Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Australian MP pushes for loot box restrictions

Two children under bed covers playing video games
Image: iStock

Australian Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie is pushimg for restrictions on video games that feature loot boxes.

According to Herald Sun, Wilkie condemned loot boxes as “barely disguised gambling”.

 

What are loot boxes?

According to Parent Zone, loot boxes are “virtual treasure chests”. They allow players to change weapns or characters.

Due to the rise of online gaming, the dynamic of gaming has changed. Buying a computer game is no longer a one – time purchase. Computer games, (including iPads, phones, etc) often require players to buy a subscription, rewards or coins to advance in the game. This is why loot boxes are concerning.

 

Gambling and the role of parents and caregivers

Children gambling is a growing concern. Earlier this year, Sydney Morning Herald reported 40 per cent of NSW children aged 12 – 17 were playing games with features that emulate gambling. 

Games featuring loot boxes, coins and rewards proved concerning. 3.7% of children studied were considered problem gamblers or at high risk.

There are a number of risk factors to this worrying trend. Parents who gamble are a risk factor. 58 per cent of children who gambled also had parents who gamble. 20 per cent had grandparents who did.

This makes sense. Addiction often has a genetic component. Also, parental modelling is important. Children often pick up habits and stressors from their families. This is why I think the issue deserves a holistic approach.

 

Problem gambling and mental health

Problem gambling is mental illness. Fourth Edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) listed problem gambling as an impulse control disorder.

Additionally, problem gambling often co – occurs with other mental conditions.

According to the Department of Health and Aging, problem gambling has similarities to substance use disorder. People with pre – existing mood disorders, especially depression, are at higher risk for problem gambling.

Chronic isolation can also make problem gambling worse. Due to COVID and restrictions, it wouldn’t be surprising if addictions were exacerbated, including among children and teens.

Politicians need to take mental health seriously if they want to attack this issue. They should seriously consider making all psychotherapies free under Medicare. They also need to ensure there are adequate services.

Additionally, there needs to be adequate guidance counsellors and social workers need to be in schools. 

 

Mother supports Wilkie’s proposal

Faye James, mother of son Pablo, eight, supports the bill.

This kind of bill is fundamental. We need to make parents aware of what they’re getting their kids into. Restrictions and transparency is key.

I don’t disagree that restrictions should be in place. Children should not have free access to gambling – style games.

However, I can’t help but think this is a Band – Aid solution. Focus on mental health and access to appropriate services. Make sure that children get the support they need. And, maybe we’ll see the problem decrease. 

If you are in Australia and you or someone you know is struggling mentally, you can contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (they also have a web chat)

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (for people under 25 or their parents or caregivers)

As always, for those outside Australia, feel free to offer any contact information to mental health services below. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Education Union calls for NAPLAN to be scrapped

School students taking test in hall
Image: iStock

 

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is  under fire.

Australian Education Union president Correna Haythorpe has called for the program to be abolished:

NAPLAN has been plagued by a lack of credibility with teachers and parents for years. It is time for the Federal Government to scrap NAPLAN for good and replace it with a new sample – based assessment strategy that has students and teachers at its heart.

The purpose of NAPLAN

Across Australia, students sit for NAPLAN tests in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

student writing
Image: iStock

The tests focus on a range of skills such as comprehension, spelling and grammar, creative writing and mathematics skills.

NAPLAN was around when I was at school. I remember taking it in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

Teachers used NAPLAN results to assess students’ abilities. They could also see the areas students needed help.

From helping tool to competition

The invention of the MySchool website in 2010, made NAPLAN contentious.

Rather than teachers focusing on improvements and struggles of students, school reputation was the focus.

In 2016, a Sydney public school came under fire when a student was asked to stay home in fear that the student would drag the school average down.

The parent of the child received a letter from the school about the request. The excuse given was to avoid “stress” for the student.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) warns teachers not to exclude students.

Other recommendations from ACARA

On their website, ACARA endorses NAPLAN. Its recommendations for teachers and parents include:

  • Tell the students to do the best they can that day
  • Avoid cramming and coaching leading to the tests
  • Parents should ask teachers questions

ACARA and the media

The media have right to publish results by ACARA under Freedom of Information and Copyright Act 1968.

Any journalists who wish to report on results are responsible for gaining copyright clearances.

NAPLAN could have merit

I’m not an educator, teacher or education researcher. I took the NAPLAN tests in Years Three, Five, Seven and Nine.

