- by B A Ford
- The Guardian
- Issue #1951
On Saturday 20th of February, approximately 100 people gathered at the State Library of Victoria to fight independent assessments and for an improved, more accessible, and fair disability service. The rally was organised by an independent, grassroots campaign called “Fairer NDIS For All.”
There were four speakers at the rally and these included Bill Shorten, Shadow Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Paul Healey, Secretary of the Health and Community Services Union (HACSU), Samantha Ratnam, Leader of Victorian Greens, and Fairer NDIS For All organiser, Bri Aldersea. The speeches varied in politics, but the main message was to stop independent assessments (see Guardian article “Marxism and the NDIS” from issue #1932 for a brief overview of independent assessments and the NDIS).
Bill Shorten appealed in his speech to “people with profound and severe disabilities and the people who love them” and used the opportunity to speak out against the inadequacy of NDIS Minister Stuart Robert and the Morrison government in funding disability supports. Bill Shorten advocated against independent assessments and for a better funded NDIS, quoting the slogan adopted by disability advocacy groups “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
Paul Healey’s speech focused on disability workers and HACSU’s support for social justice and emphasised that HACSU, and the union movement, will rally behind disabled people for their needs and to live with dignity. He stressed that independent assessments are not what the NDIS originally promised, and that it strips away control and dignity from disabled people. Paul ended on the point that the HACSU and unions will do what they can to strengthen the disabled peoples’ movement.
Samantha Ratnam paid respect to the years and years of disability advocacy in influencing policy and for being the major force behind the initial structure of the NDIS. She said that the Greens will not stop fighting for the NDIS that was originally promised before the erosion of the scheme and the building of bureaucratic barriers. She stated that independent assessments need to be immediately scrapped as well as the current staffing cap at the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
Fairer NDIS For All organiser Bri Aldersea outlined the reasons behind the demands of the campaign (listed below). They spoke about how independent assessments will trigger NDIS participants and will shut out many disabled people with fluctuating and invisible disabilities. They stressed the fact independent assessments will only further medicalise disability support, rather than take a holistic and social approach to disability. They spoke about the financial barriers to the NDIS and how these barriers can be solved by free medical and allied health services for NDIS applicants and participants that are not conditional on the outcome. Bri also spoke about the correlation between the erosion of working conditions and the quality of support disabled people receive. They finally emphasised that there needs to be an expansion of a public disability service, complimented by greater social accessibility, that does not segregate or institutionalise disabled people, and does not allow private markets to profit off their needs.
The problems of the NDIS, and disability rights in general, have frequently been sidelined and pushed to the margins by both mainstream politics and left-wing politics. It was great to see a rally that was able to bring both disabled people and disability workers together with the support of unions and political parties.
Fairer NDIS For All Demands:
Stop independent assessments.
Free medical and allied health services for people applying for the NDIS
Stop privatisation and expand public disability services.
Lift the NDIA’s staffing cap.
All data from the first IA trial of Nov 2018 – April 2019 to be made public.