DisabilityCare: how a forty-year-old proposal became a movement for change

22 Oct 2013

WITHOUT deep pockets for advertising, the National Disability and Carer Alliance concentrated on a community campaign. “We didn’t have a lot of financial resources but what we did have was people,” says the alliance’s Kirsten Deane. Social media was one tool for people to tell their stories and describe the problems they encountered – the bureaucratic nightmare involved in obtaining basic services and facilities, for instance, or the barriers to employment – and how an NDIS would make a difference. “Once things started being posted online like Facebook, other people felt empowered to do the same thing,” says Della Bosca. “It became a self-fulfilling thing.”

Critical to success was having people with disabilities at the forefront of the campaign. Rather than relying on professionals to lobby governments and oppositions, they and their families arranged appointments with their local MPs. “These meetings were very deliberately structured to be positive,” says Deane. “MPs are very used to people coming into their office and complaining about a particular issue.” Instead, people told their local members about the difference an NDIS would make to their lives, often finishing with a line like, “I need you to be my champion in parliament.”

At least 80 per cent of federal parliament’s 150 lower house MPs received visits from people with disabilities, and some more than once. The more MPs were contacted, the more they started discussing the issue among themselves. The campaign put together a library of photos of MPs with people with disabilities holding signs saying, “I count.” “It was a very simple idea but it was one of the most successful things we did,” says Della Bosca of the approaches to politicians…

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