When I sat for NAPLAN, I was average. One of my biggest weaknesses was comprehension and creative writing was my strength. I think that’s an accurate presentation of me, especially throughout school.

My primary school and high school didn’t worry or emphasise on results. It wasn’t a competition. The aim was to see where students’ strengths were and where they needed help.

I’m not sure whether NAPLAN itself is a terrible tool. But I think it’s original purpose is lost.

I think the MySchool website should be abolished. That’s when issues seemed to start.

NAPLAN’s focus should be on helping children in English and Mathematics. Any areas students struggle in should ne addressed.

NAPLAN shouldn’t be about the egos of schools. Unfortunately, I think what NAPLAN’s become.

Bring back NAPLAN’s original intent. Then maybe it could benefit ALL teachers and students.

 

What are your views on NAPLAN? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary Uncategorized

Australian children face a mental health crisis

Mental health image of brain
Image: iStock

According to Natasha Bita in the Herald Sun, Australian children and teenagers are facing a mental health crisis. (Mental Health 360: Shocking rise in Aussie teens being medicated, 2 December 2020).

1 in 13 teens are taking antidepressants and/or other psychiatric drugs.

Health and youth experts claim COVID-19 is a factor to this worrying trend. 87,781 primary school – aged children and 134,439 teenagers were prescribed medications for various mental disorders over 2018/2019.

What diagnoses children are receiving?

Not surprisingly, anxiety and depression are major issues facing a number of children. What’s worrying is that primary school and preschool – aged children are also being diagnosed.

Yourtown chief executive, Tracey Adams told Herald Sun that domestic violence is exacerbating these rates.

Children are also being diagnosed with other conditions, including ADD/ ADHD, psychosis and conduct disorder.

The increase in conduct disorder diagnoses has surprised and alarmed me. How can more children be diagnosed? Is it over diagnosis; an accusation commonly aimed at ADD/ADHD?

Or is it something else? As I wrote before, alarms surrounding domestic violence have been raised. According to Better Health Channel, parental aggression (particularly from the father) and domestic violence are risk factors that can trigger the disorder.

Government response

To be honest, I think that the Federal and State governments have failed in this area. It’s too little, too late.

Only now has the Government offered Kids Helpline extra funding for fifty more counsellors. Why wasn’t enough support put in before the pandemic hit?

I think this exposes the great flaws in the Australian mental health system as a whole. There isn’t enough support for those who need it, but haven’t reached breaking point.

Parents play vital role

Psychologist and founder of Parentshop, Michael Hawton told Herald Sun that most anxiety in children is “learned”.

If kids are surrounded by parents who are highly rushed and speaking and behaving anxiously, it’s hard for them to not pick up on that.

He also suggested that parents teach children about facing problems head on rather than avoiding them. Emotional reactivity should also be minimised.

Blaming social media and anxious parents doesn’t solve the problem

Many commenters on the Herald Sun article have blamed social media (surprised?). But to me, the issue is much bigger.

There are obviously children and teenagers that need ongoing help. Some may need different therapies, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). There may be children that need to be removed from violent or abusive homes. Victims of bullies need support to have their self – esteem built back up.

Psychologists and/ or Masters qualified Social Workers need to be employed in all schools.

Also, I really do think the Australian mental health system needs an overhaul. Medicare is grossly inadequate in funding mental health.

The Australian mental health system seems to help two types of people: those who don’t need ongoing professional help. Or, the other extreme: those who are at high risk of harm or suicide.

Both State and Federal Governments have failed in dealing with psychological costs of lockdown and COVID-19. Counselling services should have been properly funded in the first place. It isn’t good enough.

Lastly, all mental health costs should be covered by the Government. If not through Medicare, through other means.

 

What are you thoughts? How can people with mental or behavioural conditions be helped?

 

 

 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Should the lyrics to Advance Australia Fair change? Here are my thoughts.

Treble clef on Australian flag
Image: iStock

Should we change the lyrics to Australia’s national anthem Advance Australia Fair?

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk  and New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berijiklian agree that we should.

The source of contention is the word “young” in the first verse:

Australians all let us rejoice

For we are young and free

(emphasis mine)

Berijiklian argues “young” ignores thousands of years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history.

People like Berijiklian want the word “one” to replace it.

 

However, Herald Sun columnist and Sky News Australia presenter, Andrew Bolt blasted the proposal.

But the NSWPremier’s plan to change the words “young and free” to “one and free” is a con. The people she’s trying to please don’t want us to be “one” at all.

He argued that the people pushing these proposals want more division, not unity.

