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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6710

Mr HAYES (12:37 PM) —Helen Keller once said:

A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.

I admire this sentiment, and I believe that it is one that can apply to everyone, not just people with a disability. During my five years in parliament, I have spoken on many occasions on disability and the need for governments of all persuasions and at all levels to provide adequate support to services for people with disabilities, their families and the carers. About one in 10 Australians has a disability, and about one in five has a family member with a disability. In Werriwa there are some 5,000 people who receive a disability support pension to help them meet the cost of living.

There is a growing awareness that we can do better when it comes to programs to support people with disabilities. Currently, too many people fall through the cracks. The level of support available is not adequate. Occasionally it is the red tape that gets in the way of people with disabilities and their families getting proper and efficient access to the services they need. What is needed is for disability issues to move from the ‘important’ basket into the ‘urgent’ basket—from problems that should be dealt with in the future to those that should be tackled now.

There are many worthwhile organisations in my electorate in the south-west of Sydney that are trying to change the way decision makers determine the way in which the services provided to their clients are administered. Every day they fight for recognition that all disabilities are different and require different approaches. Organisations such as Junction Works, Macarthur Disability Services, Macarthur District Temporary Family Care, Hoxton Industries and Northcott Disability Services, just to name a few, advocate for their clients so that the needs of people with disabilities are better taken care of. In many cases, staff from these organisations are also family members of people with disability. Unfortunately, the needs of carers who provide a service to family members with a disability sometimes go unrecognised. A shining example of the involvement of family members is provided by Grace Fava and Fiona Zammit, both from the Autism Advisory and Support Service in Liverpool. Both Grace and Fiona are mothers of children who have autism. They have joined forces with other local parents to empower children with autism and their families through knowledge and support.

I found it quite shocking to find out that 57 per cent of children in New South Wales aged five and under whose parents are in receipt of carers allowance for autism spectrum disorder live within a 40-kilometre radius of Liverpool in the south-west of Sydney. That is why I recently moved a notice of motion in this House to congratulate the Rudd Labor government on the decision to establish a groundbreaking autism early learning centre in Liverpool.

It is my strong desire that this House and this government reaffirm their recognition that a combination of special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy and behavioural intervention has proved to be successful in helping people with autism disorders. We need to recognise that early diagnosis and intervention are essential to ensure that families and carers have the appropriate professional support that they need. We also need to acknowledge that, with early intervention and appropriate support, children with autism have a much greater chance of fulfilling their potential and participation more fully in the community.

It is a sad fact that right now 1.5 million Australians with serious disabilities, and their 500,000 full-time carers, do not have the resources they need to represent themselves. Over the next 40 years, we will see a steady growth in the number of people with disabilities. It is predicted that it will continue to grow, from 1.4 million to 2.9 million. It is now time to heed the words of Helen Keller, and I repeat her sentiments: a happy life consists not in the absence but in the mastery of hardships.

We need to ensure that we have a thoroughly thought out plan to respond to this trend. We must not fail in our responsibility to provide adequate support and efficient services to people with a disability, their families and their carers.