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Social Issues

Centrelink’s war on people with disabilities


One thing people with disabilities dread hearing is when Centrelink tells them they are not disabled enough., but it is something they hear all too frequently.

Disability can take many forms: it can be intellectual, mental illness, physical or sensory. One can be born with it or acquire it later in life. It doesn’t discriminate against anybody. Any one of us could become impaired, and there is little that can be done about it.

From my own perspective, I acquired PTSD and schizophrenia from two major traumatic episodes in my life.

The first was my work as a prison officer at Goulburn Gaol in the late 1980s, which was exacerbated by being taken hostage while teaching in Townsville prison in 2019. The two events were unrelated.

I didn’t ask for these things to happen, just as no person with a disability asks to be afflicted, but they happened. Nobody with disability asks for it.

I didn’t get diagnosed with either of these until 2003, fourteen years after I left the prisons, and well outside the two years the NSW government allows for worker’s compensation claims to be made.

Fortunately, we live in a prosperous country which looks after our disabled. Or we did.

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to set up a pension system for the infirm and disabled, in 1909. In the 1940s, a trust fund as created by the government to ensure people with disabilities were adequately supported. This was discontinued in the 1980s.

In 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to replace the then defunct trust fund, and everything looked good again.

That was, until the LNP government came to power in 2013, and set about wrecking the NDIS and the Disability Support Pension.

Fast track to 2023, and it is extremely difficult to get accepted for a disability support pension or the NDIS. The legislation introduced in the last nine years has made sure of this.

As example, Centrelink have tried to tell me in recent times that PTSD is no longer classified as a disability, even though the Department of Veterans Affairs and all the medical experts accept that it is. Apparently, if you are not a veteran, PTSD is not debilitating. That’s Centrelink’s rules.

There are many such examples of Centrelink’s rules being somewhat questionable.

A friend who lost a leg because of a car accident has to obtain a medical certificate each year to state that she is still disabled and present to Centrelink in person so they can make a judgement. Common sense would dictate that her leg is not going to grow back.

These are people with no medical qualifications, who purport to be scrutineers of a doctor’s diagnosis.

To be fair, the culture of bastardry in Centrelink does predate the last nine years of LNP government. It goes back to the days of the Howard administration.

When I worked with Big Issue magazine in Brisbane from 2005, I dealt with the homeless, many of whom are on the streets because of mental illness, disability, substance abuse or domestic violence. Centrelink would decrease or cancel payments because they could not provide a home address.

When I progressed to working for a federal senator in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley in 2006, I continued working with Brisbane’s homeless. Centrelink would routinely turn them away, and the streeties were virtually powerless to do anything.

I was fortunate that I had the direct phone numbers for the relevant government ministers, because of my job position, and could force the local Centrelink manager’s hand if I presented at the office with a constituent. The ministers knew not to get on the wrong side of a senator, and that was the only reason they acted.

When I worked in prisons, many were in gaol because the state governments had closed down most of the psychiatric hospitals. Most prison officers are reasonably decent people, but they are not trained to do the work of psychiatrists or psychiatric nurses.

When I worked on Aboriginal communities, many indigenous people were denied disability pensions simply because they did not have access to the appropriate medical professionals to certify they were eligible. Centrelink would not assist them, stating the onus was on the client to prove their claim, and Centrelink had no responsibility for that.

A few years back, I worked in TAFE, teaching job seeking skills to those forced by Centrelink to attend the classes. Many had been diagnosed with mental illness, but Centrelink had denied them disability support pension. The courses were beyond their capacity, and most lost their Centrelink benefits completely when they were unable to complete it.

These are just a few of the examples that I have experienced personally, and I would be interested to hear from other disabled people about their experiences. You can send me an email – contact@craighill.net

While I cannot promise that I can help in all situations, I can certainly give you the contact details of those that can, and I will do as much as I can.

For these problems to be solved, all Australians need to take an active interest and act. It’s not hard to find the contact details of your local MP or duty senator, then send an email or make a phone call.

And, of course, MPs need to do their jobs – that’s what they are paid for.

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The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

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About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner. Business and Education Consultant. Former Business/ESL Teacher. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications.

Discussion

One thought on “Centrelink’s war on people with disabilities

  1. When you mention Centrelink & things not going fairly,add illogical, under qualified for disability scrutiny & totally inconsistent with everyone telling you something different regarding a simple question!

    Their lack of concern has cost me debts, when following instructions, not getting paid all of December due to me disappearing from their system,& definitely not my fault – yet refusal to view letters, documents & Centrelink login details I tried showing leaving me broke for Xmas!

    Huge over haul needed. They should be less concerned with the threat of someone claiming 2times on a payment & focus on the elderly and disabled people struggling with the disproportionate amount they get compared with cost of living

    Posted by Arthur Mandas | January 7, 2023, 16:24

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