Proposals in the name of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion

Over recent years, people have debated a number of proposals in the name of righting past wrongs.

Every year in January, the date of Australia Day (January 26) is hotly debated. 26 January highlights the arrival of British explorer, Captain Arthur Philip in 1788.

Some Aboriginal people find this as a tragic day. It’s the day that signifies the start of their displacement and destruction.

Similarly, more and more Caucasian Australians have joined the chorus for change.

The push to change the date has extended to social media. The hashtag #changethedate has trended over the years. Activist group, GetUp! has called for the date to be changed to May 8.

Issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

To be honest, I find a lot of this to be fluff. It will change nothing. Not on a fundamental level, anyway.

There are a number of  issues facing Indigenous communities. These include:

  • lack of educational opportunities
  • poorer mental health outcomes
  • crime and domestic violence

 

Discrimination and alienation

More Aboriginal people are opening up with their experiences of racism. Some have gone to the media with numerous examples of alleged discrimination they’ve faced in their lives.

Earlier this year, actor, Meyne Wyatt did a passionate monologue on ABC’s Q & A. Wyatt described security being suspicious of him, taxi drivers ignoring him and cashiers serving him last in stores.

 

Wyatt also spoke of the treatment of former Sydney Swans footballer, Adam Goodes. A then – 13 year – old called Goodes an ‘ape’. His actions in response was hotly debated. Many praised his actions. However, others condemned Goodes, repeatedly pointing out the girl’s age.

 

When Aboriginal people bring up either domestic violence or racism, they are immediately howled down. They can’t win.

 

Surely, a step in the right direction is to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people speak. Let them speak about the issues affecting them and their communities.

 

I’ll say it again. None of these issues will change if our anthem does.

 

What are your thoughts? Should the lyrics of Advance Australia Fair change? Does it matter to you either way? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary Uncategorized

Hugh Sheridan’s coming out and the complexity of human sexuality

Word Pride on little blocks
Image: iStock

Australian actor went public came out as… human.

He told Stellar Magazine why he took so long:

I’ve never felt I really knew who I was and I didn’t like the sounds of the labels that people were giving me, so I decided to say nothing.

The Packed to the Rafter’s star also talked about the pressure to keep his relationships with men a secret to make him seem ‘available’ to women viewers. This angered him.

When asked about his sexual orientation, The Packed to the Rafter’s star simply came out as “a human being”.

Love life and being outed by the media

Sheridan opened up about his attractions. As a child, Sheridan opened up about being bullied for being gay. Ironically, at the time, he claimed that he was in love with girls.

It wasn’t until he started he started his acting career that he first fell for a man. Unfortunately, the media caught on and rumours were spreading about his relationship. Sheridan said he felt outed. “It hurt a lot”, he explained.

He also exposed the catch 22 he and a lot of other LGBTQ+ celebrities risk: having to come out or thinking you’re ashamed of who you are.

Sheridan started the Renaissance Project, where people are invited to discuss issues of labels and identity.

On the issue of identity, Sheridan simply stated:

I believe labels are for clothes, not for people.

Sheridan’s coming out is met with support

There has been an outpouring of support for Sheridan. Many have written to him and thanked him. He’s also got love and support from other Packed to the Rafters co – stars.

Rebecca Gibney, who played his mother, Julie Rafter, penned an emotional note of support on Instagram.

I’ve loved this boy the moment I met him 13 years ago. He is one of the most joyful, open hearted, empathetic souls I have ever met and I couldn’t be more proud of his wonderful essay in the latest Stellar magazine where he talks about society’s need to label and how he has never fitted the labels that were given to him.

She concluded:

I’m so blessed to call you my friend. Well done for speaking your truth. Love you to the moon sweetheart.

 

Sexual fluidity: when coming out isn’t that simple

For a while, fluid sexuality has been researched and become public knowledge. University of Utah’s psychology professor,  Lisa M Diamond PhD did a study on women and sexuality. She discovered that women can go through numerous sexual experiences through different stages of their lives.

However it’s often assumed that men’s sexuality is largely static; either gay or straight. Male bisexuality is often erased and those who come out are often not believed.

And men without the need for a label? Well, you don’t really hear about it… until now. It turns out that complexity with sexual identity can affect people of all genders, including men.

 

I think Hugh Sheridan’s coming out is oositive. Not only are more LGBTQ+ people coming out in public, but it also shows that being unsure or without a label is also OK.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Will toxic culture in the Church come to an end?

