Making a difference, already

Kelly Vincent’s seat in the South Australian parliament was confirmed just 20 days ago, and already, she is making a difference. Vincent stood on the Dignity for Disability ticket, and she is both the youngest woman ever elected in Australia, and the first person with visible disabilities elected to the South Australian parliament. She uses a wheelchair, and she has first hand knowledge of just how long some people are forced to wait to get wheelchairs in South Australia; she waited for her own chair for two years, and some people have been on the waiting list for even longer. She says that there are about 600 South Australians waiting for wheel chairs. That’s 600 people who can’t go out, can’t move around their homes, can’t go shopping, can’t engage in the usual activities of everyday life, because the government can’t find the money in its budget to meet their needs.

But it seems that since Vincent was elected, the money and the motivation has been found.

Disability Minister Jennifer Rankine says Cabinet has approved $7.5 million of funding to help clear the waiting list.

“There are people requiring, if you like, pretty standard equipment and we’ll be issuing that as quickly as we can,” she said.

“Obviously when people need specialised, custom-built equipment that does take a little longer, but we’ll be rolling that out as quick as we can.”

First win for Vincent!

I’m sure her presence in the House has helped in a couple of ways. The first way is obvious; the ruling Labor party may need her vote. The second is the politics of presence. When there were no people with disabilities in the parliament, it was hard for their voices to be heard, hard to communicate their needs, hard for politicians to understand just how life might for for people with difficulties. Now Vincent is right there, in the House, and there as an advocate for people with difficulties. As each piece of legislation is formulated and debated, she is able to let other parliamentarians know how things really are experienced by people with disabilities. Their experiences and needs become salient in any policy making as something that is always acknowledged, always considered, always given due weight. That can only result in an improvement to policy making and legislation. It’s a long term victory for Vincent and the people she represents.

Yes, I know I’m a bit rosy-hued about this. There will be setbacks and challenges, and it will take plenty of time and hard work to effect long term change for people with disabilities. But what a tremendous start for Vincent.

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4 responses to “Making a difference, already

  1. Melissa van der Linden

    Beautifully written good news piece. The disability industry is desperately underfunded and I for one am thrilled that Vincent got in. May she be the first of many elected pioneers in this field of politics and disability.

  2. Yay for Vincent.

    The issue is usually not anything but ignorance and a bit of motovation and she appears to be overcoming one and dispensing the other.
    My family and I have just shifted to this strange land (SE Queensland). We have a four and a half year old with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair or a walker to get around. In most carparks there are plenty of disabled spaces and this is a good thing but here too ignorance rears its head… in order to access the footpath she has to either run the gauntlet of traffic or negotiate a gutter that is so high that her chair would tip over backwards if she attempted it alone. I had thought that these issues only affected us until we met a tremendously fit and strong wheelchair bound man who asked me for a little help up the gutter. He expressed a long held anger that his choices were to either risk his life in traffic or lower himself to asking for help (his words not mine). As he pointed out longer slopes on gutters by disabled parking do not require any extra labour or materials to create, they just require a little thought.

  3. Awesome!

    When there were no people with disabilities in the parliament

    I know what you probably meant there, but just to clarify – no ‘visible’ disabilities. In any reasonably sized sample of people there are people with health issues (both mental and physical) that impair their lives. Some are easier to disguise than others. Senior politicians are now often being open about suffering depression and other mental health issues, although usually from the safety of retirement. Her presence can only mean a greater profile for disability, and more openness and discussion, and that is in itself a huge thing.