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Tuesday, 31 March 1998
Page: 2038


Mr RICHARD EVANS (10:52 PM) —I want to remind the House about some facts regarding our disability services. Some three million Australians, almost 18 per cent of the population, suffer with some form of disability. Many of these, some five per cent of that group, have severe intellectual disabilities. There are some 8,000 parents over the age of 65 with children with severe disabilities. This all means that there is an unmet need in the community for families with disabilities, in particular intellectual disabilities, which includes, I guess, the acquired brain injury group as well.

Parents of these fellow Australians are not really asking for help for themselves; they are really asking for help for their children and also to accommodate their children's needs. There is a program in Australia called A Time To Care. This Time To Care program has been running for some time over the last 12 months or so to try to raise awareness with state politicians in particular but also federal politicians. It is trying to get a re-emphasis of priority of funding.

Recently, about two weeks ago, they had a program start called Adopt a Politician. I am told that throughout Australia each federal member will be approached by a family with a disabled child to adopt that politician, to let them know the lifestyle of that family and that child, and to raise awareness with the politician. I fully concur that that is a great idea and a very powerful way of increasing the awareness with politicians. The Time To Care program's newsletter says, `We say that people with disabilities and their families are entitled to a decent quality of life with the same opportunity to participate in the life of their community as other people have.' I think everyone in this place would say hear, hear to that.

Today in Western Australia, for instance, there were protesters outside the offices of each federal member of parliament. Unfortunately, they were not to realise that federal members were in Canberra. I was sorry not to meet those protesters who visited my office. Nicole Mourad, a 21-year-old with Down syndrome, who has problems with literacy and numeracy and also employment opportunities, has recently adopted Daryl Williams, the Attorney-General, as part of the Adopt a Politician program. She with a number of others attended my office and presented my office with some information kits and videos. Primarily, they were trying to raise awareness with federal politicians.

I think there are certain responsibilities in relation to federal politics and that is in regards to funding. There are a number of people in our community who require funding for different things. My view is that there are certain aspects of our community that should not necessarily queue for funding. I say to you without any hesitation at all that disability services, in particular intellectual disability services, is one group that should get their cheque first every time. I think that we as a country need to address how we go about funding disability services not only at a federal level but also at a state level.

I call upon the Time To Care program and the campaign that they have got going to make all federal politicians aware, to get those families to come and adopt federal politicians to make those who are not aware of disability services become more aware of disability services. Perhaps we will have a change of attitude over a period of time towards disability services. It is one area that I think requires urgent action. I know the federal government recently did increase funding, but in my view it is not enough to meet unmet need.

I support the Time To Care program. I hope that all federal politicians when they are approached by this campaign do open their arms, their eyes, their minds and their hearts to embrace these people and perhaps we can have a change of attitude not only at the federal level but also at the state level.