An era of inclusion

14 January 2020

With the new decade comes a great opportunity to reflect – both on what has been and what we want for the future.

When you cast your memories back 10 years, we could have never imagined how the world was going to change for people with disability here in Australia. Now that we stand at the beginning of another decade, it’s time to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

NDIS

In the span of a decade, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) revolutionised disability funding in Australia.

In 2012, the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a bill to establish the NDIS, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There is still work to be done, with the roll out continuing and new learnings being factored in at every turn, but it’s no less of a start towards bigger, better option.

In 2018 there were 4.4 million Australians with disability – that’s around 18% of the population – and the NDIS was the biggest change to happen to them over the past few years.

The NDIS has drastically changed how people with disability seek out support as they push their dreams, goals and potential from one day to the next. This is a source of choice and control, one that enables a greater proportion of us to achieve a level playing field.

This is not the only change that has happened or is happening. In fact, there’s signs of big pushes forward in the years ahead.

Representation

A major step forward in the decade ahead needs to be how and where people with disability are seen. As of 2016, only 4% of all main characters/public figures on mainstream Australian TV had an identifiable disability. The last few years have seen a drastic change in both the ways people with disability are represented in the media and in terms of how often they are front and centre.

For kids growing up with a disability, Sesame Street is now a source of representation and affirmation, thanks to the creation of a character with autism (the Muppet, Julia).

While for the older set, Brisbane-born comedian Josh Thomas is following up his smash hit series Please Like Me (focused on gay representation) with “Everything’s Ok”. This new series has a fantastic young character with autism as the central focus. Let’s not forget that the ABC launched a series of their own called “Love on the Spectrum” which explores the lives and loves of young adults on the autism spectrum.

Yes, this is a few drops in the bucket, but all it takes in the entertainment world is for representation to strike a chord, and then it becomes the norm (more real, less token).

Tech

The next era will need a little tech and skills to back up all this representation, right?

According to the Foundation for Young Australians, the balance between hard and soft skills are what makes the difference for a fantastical, practical future. According to these experts, the biggest hard skills for the future are those that play into coding and robotics, while the soft skills that pay the bills are the understanding and creativity that only a human can provide.

How do we make this happen? Life and job skills YouTube videos that allow people with disability to be the teachers to their friends; virtual and augmented reality packages in schools and community spaces that reimagine academic, life and job learning to be safe, engaging and informative; and of course coding and robotics training to give them the skills needed to blossom both personally and professionally in our ever-changing world.

Looking to the future – a message from Endeavour Foundation CEO Andrew Donne

 “We’re proud of what has been achieved so far and there’s more work to be done.

Building a supportive, understanding and inclusive community needs a collective approach.

In 2020 I urge everyone to consider how they can advocate for greater inclusion for people with disability in their communities, social settings and workplaces.

Together, we can make the 2020s the decade of disability inclusion.”

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