Image of Pope Francis
Image: iStock

Last Thursday (10 September), Pope Francis talked about the “divine” nature of good food and loving sex.

He told Italian writer and gourmet Carlo Petrini:

Pleasure derives directly from God, it is neither Catholic, nor Christian, nor anything else. It’s simply divine.

He was also critical of Catholics and Christians who were ‘over – zealous’ in the past in their condemnation of sex and eating.

That’s not to say Pope Francis is suddenly progressive. He still emphasised procreation. Meaning, he stuck to traditional Catholic doctrine.

That aside, does this signal change within the Catholic Church? Does it signal that Catholics and Christians can finally adopting a healthier outlook? I have doubts.

Unfortunately, it’s no secret Christian and Catholic churches have had issues when it comes to sex.

I believe toxic sexual ethics have allowed sexism, homophobia and even child abuse. Married Christians have suffered pain and dysfunction in their sex lives.

Meanwhile, too often, predators have infiltrated the Church. Often, they have climbed up the leadership ladder. They become untouchable. Male victims have been shamed by their sexuality. They wrongly think they may be gay because of the abuse. Obsession about virginity and ‘purity’ in the Protestant Church has left female victims feel dirty and broken.

Is this about to change? Unfortunately, Pope Francis didn’t go into such detail. I suspect not.

Emphasis on procreation

I guess it’s no surprise that Pope Francis mentioned procreation in his speech. Yes, procreation is often a result of sex. It is the goal for some couples.

What about non – procreative sex? What about sex (even in the context of a monogamous straight relationship) just for pleasure? Where does that leave single people? What about acts other than intercourse?

Of course, the marriage – only narrative is exclusionary. Single and LGBTQ+ people need a healthy sexual ethic too. And no, abstinence – only doesn’t work. Literally 99% of the population desire sex. They have physical urges. They have the emotional need for intimacy. These don’t just appear in a heterosexual marriage. This is where the Church has fallen short.

Singles and result of sexual shame

What about people who are single? They have sexual desires, too. Catholic and Protestant churches have been infamous for putting single people in impossible situations. Demonising masturbation and deliberately spreading misinformation about sexuality has had a disastrous effect on countless people.

Anxieties about the ‘dirtiness’ of sex don’t just disappear when someone is married. Both men and women have suffered sexual dysfunctions. Men have been unable to experience erections, while women have suffered severe pain.  This can make sex unbearable.

Protestant churches are most associated with purity culture. However, it wouldn’t surprise me that many Catholic couples have faced similar issues. In my view, Catholic teachings around sex have been equally toxic.

 

Both Catholic and Protestant Churches need a more scientifically accurate view on sexuality. It needs to include married and non – married people.People should have a healthy relationship with their bodies and sexuality. Now that’s ‘divine’.

What do you think about Pope Francis’ statement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Oprah Winfrey, wealth and white privilege

Oprah's OWN billboard
Image: iStock

 

Talkshow and media mogul, Oprah Winfrey has come under fire for comments she made on white privilege. She was hosting her show Oprah’s Conversations.

When asked about white privilege and her status as a billionaire, Winfrey insisted that white people “still have their whiteness”.

 

The comments came in light of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. The protests were triggered by the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in May this year.

Republican Senator, Ted Cruz took to Twitter and condemned Winfrey’s comments as being “BS”.

Newscorp columnist and Sky News Australia host, Andrew Bolt claimed that Winfrey’s comments were “less about principle and more about power”.

Exactly what is white privilege?

So, what is ‘white privilege’? White privilege was a term popularised by Peggy McIntosh. In her 1988 essay, White Privilege; Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, McIntosh bemoaned men for not realising privileges they have over women.

Then, she listed fifty ways in which white people had an advantage over people of colour in Western societies. These advantages, she pointed out, are often ignored by white people themselves.

Advantages McIntosh listed included:

  • Being able to spend time with people of her race comfortably
  • Being represented in history
  • Being sure that neighbours in a new residents will be pleasant
  • The assurance that white people will avoid being racially profiled in society
  • Being able to be an individual and not be pressured to speak for entire race (to be honest, I kind of agree with this one).
  • Being able to find representation in pop culture
  • Have freedoms in regards to activities and advantages at work without race being an issue.

More recently, a number of people of colour have claimed to have been victims of disadvantage because of the colour of their skin.

Earlier this year, Indigenous actor, Meyne Wyatt did a monologue on ABC’s Q & A about issues Aboriginal people face.

