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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1807


Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (09:54): It gives me great pleasure to bring to the House's attention a fantastic idea that will make a difference to the lives of many. It has been thought up by a young man from the Chifley electorate to help boost the independence of vision-impaired Australians. Connor McLeod, from Oakhurst in Chifley, has come up with this idea, and I saw it in our local paper, the St Mary's Mount Druitt Star, when Kylie Stevens wrote about the campaign that he and his mum are starting to kick off, which I think will, as I said, help the lives of many vision-impaired Australians.

Connor himself is vision impaired. He started high school this year. In the Star article, he talked about the fact that he is confronted with the challenge that he can only use coins to make his purchases at school—for example, going to the canteen—for this very simple reason: if any of us were to close our eyes and try to distinguish between notes, it would be hard for us to do. In Australia, we do not have tactile banknotes that allow vision-impaired people to differentiate between notes. So he and his mum, Ally Lancaster, have started a campaign. They have started a Facebook page and have already got 1,200 to 1,500 supporters who have signed a petition to try and get the Reserve Bank of Australia to do something about this. To quote Ally in the article:

It means nothing to me but it would mean a lot to my son and the other 300,000 visually impaired people across Australia …

That figure is expected to double within 10 years. Connor is fine with coins but notes completely do his head in. He's a bright boy but we have a system that is ineffective and inequitable.

So she has started this campaign, to her credit. The article said:

Connor said tactile markings would make a big difference in his life.

I don't always have someone around to help me …

I'm already independent but tactile markings would make me more confident. It would also make other vision impaired people more independent.

As I mentioned, they are on Facebook, at facebook.com/tactilebanknotesaustralia.

The important point to bear in mind is that this is not a change that would be hard to do. The Reserve Bank of Australia could do this, because they are already using the technology to print tactile notes for Chile, Mexico and Thailand, yet they do not do it here. Ally Lancaster said that, while she applauds the fact that the RBA might be able to do something, it is not doing enough and that now they are updating notes they should address this. The RBA governor, Glenn Stevens, is appearing before the economics committee later this week, and I look forward to taking up Connor's case with him, because I think it is a case that is worth pursuing.