New bid to address Indigenous disability

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21 May 2013, 10:43 am

As part of the launch of Disability Care Australia, the federal government is proposing a plan to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefit. (File: AAP)

As part of the launch of Disability Care Australia, the federal government is proposing a plan to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefit. (File: AAP)

After years of neglect, there’s some hope that Indigenous Australians with disabilities will get the assistance they need.

Indigenous people with a disability face many barriers including the fact that their own languages don’t even recognise the word.

But after years of neglect Australia’s first people are hopeful they will finally get the assistance they need.

As part of the launch of Disability Care Australia, the federal government is proposing a plan to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people benefit.

According to the First People’s Disability Network, more than a third of people 15 years and over report having a disability or long-term health condition.

However, this measure does not include people with a psychological disability.

The Network says this would take the prevalence of disability in the indigenous community to roughly double that of the non-indigenous community.

Reasons for the high rates of disability include poor health care and nutrition, exposure to violence and psychological trauma, substance abuse, and the breakdown of traditional community structures.

Chairwoman of the First Peoples Disability Network Gayle Rankin says disability was never recognised as a problem in traditional life.

“In our peoples’ languages there is no such word as disability. It’s not recognised, Our brain injuries are not recognised as a disability. It never has in our community. We’ve always been people to look after our people. We say he’s got a sore leg or he can’t hear properly (but) there was never a label attached to describe those disabilities.”

Under the federal government’s new national disability insurance scheme, known as Disability Care Australia, Indigenous people with a disability will be getting special attention.

A ten-point plan includes research, workshops and education throughout metropolitan and regional indigenous communites.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin says improving disability care is an important new Closing the Gap target.

“We know that having a target works. We have set targets as part of our Close the Gap strategy to make sure that we get Aboriginal children getting early childhood education for example. That target will get set this year. So we know that if we set clear targets and then are determined to meet them it really focuses our work.”

The federal government says Indigenous people will be directly involved with rolling out the program.

Victorian representative of the First People’s Disability Network John Baxter says that’s really important.

“This is for Aboriginal persons, by Aboriginal persons, as far as the First Peoples Disability Network goes. For myself, one of my roles has been going out into these communities and sitting down and yarning with the families, with carers, with young mums with children with a disability and finding out at the core what is their need? What is their goals in life as well?”

Despite the enthusiasm for the project, CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia Damian Griffis is warning that it will take time.

Mr Griffis says he’s in no doubt the program will be succesful but people must be patient.

“Change will take significant time in this area. In fact it may even take generations so what we’re calling on the government to do is to stay the course. To enter into a longterm partnership with teh Fiorst People with Disability NetworK. We think if that happens there’s no reason we can’t develop innovative and flexible ways of supporting aboriginal people with disability.”

Author: disabledaccessdenied

I am a disabled woman who through no fault of my own has wheels under my ass. I rely on the decency and common sense of local, state and federal goverments, as well as the retail community to abide by the disabled access laws and provide adequate ramps, disabled toilets, and not use them as store rooms or broom closets. This blog exists to find the offenders and out them, inform them, and report them if necessary and shame them into doing the right thing when all else fails.

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