Imagine for a moment if Australia failed to win a single gold medal at the London Olympic Games this year. Imagine how the public would react. Imagine the shame and humiliation we as a nation would feel at being ranked the lowest in the world in what is highly regarded as the premier global sporting event.
Suffice it to say there would be a degree of public outrage. Questions would be asked of our coaches and athletes and almost certainly there would be significant sums of money invested into making sure a repeat performance was not on the cards for the 2016 games.
Now with that hypothetical horror story fresh in your mind, let’s look at an unfortunate reality about Australia’s performance on a somewhat different world stage.
According to a report produced by international financial heavyweight PricewaterhouseCoopers last year, Australia was ranked amongst the bottom third of developed countries in an OECD* survey on disability employment rates.
Worse still was that almost 1 in 2 Australians with disabilities were shown to be living at or below the poverty line, ranking Australia 27th out of 27 countries around the world with a relative poverty risk of 2.7.
(A copy of the report is available here: http://www.pwc.com.au/industry/government/publications/disability-in-australia.htm)
There is however something in the woodworks aimed at helping improve these ‘poor performances’ and giving hope to Australians with disabilities. Both the government and opposition have pledged to include funding (estimated at around $3 billion over the next four years) for a proposed ‘National Disabilities Insurance Scheme’- (NDIS)**- a Medicare style network of offices through which individuals with disabilities can apply for financial assistance and access services.
The costs of setting up the NDIS would potentially be offset through the tax revenue from an additional 35,000 jobs created through giving people with disabilities and their carers the opportunity to join or re-join the workforce. To put some figures on that revenue PwC estimates we could see a $50 billion increase in GDP in 2050, with a long term increase of $1.5 billion per annum possible as well.
This increase in productivity through greater workplace participation will therefore benefit not only people with disabilities and their families but the greater Australian population as well.
Despite all of the proposed potential benefits of the NDIS, critics have said that its effectiveness will be limited unless there is a broader cultural shift in thinking. Without addressing issues such as discrimination and equal opportunities being provided within the workforce said potential may fail to be fully reached.
The fact that both the Gillard Government and the opposition are both pledging full support towards including the NDIS in next financial year’s budget shows that we as a nation are begging to take steps towards such a shift in thinking however we need to adopt this change of attitude on all levels starting with business owners, employers and employees across the board.
Australians living with disabilities have the same rights as those who don’t. There are anti-discrimination laws in place to try and protect the rights of these individuals, but sadly the statistics show that these laws only do so much. The NDIS is a huge step towards equality for those living with disabilities and you can show your support by joining the campaign, spreading the word and telling your story at:
Help make a difference in the lives of those people living with disabilities, their families and carers, so that they too can help make a difference to our beautiful country and every one in it!
*The OECD is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and currently has 34 countries as members. They are a research institution aimed at fighting poverty and promoting prosperity through economic growth.
**Taken from the Every Australian Counts Website: everyaustraliancounts.com.au
The NDIS will be a modern, person-centered support system, helping hundreds of thousands of Australians with disability and their families to have the opportunity to participate actively in their communities by providing targeted supports aligned to need.
The NDIS will be portable – your entitlement to support will be the same wherever you live in Australia.
The NDIS was devised and recommended by the Productivity Commission in July 2011, following an intensive 18-month investigation of the unmet needs of people with disability and their families and carers across Australia, and analysis of high-functioning disability support systems overseas.
The Productivity Commission’s recommendations for the NDIS have been welcomed by people with disability and their families, carers and support organizations across the country