Australian Disability Enterprises
Parents, families, guardians, advocates, stakeholders of
people with severe and profound intellectual disability
by Mary Lou Carter, Carers Alliance
At the outset, I believe in the concept of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. I do not support the exploitation of anyone, given that exploitation takes many forms doesn't it? Nor do I support emotive and hysterical exaggerations to win an argument when the argument is unconvincing.
I also want you to know that for the last 15 years or so, my husband Trevor and I (I am the office manager) have employed a person with disability in the small suburban legal practice of which Trevor is the principal.
Both the young people we have employed (one was with us for 4 years the other has been with us for the last 12 years) had learning difficulties neither could read or write when they commenced their employment and both have been given the support, time and patience to flourish in their job.
Both learned to read and write while they've been with us and have prospered in ways that are immeasurable. We are so proud of them both for have reached milestones and achievements that others with greater opportunities have failed to attain. I can say that we walk the walk as well as me talking the talk.
Having said that I wanted to let you know about the current situation with the ADE consultations.
As you know in light of the Federal Court decision which was at first instance wherein the Federal Court judge sitting alone did not find that the BSWAT was discriminatory. The two plaintiffs then appealed that decision to the Full Bench of the Federal court which comprises 3 judges. In a split decision (two against one) the Federal Court found that the BSWAT was discriminatory.
Then in 2012 the Federal Government lodged an appeal against that decision to the High Court but the High Court would not allow the appeal (the High Court picks and chooses what it will or will not hear) So the full bench decision of the Federal Court stands.
There have been comments that ADEs should adopt business practices that bring them into the 21st century, that their practices are antiquated and so forth. At face value that might seem arguable but would that mean ADEs would indeed change their business practices and NOT EMPLOY people with severe and profound intellectual disability in order to run a 21st century business model?
Intellectual disability persists across the centuries and in the 21st century ADEs are doing the best they can to provide employment for people for whom mainstream employment is nigh on impossible to find and secure, let alone retain.
On 5 November, the Fair Work Commission held a consultation where numerous organisations attended - with the exception, however, of any representation of parents and families who provide advocacy, in-home accommodation and support for many of the thousands of people with intellectual disability who are employed in the ADEs. Parents and families are significant stakeholders in this matter yet they were unrepresented.
Furthermore we are given to understand that the advocacy group PWDA is being referred to as "the representative of the ADE employees". I want to know if you agree that PWDA has the skills, the tools, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding required to represent ALL employees of ADEs including people with severe and profound intellectual disability? and whether you have any objections to their claiming to represent your family member with disabilities in these discussions?
Carers Alliance intends to approach NDS and the Fair Work Commission, protesting the exclusion of parents and families from the consultation process. Given that it will be parents and families who will be called upon to fill the void should ADEs close and people with intellectual disability become unemployed. They have an enormous stake in the outcome, as stakeholders should be represented and heard.
Please contact Mary Lou Carter on firstname.lastname@example.org or Maree Buckwalter on email@example.com if you believe parents and families should be represented in the consultations which are afoot with the Fair Work Commission in this matter of the ADEs. Given that it will be parents and families who will be called on to fill the void should ADEs be forced to close.
Parents and families must be part of the process if the process is to be regarded as fair, balanced and transparent for all stakeholders.
We will copy to you the letter Carers Alliance to NDS and Fair Work Australia when it is finalised and sent.
Mary Lou Carter
PO Box 133, DRUMMOYNE
Ph: 0425 363 421