Kelly in the Media

Kelly Vincent – 5AA Interview on Blind musician allowed to stay in Australia and Changing Places campaign for accessible toilets

5AA with Andrew Reimer

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent you’ve had a good week, an interesting week when it comes to wins for fairness, equality and common sense to a certain extent as well regarding the vision-impaired Malaysia musician, David Lee, who’s been allowed to stay here in Australia after he was meant to be deported?

Kelly Vincent: That’s right, David put up a good fight against this decision that was due to send him back home to Malaysia, well not home I should say because Australia is his home, but he attracted 14,000 signatures on an online petition, people calling for him to be able to stay the issue here is that the Australian Migration Act currently allows people with disabilities to be discriminated against in that its exempt from the Discrimination Act in so far as if someone has a disability that means they might need support from the Government due to that disability, they can be deported and sent back home to their country of origin this is absolutely ridiculous blanket law that does not work several times we have seen it being used to try and send people home who weren’t even accessing any Government funded services due to their disability anyway, so it is blatantly discriminatory and it doesn’t work even more outrageously is that in 2010 the Federal Parliament held an inquiry into this exact issue, how the Migration Act treats people with disabilities and that inquiry found that they need to lift that threshold to make sure that they get a more accurate picture of people’s support needs and they don’t go trying to send people back to their country of origin regardless of what their support needs are. So here we are seven years later and the Federal Parliament still hasn’t followed its own advice and that’s all that needs to happen to fix this issue so that we don’t risk losing many more great people like David in our community.

Andrew Reimer: So a pretty cruel bit of legislation to treat a person with a disability in such a way. I would have liked to think that we’re a much more humane and caring society than that.

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely, particularly when we consider that someone like David, and David is just one example of the people impacted by this unfair law, but David has been in Australia for 10 years, it is absolutely his home, he works here, he volunteers here, he’s absolutely contributing to the community and he’s an asset to our community so I’m very, very glad that he’ll get to stay but it doesn’t change the fact that still more people could be unfairly impacted by this law and the Federal Parliament needs to follow its own recommendation and make changes to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Andrew Reimer: you also wanted to talk about the Changing Places incentive grant scheme, this is to do with accessible toilet changing?

Kelly Vincent: Yes, you and I have talked on a number of occasions about Changing Places toilet which will benefit either high level accessible toilets that include extra space, handrails, but also an adult-sized change table and an electric hoist to help a person get on and off that change table, this is really important because at the moment it’s estimated there are about 14,000 adults who continue to need assistance with continence and changing well into adulthood and that number is going to grow as our population ages, so we’ve been lobbying the Government on both a State and Local Government level to bring Changing Places toilets to South Australia. The State Government has heeded our calls in the last week when the Budget was handed down because there is a $200,000 allocation to allow for incentive funds to try and get businesses to incorporate Changing Places toilets into their business to attract more people to their business and to our state of course the idea so far, it’s still being worked out exactly, but the idea is that the toilets will be built, funded one for State Government, one through this grant, one for Local Government and one for the business owners themselves.

Andrew Reimer: How much will they actually cost these particular toilets or is it fairly individual and dependent upon the circumstances of the individuals with the disability?

Kelly Vincent: it is dependent because there are different levels of accreditation that a toilet can get it may have some features and not others and of course it also depends on whether you’re retrofitting or building from scratch I’d be reluctant to guess at any figures at this point but all that information is available online if anyone wants to look at the specific specifications.

Andrew Reimer: my brother Hans, he’s no longer general manager at Vision Australia 5RPH, he’s left radio after 41 years his last day was on Friday.

Kelly Vincent: Yes, I did get his email announcing that, and it’s sad to see him go, I wish him all the best with whatever’s next and hopefully we won’t be losing you any time soon, Andrew.

Andrew Reimer: No I hope not either, always good to talk to you. Thanks very much.