From little things big things grow
There is a line from The Sound of Music that says, “Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start” and so it is with working out what it is you want.
And if you have something in mind that you want then you are on your way to setting a goal.
Of course, everyone will want different things in life, but some of the things we want are similar to each other too. It could be something that you want to buy, in which case you will need to save some money towards it, and not spend that money on any other thing until you have enough to buy what you wanted. Sometimes it takes ages to save enough money, and by the time you have the money you may not want to buy the thing you originally set the goal of buying. But you have got the money now so you can choose what to buy with it!
There are goals, too, that rely on us learning a new skill, such as cooking a meal for family and friends. Now to work towards this goal you first need the basic skills of shopping, preparing food for cooking, and following a recipe. When you can do all of those things, you are ready to cook a meal – but start small, just cook for one friend first, and then ask them how they like the meal.
In setting goals, start small and build it up. Sometimes you have to go back to the basics because you might forget how to do something. But you can also find people to help you with some of the tricky parts. Asking other people to help you achieve your goals is a bit of a secret of achieving the goals you set. Because, for example, if you ask someone to come and eat the meal you have cooked, it will encourage, or motivate you to do a really good job.
Sometimes it’s really tough trying to achieve the goal that you have set, and this is where it’s important to remember to start small and break down all the steps that you need in order to achieve your goal. As a member of parliament, I am always setting goals for myself.
I have seen some great changes for the better in the disability sector in the five years since I was elected. Among my achievements as a member of parliament, there are a number of key issues I thought I would share with you.
I have been proud to play a pivotal role in creating South Australia’s Disability Justice Plan as a way of giving a voice to people who were previously denied access to fully participate in our legal system. This includes all people with disabilities, whether they come into contact with the justice system as a victim or as the perpetrator of a crime.
Recently, Parliament passed the Statutes Amendment, Vulnerable Witnesses bill. In so doing, we have ensured that people with disabilities will have their right to participate in the justice system upheld. It also ensures people who need communication assistance or who use technology to communicate will be equal before the law.
This is a monumentally important change for many reasons – not least of which is the fact that people with disabilities are statistically so much more likely to experience abuse. In fact, the organisation Women with Disabilities Australia estimates that ninety percent of women and girls with intellectual disability have experienced sexual abuse at some point in their lifetime. Ninety percent.
And sixty eight percent of those women with intellectual disabilities will experience this abuse before they reach the age of 18. Dignity for Disability recognises that the greater the voice of these victims in court, the less likelihood there is that people with disabilities will be specifically targeted as victims of such heinous crimes.
I have also have established a parliamentary select committee that is currently looking into the experience of students with disabilities and/or additional learning support needs in our education system. The need for such a committee is clear from my dealings with many families who are struggling to have their children’s right to an education met.
My consistent lobbying of the South Australian Certificate of Education or “SACE” Board has finally led to an improvement to the wording on future SACE Certificates. This was necessary to remove the words “this student has completed a modified curriculum due to intellectual disability” from SACE Certificates.
This change is significant for two reasons. The first being the right of students with disabilities to be recognised as equals among their peers. After all, students can contribute to their SACE in a variety of ways, not all of which are strictly academic in the traditional sense, for example by completing a trade. So why is taking a different path due to disability the only difference that needs to be pointed out in the wording of the certificate?
The second reason the old SACE certificates were problematic is because of the potential implications for future opportunity. Many recent school leavers bring their SACE certificate along to job interviews. Therefore, this wording on the certificate essentially forced a student to disclose their disability status to potential employers. And although we all know it is illegal to discriminate on the grounds of disability, unfortunately conscious and unconscious bias by employers is well documented.
I am pleased to say that there is now also a Governor’s Commendation for Excellence in Modified SACE award. These small yet significant changes allow increased equality for students with disabilities who are working at the best of their ability to be rewarded on the same basis as other students.
In working towards these changes, I am following up on the issues parents bring to me about their child’s experience within the education system. In matters such as these, we celebrate the small victories, and learn to work at the speed of bureaucracy.
So in some ways, the human rights of people with disability as equals alongside our non-disabled peers in the community are slowly being recognised.
But, I have to say, we still have such a long way to go.
A study by the organisation Children with Disability Australia suggests that as many as one-in-four school-aged children are being denied enrolment at the school of their choice, or are unable to attend school full-time due to a lack of resources.
Parents and families are still in crisis trying to support their children, who may for instance, display a range of behaviours or whose complex support needs are not being adequately funded.
Here in South Australia, I can certainly say that “yes” we are seeing benefits from the NDIS, but we are also seeing “turf wars” over funding during the roll out. And I see children as the losers here in an adult bureaucratic game over which they have no control.
Because we now understand the enormous social and economic value of early investment in children, it is really nothing short of criminal that children are being left in limbo between systems. We are seeing this for instance in the practicality of provision of speech pathology services, during the roll out of the NDIS. It is coming down to a case of there being not enough physical space in schools for therapists to come and deliver these services. It is an issue we need to untangle so that the full benefits of the NDIS can be realised.
I want to see a community that will more than “cope” with differences. I want our system to offer the type of positive and re-assuring attitudinal support that values and respects individual children and their parents. I particularly don’t want parents to feel that they can’t get the understanding they need when they are involved in accessing services such as education.
My job as a member of parliament can only continue if I am re-elected at the next election. So the goal that I have now set myself is to be re-elected in the March 2018 election. That’s a big goal, but it’s made up of lots of little goals that will get me there in the end.