International Day of People with Disability

03 December 2015

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 12:23 ): It gives me great pleasure to speak today on the motion that is before the house that provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge that today is International Day of People with Disability.

This is a United Nations-sanctioned day that is celebrated internationally, and it aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate the achievements and contributions that people with a disability contribute to our communities. 

I noted that the member for Elder in her speech outlined that the theme of this year's international day is 'inclusion matters'. I think it is certainly worth reflecting on that and reflecting on the difficulties that people who do live with a disability have in being included and in seeing basic social inclusion fulfilled in their lives. 

For better or worse, life will always be that bit more difficult for people who are living with a disability, and not just more difficult for them, but more difficult for the people who are involved with their lives—their carers, friends and family. Often their carer will be their friends and family. Life will be that bit more difficult so we, as legislators and community leaders, need to look for ways in which we can work to make life that bit easier for people who have disabilities. 

I am very much of the view that the role of government should be a small one in society, but in believing that I believe that the role of government is a safety net and the role of government is to step in when people are disadvantaged through no fault of their own. A program like the National Disability Insurance Scheme is something that I wholeheartedly support, and anything which sees government step in and give people who have been disadvantaged, through no fault of their own, a helping hand, is something that I will always advocate for in this role and speak of in great support. 

I think we can always do better when it comes to supporting those with disability, even when we are working hard. Even when we have a bipartisan focus on programs for people with disability, I think we can always do better and we should always be trying to innovate in that space, look for ways to improve our dollar spend in that policy area, and work harder to support our most vulnerable in society. 

Members of parliament, my colleagues in this place, are uniquely positioned within our communities as leaders and as people who, through our privileged positions, have influence and can hopefully be able to get things done. With that privileged position comes a significant responsibility to look out for ways that we can help people who live with disabilities. 

A few months ago, I saw on the internet a social media photograph—it was on Facebook and I was actually tagged in it by a member of my community—of a disability access mat. It was overseas and it was running over the soft sand on a beach to the water's edge to give people who might have physical impairments, and particularly those who have wheelchairs or who are on walking frames, the ability to get over that soft sand and be able to dip their toes in the ocean or to paddle or perhaps have a swim. That is something that many people take for granted. 

It is certainly something that I take for granted as a beach lover and as someone who represents 16 kilometres of beautiful coastline in the city of Adelaide. The beach is a huge part of my life. It is probably the reason why I live where I live, and it is a huge lifestyle factor in my life being able to walk to the beach, which is a couple of minutes from my home, and run over the sand and into the water. That is something which I take for granted. It is something that most people probably take for granted, but it is something which is denied to many people who have disabilities. 

Wheelchairs, unless you have an unusual and expensive model, cannot navigate soft sand. People on walking frames cannot navigate soft sand. Even people with walking sticks, bad backs or problems with their joints cannot necessarily navigate soft sand. 

When I saw this image on social media which showed a pathway through that soft sand and taking people to the water's edge, I thought, 'Look, that is an opportunity for us to do something in my community which will improve the lives of many people and enable them to do that thing that I take for granted—getting myself to the water's edge.' 

I approached the local council and had initial discussions with them and it appeared that it might be quite a bureaucratic process to get the local council on board in the first instance. I decided to go down the track of crowd funding, using social media and that image I had initially seen, the image that had drawn me into this area, and use it on social media, set up a website through www.mycause.com.au to try to raise some funding around this to be able to fund such a beach access pathway, partnered with Surf Life Saving SA and Seacliff Surf Live Saving Club, one of the key community organisations in my electorate, to see whether we could get this to happen. 

Also, once they saw this on social media, people started to come out of the woodwork. People with disabilities approached me, and I was able to form a sort of little advisory group to look at this. I want to particularly mention an employee of the University of Adelaide, Scott Crowley, who has been very supportive in pushing this forward as well, and he is a wheelchair-bound triathlete. 

We got the crowd-funding site up and running and, within a couple of weeks, we have been able to raise almost $3,000 through that. We have received a donation of $5,000 from the Rotary Club of Brighton which is shutting down and wanted to leave a legacy with the last of its fundraising efforts, so we have had $5,000 from them. 

We have had interest from the local Lion's Club and the local Kiwanis club donating money. Two businesses, one called Solarsuit and another called EnerG+ personal training, have both decided to give a percentage of their profits to this fundraising initiative through the months of December and January. So, there is a lot of momentum around this project. 

We are very close to raising the amount of money that we need to raise, and hopefully in January we will be able to see one of these beach access mats rolled out across the soft sand in front of the Seacliff Beach Hotel at Seacliff and take people down to the water's edge so that they can dip their toes in the ocean, because that is what inclusion is all about—giving people who might not have the opportunity to do something, finding a way to bring them that opportunity. 

The beach is incredibly important to my electorate, it is incredibly important to me, so let's give people who might not necessarily have the opportunity to enjoy the beach the chance to get there and dip their toes in the ocean. I commend that little initiative to members in this place. If you do want to get on board you can pledge via my website, www.davidspeirs.com.au where there is a link to the mycause website. 

Equally, this is just one example of what someone in our privileged role can actually look at achieving. Though you may not have a coastal electorate, there may be other initiatives in your electorate you can identify where we can use our position and our role as leaders in our community to say, 'No, we're going to go about this.' The local bureaucracy might not necessarily make it easy, but let's look for a way to get around it. 

Interestingly, and in closing, the City of Holdfast Bay three weeks ago unanimously endorsed a motion to contribute $1,000 to the project. Having not been necessarily enthusiastic at the beginning of that process, the councillors did get on board and pledge $1,000 to the initiative a couple of weeks ago. I am very grateful to the City of Holdfast Bay and very grateful for the role of Surf Life Saving SA in providing advice for this project and, of course, the Seacliff Surf Life Saving Club for partnering with me on it. Inclusion does matter and we can make a difference, and I commend the motion to the house. 

Extracted from Hansard