Criticisms and problems with white privilege theory

The theory of ‘white privilege’ has come under a lot of criticism. Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson has slammed the concept of white privilege as “absolutely reprehensible” and that there’s “nothing more racist” than collective guilt.

Even supporters of Black Lives Matter are critical of it. In The Guardian, Kennan Malik argues that the focus on white privilege and ‘white guilt’ distracts people from the institutional causes of racial inequality.

My opinion on ‘white privilege’

Personally, I think emphasis on ‘white guilt’ only alienates people and makes them apathetic. It gives people the excuse not to combat racism.

The articles on white guilt have only left me frustrated. Very few, if any, of those article have offered any solutions that people like me can implement. Saying that all white people benefit from society or whatever, to me, doesn’t do anything to benefit people of colour.

I think ‘white guilt’ only paralyses people. What are you supposed to when you are the beneficiaries of a system because of the colour of your skin? You can’t change who your ancestors are.

The problem with white privilege also doesn’t offer solid solutions. Going on and on about it without providing solutions doesn’t help anybody.

 

What do you think about white privilege? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Meghan Markle speech: fluff, no substance

C2C0EE69-C370-482E-8BB8-3FE1440120EA

Meghan Markle made a video speech at the United Nations’ Girl Up Leadership Summit.

This speech has been criticised. The YouTube video has received more dislikes than likes.

C2C0EE69-C370-482E-8BB8-3FE1440120EA

Being the curious cat I am, I listened to the speech myself. I get why the video received backlash.

The upside

I guess it’s good that Meghan Markle has encouraged young people to think about their own impact in the world. It’s always nice to get encouragement to follow what your passionate about.

Whether what she said is reflective of people’s reality is another thing.

Speech not based on reality

The speech reminds me of me in my early 20’s. It was all about dreams. All about big ambitions, with no real insight to what was going to happen or how.

I’m sorry but phrases like “…demanding to own the conversation” and “changing the world” is only going to go so far.

If someone is struggling to pay the bills, keep a roof over their head and buy food to eat, that person is not going to be thinking about these grand goals and visions. That is probably more true now than ever.

If someone is struggling with depression or bipolar and struggling to keep their own heads above water, the last thing they’ll have the strength to do is to transform the mental health system, no matter how badly it needs it.

While I do think police brutality is an issue to discuss, I kind of get some of the criticisms against Black Lives Matter. What are they hoping to achieve by destroying (mostly black.- owned) businesses through rioting? This is during a pandemic that has already smashed economies in the West.

Speech alienates people further

Going by the like/ dislike ratio already, it looks like Meghan Markle’s speech hasn’t won many hearts. In fact, I think it’s done the opposite; making Markle look like an entitled celebrity that barely anyone can relate to.

Unfortunately, I think the speech only dampened Markle’s reputation. It made her seemed more privileged, more entitled and more unrelatable as ever.

 

Alice Springs Councillor, Jacinta Price has made a comment on her speech and the Black Lives Matter movement. She isn’t impressed.

She is a woman of great privilege who is completely removed from reality and circumstances on the ground. Her lending her voice to the Black Lives Matter movement is silencing the voices of those of those people who are vulnerable to black on black gang violence.

Price is an Indigenous woman who’s family has been rocked by violence. A number  of her relatives have been murdered, or gone missing under suspicious circumstances. According to The Daily Telegraph, Price was visiting another relative who had been bashed.

 

Ultimately, this is a lesson to all progressives. Being relatable is important. Addressing issues that matter to the average person matters. No fluffy language will win hearts and minds otherwise.

 

What did you think of Meghan Markle’s speech? Did it resonate with you at all? Feel free to put your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

People with disabilities and chronic conditions felt vulnerable during COVID-19 lockdown

COVID-19 image
Image: iStock

Over the last few months, we’ve been inundated with news and commentary on COVID-19 and the restrictions.

People have missed going to pubs, restaurants gyms and hair salons. I get it. It sucks. It’s inconvenient. Before the COVID-19 restrictions, I enjoyed going to the gym twice a week. It was a great social outlet for me, as well as a great way to work out.

But what if you have a serious disability or chronic health condition? For these people, the last few months have been hard. And the next few months won’t be any easier.

People with disabilities feel forgotten and vulnerable

The ABC  talked to a number of people with  disabilities and chronic conditions for an article. It exposed fears of becoming infected, nerves about the relaxing of social distancing and going without essential services.

El Gibb told the ABC that she had trouble getting shopping delivered at the start of the lockdown. This included groceries. This is not acceptable. Frankly, it’s outrageous. It’s a massive failure of both governments and businesses.

