AUSTRALIANS living with a disability have the worst quality of life in the developed world and their employment opportunities have hit rock bottom, according to a report issued today by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Currently almost one in two people with a disability in Australia lives in or near a state of poverty. Photo: Gabriele Charotte
Currently almost one in two people with a disability in Australia lives in or near a state of poverty while globally, Australia is at the bottom of the heap, ranked last out of 27 OECD countries, with those with a disability 2.7 times more at risk of poverty while the nation fares little better in rankings for employment opportunities, listed 21st out of 29 OECD countries in that category.
The report, Disability expectations – Investing in a better life, a stronger Australia, showed that there was a current employment rate of 39.8 per cent for people with disabilities compared with 79.4 per cent for people living without a disability.
Former NSW health minister and national campaign director for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Every Australian Counts, John Della Bosca, said if comparable figures and rankings were applied to the Australian representative cricket or rugby teams the community outrage would be immense.
”We should aim to leapfrog our way to the top of those rankings,” he said.
”Fairness is part of our national character and if we adopt the positions in this report there is no reason why we can’t. This is a compelling case for the National Insurance Disability Scheme and the economic and social benefits of providing people with job opportunities are clear.”
The report carried a message of support from the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, who said it highlighted the need for ”a cultural shift in attitudes towards Australian living with a disability: from passive sympathy and understanding, to actively encouraging and championing a better quality of life”.
The findings bolstered the need for a crystallised commitment from the federal, state and territory governments for the National Disability Insurance Scheme with clear funding outlines, Mr Della Bosca said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers partner John Walsh – who is also a quadriplegic – said it was crystal clear the current disability network was broken. “For the last two decades, Australia had failed to support people to achieve their dreams,” he said.
”To bring about change, we need more than a funding solution. Change needs to occur at every level of the system.”
The report identified four key principles that should form the basis of the approach to fixing the nation’s ”appalling current standings” in the disability sector.
■To recognise people with a disability had equal rights.
■That society has a facilitating role to play in assisting people with a disability to exercise their rights.
■That people with a disability should have choice in how they access support.
■That inclusion should be actively pursued through the removal of obstacles to employment.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a speech at the Disability Awards last week that the NDIS would become a reality and was no longer an aspirational target.
”The time for words is over,” she said. ”The time for action has come.”
But the opposition spokesman on disabilities, Mitch Fifield, said yesterday Labor had failed Australians living with a disability in its mid-year economic outlook announcements as it had not included any funding for the NDIS apart from $9.7 million for ”technical work”.