people around the country have made their voices heard in support of the NDIS at a series of events in support of the troubled system.
The National Day of Action to Defend our NDIS was held on Thursday 28 April, with around 20 events scheduled for locations in key federal electorates across Australia, including in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart and Geelong. A virtual event later that same evening, featuring speakers including former prime minister Julia Gillard, David Pocock, Greens Senator Jordan Steele-John, Labor NDIS spokesperson Bill Shorten and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, was attended by several hundred more.
Attendees included people with disability, their families, advocates and disability workers.
The Day of Action was a collaboration between National Disability Services (NDS), Teamwork Works and Every Australian Counts, and aimed to push the message that the NDIS needs full funding to provide the right support for those who need it.
NDS CEO Laurie Leigh said the strong turnout was evidence of how important the NDIS is to Australians.
“I think disability impacts on many more people than we know. We know that there are about 500,000 people with disability in the scheme now, but they all have family members, they have supporters, carers who are also interested in disability and also impacted. We know there are 270,000 workers in the system and again they have families who are interested in the NDIS,” she explained.
“So, what we’re trying to say to politicians is this is a vote-worthy issue. This is something that people will come out and vote for and they want to be able to see their local candidates standing up for a strong NDIS.
“The NDIS needs defending, we need political parties on the road to the election to commit to fully funding the NDIS going forward and to bringing it back to what it should be, which is not really where it is at the moment.”
Leigh said one of the key focuses for the campaign was cuts to people’s plans, which she described as “significant”.
But another problem is the focus by politicians on the economic “cost” of the NDIS.
“There has been a narrative about the NDIS being unsustainable, that it’s had cost blowouts and all of those things. And I think really what we’re wanting to show is that the NDIS is a great social and economic reform, that it’s transformed the lives of people with disability, and that too often it is spoken about in terms of that cost burden,” Leigh said.
She cited research conducted by NDIS with Per Capita in 2021 which showed that for every dollar invested in the scheme, the economy reaps $2.25.
“We need to reframe the NDIS dialogue in terms of being an investment into people and communities,” she said.
Frustration boils over
Campaign manager at Every Australian Counts, Jean Cotchin, said people with disability and their families are exhausted by the bureaucracy of the NDIS and the attempted changes to the scheme, like the proposal for independent assessments.
She said people with disability were devastated at being seen as a cost or burden for the government, and that that exhaustion and frustration had led them to join the Day of Action in a show of support for a fully funded NDIS.
“I think it really does demonstrate how important it is to people that despite everything they’ve been through, they’re still able to summon up the energy to speak out to defend their NDIS, because it’s too important not to,” she explained.
“People recognise that this is an important moment in time for the NDIS and they really want things to turn around now before it is solidified in this negative direction.”
But Cotchin said the election had created a moment in time where positive change could be affected.
“It’s been so difficult historically for people with disability and families to get heard and be treated like their concerns are worthy and important enough to consider,” she said.
Leigh is hopeful that the “noise” made during the Defend our NDIS campaign will have an impact on politicians this election.
The Day of Action followed the Labor Party’s launch of its NDIS policy and while the Liberal Party is yet to respond with its own plan for the future of the NDIS, she welcomed the Coalition’s pledge in this year’s budget to fully fund the scheme.
Going forward, the campaign will continue, with interested voters encouraged to keep pressing their local candidates on their commitment to the NDIS. NDS, Teamwork Works and Every Australian Counts are also asking people to talk to their friends and family about the importance of the NDIS. They also plan to flood social media and media with recognition of the issue.