Australia Day, Kurt Fearnley and (un)fairness in disability

January 26th is Australia Day and a time to celebrate all that we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. Each year a prominent aussie delivers an address and this year it fell to Kurt Fearnley OAM. If you don’t know of him, Kurt is an amazing person. He has won multiple Paralympic medals and so many events all around the world. He is an ambassador for people with a disability and he is a very thoughtful person who has some great things to say and confronting questions to ask.

kurt fearnley

I encourage you to read the full transcript of his speech however there are some things I wanted to specifically call out.

I certainly didn’t and yet I work with someone who uses a wheelchair and see plenty around the city streets. I find that a totally staggering number to try and deal with. If we had the same figures for owning a car there would be complete outrage but as it is about wheelchairs it doesn’t seem to rate a mention.

I am quoting Kurt here:

Living with any disability in Australia isn’t rosy compared to the rest of the world, even among other prosperous nations. If you have a disability in our country, you’re more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be living in poverty and more likely to be less educated than if you didn’t have that disability. In comparison to other economically rich nations that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the statistics for Australia are damning. “

The statistics in Australia are terrible

  • 45 percent of people with a disability live in, or near, poverty which is more than double the OECD average of 22 percent
  • We rank 21st out of 29 OECD countries in employment participation rates for those with a disability
  • We rank 27th of the 27 in terms of the correlation between disability and poverty

The numbers are truly appalling and once again I had no idea and I would guess that I am not the only one. I have watched with some interest the efforts recently to get the NDIS up and running which looks to be a great step in the right direction. In Australia we pride ourselves on the concept of giving people a fair go, supporting our mates and not leaving people behind but as I consider the statistics around people with a disability I think we have really missed the mark and we should be doing more. I don’t know if it is the same elsewhere in the world although I would suspect there are places that unfortunately parallel things here.

So I would ask all of you to stop and think about this for a moment.

Consider if you can do anything to help

Consider if this is a fair environment

Consider if Australia can do more

If we are truly looking to be a society that values everyone we must do more.

photo credit: <a href=””>768</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;

Categories: Equality

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