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.
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.