Published by mojo on 27 August, 2013.
People with disabilities are the main - but not the only – item on the agenda for a party that thinks everyone is entitled to a fair go.
By TONI BRIENT
“We just felt that we had to hit them where it hurt, and that’s at the ballot box,” says veteran campaigner Maree Buckwalter.
The lobbyist has spent decades campaigning for rights and services for people living with a disability. After years of lobbying, she became a founding member of Carers Alliance in an attempt to fight legislation from inside Parliament.“We just felt that we had to hit them where it hurt, and that’s at the ballot box,” says veteran campaigner .
“We have a small chance, but the fact that we’re there has elevated the issue into the political arena,” she says.
Along with party secretary Mary Lou Carter, Buckwalter will be contesting senate seats in NSW. The party is fielding three Lower House candidates in NSW, along with Senate candidates in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.
“We’re not a single issue party,” says Carter. “The issue is broad. It’s part of neighbourhoods and communities. Very few of us have just one child, so issues that affect children who don’t have disabilities affect our children too.”
With diverse backgrounds in areas such as small business, health care and legal services, Carter suggests the party is equipped to represent all Australians.
“We want people to know that we are dedicated to the cause of getting a fair go. We have a very broad view of life.”
While the official party platform hinges around health and education services, Buckwalter and Carter toldmojo about their views on national security, asylum seeker policy, infrastructure and industry.
“We need to do something about protecting borders, with the amount of people coming here as economic refugees,” says Buckwalter. “Defence is very important, particuarly given we are so isolated. Funding needs to be adequate for that.”
Carter would like to see attention and protection at a local level.
“There is a massive neglect of infrastucture in our regions, and transport issues. Regional hospitals should be sourcing food locally to give jobs to local areas. A lot of that has been displaced.”
The official party platform – and the area both Buckwalter and Carter talk most passionately about – is disability support. Both Carter and Buckwalter have close family with disabilities.
Carers Alliance supports the rights of children, including those without a disability. Their policies propose regular mental, physical and emotional health assessments, as well as equal access to support services. Their education policy proposes equal access and funding for students of varying intellectual and physical abilities, including a “universal design for learning”, which aims to provide for the diverse learning needs of individual students, in terms of content, methods and motivation.
The party advocates for at-home aged care, aiming to support elderly people so they can remain at home, rather than have to move into a care facility.
Mental health reform is also on Carers Alliance policy platform, with a pledge of 12 per cent of its health budget for that area.
Carter suggests the party’s driving objective is to provide overarching support to those marginalised by disability in various forms, which families like hers know all too well.
“It was just the most isolating and crushing experience and I would hate to think that families are going through that experience.”
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