PM named respondent in case for discrimination of older people

The Australian Human Rights Commission has accepted for consideration a formal complaint about discrimination that names Prime Minister Scott Morrison as representative of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The complaint claims Australia is in breach of its obligations under the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The complainant, Dr Peter Freckleton, lost the use of both legs when he was six years old, as a result of infantile paralysis during the polio pandemic of the 1950s.

He is one of many who are unable to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) because they were older than 65 when the NDIS was implemented.

Read: Older Australians receive less support than people who qualify for NDIS

“Discrimination is unlawful in Australia and rightly so,” said Dr Freckleton. 

“Many Australians would be shocked to know that the NDIS was designed to discriminate against older Australians with disability and the government changed the Age Discrimination Act to protect itself from complaints about this discrimination.

“This should not be the case and I applaud the Disability Doesn’t Discriminate campaign for raising this topic as an important issue leading into the next federal election.”

Many disabled Australians are excluded from the NDIS entirely on the basis of age, says Mark Townend, who is CEO of Spinal Life Australia, the organiser of the Disability Doesn’t Discriminate campaign.

“There are many Australians who should be eligible to participate in the NDIS, but their age has been used as a reason to exclude them from the scheme, resulting in very poor outcomes for people with disability,” says Mr Townend.

“We have been working hard to raise awareness of this discrimination through the Disability Doesn’t Discriminate campaign and have secured nearly 20,000 signatures.

“While we have approached both major parties, they have indicated that the NDIS was ‘not designed to replace existing programs of support such as the My Aged Care scheme’.

“This is a clear cop-out, and all politicians need to seriously consider this issue and play their part in ending age discrimination now.”

Mr Townend has called for an immediate removal of the age limit from the current NDIS eligibility criteria and end age discrimination.

“This is an important election issue, as disability can impact Australians at any time, regardless of age,” he says.

Read: The leading cause of disability worldwide is …

Earlier this year, the Greens said the decision to block support for over-65s was “arbitrary and discriminatory”, adding that disabled people of any age deserve essential support necessary for a good life.

“Older Australians with a disability deserve to be able to access the supports and services that they need to live a good life, just like everyone else,” said the Greens disability spokesperson Jordon Steele-John.

“Disabled Australians who were over the age of 65 when the NDIS was first introduced back in 2013 have lived the last eight years – a time in their life when they should be afforded care and dignity above all else – without the extra support they need to be able to fully enjoy their retirement.

“Anyone could be involved in an accident that results in disability – it could be a parent or a friend – and, if they’re over the age of 65, they would be excluded from accessing supports through the NDIS. It’s discrimination.

“When they legislated the NDIS back in 2013, the Liberals deliberately amended the Age Discrimination Act to enable people over the age of 65 to be excluded from receiving support through the scheme.

“To discriminate against disabled people based on their age goes against the fundamental values upon which our NDIS was built, and the Morrison government should urgently scrap the age cap to ensure everyone has access to the supports and services they need to live a good life.”

Read: Greens call for removal of the age cap in the NDIS

NDIS minister Linda Reynolds said the NDIS age requirement was based on Productivity Commission recommendations.

“The NDIS is a scheme designed to address the permanent, unmet needs of people with significant, non-age-related disabilities,” said a spokesperson for Ms Reynolds.

“The NDIS was never intended to replace services already provided by the health or aged care systems.”

Do you think it’s fair that older Australians are excluded from the NDIS? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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