Stella Young tells of a dark joke in disability circles.
“If you have an accident in a lake and you injure yourself then you had better get your friends to drag you to a car and make it look like an [car] accident. It’s a bit dark. But it’s true.”
That’s because people living with disabilities have never been treated equally. Never. Stella Young was born with her condition (osteogenesis imperfecta) which makes her bones more fragile. She’s been in a wheelchair all her life. She paid about $14,000 for her last one (the Victorian Government paid about $8000) while her friend of the same age with the same condition in another state has never had to pay for her chair.
Here’s where the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) comes in. Acronyms relating to government policy tend to make people glaze over, but here’s the thing: many are saying this is the biggest social reform in Australia’s history. Definitely on par with Medicare. Possibly even bigger. If it’s done right, it will not just transform the lives of people living with disability (and their carers) but the economy as well. News Editor Rick Morton asked disability advocate and furious knitter Stella Young for her views on the developments.
MM: This has been a long time coming. How long have people with disabilities been fighting for this?
Stella: Decades and decades. Some of the older activists say we have been talking about this for 30 years. Officially, it came up as a big idea at the 2020 Summit. Bruce Bonyhady, chairman and chair of Yooralla was one of the key drivers in those initial stages. He knows first hand the system is stuffed.
MM: At its simplest, what will the National Disability Insurance Scheme actually be, what do you want it to look like?
S: To me it looks like a system where disability has the least impact on a person’s life that it can have. That means early intervention. We hear about 2 year waiting lists for people to get intervention which, by then, is no longer early intervention at all. It’s late intervention and it’s not enough.
It’s about it [the disability] having a minimal impact on their life. With my wheelchair, disability doesn’t play a huge role in my life. But without it I would be crawling around everywhere, not be able to work or be the best person I could be. That’s what it’s about.
It will basically mean everyone with a long-term disability can access the support they need. It’s more like an assurance scheme than an insurance scheme.