A few months ago, major supermarkets came under fire for mishandling extreme bulk buying and letting essentials run out. Many elderly and people with disabilities were forced to go without. Sure, Woolworths and other supermarkets tried dedicating an hour specifically for vulnerable people, but it was too little, too late. Many supermarkets couldn’t keep up supply.

For the last three months, people have also gone medical services for pain management. Emily went without cortisone injections during lockdown. I could only imagine how horrible that would have been.

Being vulnerable to contracting COVID-19

In all the debates over easing restrictions, one issue hasn’t been properly discussed: the protection of people with compromised immune systems.

It has left people with some disabilities nervous to enter public life. Sadly, isolation seems like the safest option.

There’s fears that there’ll be a lax attitude on social distancing. I personally think that the more restrictions are eased, the more likely social distancing will become a thing of the past. This has caused some people to isolate even more. This is really sad. It can’t be good for people’s mental health.

It’s sadly ironic that the people that should’ve been protected from COVID-19 are the ones facing most hardship. The lockdowns should have been implemented with the care of the most vulnerable at the forefront. Disappointingly, as with many other things, they have been left out of consideration.

Note: While I’m writing this post, things have already gone backwards in Australia. Due to a number of outbreaks in Victoria, restrictions on public and private gatherings have been reintroduced. Easing on restrictions of the number of people allowed in restaurants has been wound back.

Also, Coles have announced restrictions on purchases of some essential items in Lavington, Albury, Deniliquin and across Victoria. Hopefully, things will be better handled this time.

How have you found the restrictions? How do you feel about restrictions being eased? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
News Opinion/Commentary

Ann – Marie Smith’s death and attitudes towards disability

I know this story is a few weeks old now. But I still think it’s important.

Ann – Marie Smith died a degrading death in early April. Smith, 54, who had cerebral palsy, was shamefully left to die in a cane chair.

When investigated, it was found that Smith, who lived alone, had no fresh food or even a freezer in her home. 

Her ‘support worker’ has been sacked from Integrity Care SA and  Smith’s death has been ruled as manslaughter.

Integrity Care SA has also been fined A$12,600 by the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.

 

I’ve been disappointed at the lack of commentary and public outrage about this. It is abhorrent.

Effects of ‘wasted money’ cut

Man in wheelchair washing dishes
Image: iStock

Since it’s rollout in 2016, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS),  has come under a lot of scrutiny. Accusations of fraud and funds being wasted came thick and fast. Andrew Bolt was a vocal critic, warning that the system would be abused and that the budget would ‘blow out’.

In 2017, Bolt accused groundskeeping companies of abusing the system. In the same post, Bolt claimed there was a ‘liberalisation’ of the definition of “developmental delay”.

Now, because of the scaremongering, the system has changed. And for the most part, it’s been for the worst. Last year, the Coalition government prided itself on getting rid of ‘wasted funds’. But it has left NDIS providers to  feel the need to chase money, often at expense of customer control and quality care.

 

How the hell did Smith only have ONE support worker when she needed seven – day – a – week care?

I think the “wasted” money shouldn’t have just been cut out of the NDIS. It should have been better allocated.

 

Is this a reflection of how we view people with disabilities?

Is this an indictment on how society views people with disabilities? For so long, people with disabilities have been ostracised and institutionalised. They are still overrepresented in unemployment statistics.

I truly think there is an attitude problem at play. People with a disability are too often treated as too hard. They are seen as helpless, yet they are MADE even more helpless.

 

NDIS chaos

I know from personal experience that since the Federal Government found ‘unused funds’ that they conveniently just cut out of the system it’s made the NDIS worse.

The NDIS is no longer about giving participants ‘choice’. It’s about keeping funds coming, in case the Government all – to – happily cuts “wasted money” out again. That’s often means keeping customers helpless or preventing much progress.

Support providers have become more money focussed. Was providing Smith just ONE support worker for a whole week a money – saving strategy? I don’t know for sure, but, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. If that’s the case, then Ann – Marie Smith won’t be the only victim. There’ll be many more in the future if things don’t change now.

That starts with the Federal Government putting money back into the NDIS and service providers being responsible for the safety and well – being of their customers.

 

Attitudes need to change

Attitudes towards people with a disability need a drastic overhaul. They are not a burden. They are not parasitic. They are people, who, for reasons often beyond their control, need extra help. They shouldn’t have to beg for it or die. Their lives have to count.

This can’t happen again.