Diana Bleby Nominated as Upper House candidate for Dignity Party

Andrew Reimer 5AA

Andrew Reimer: Number two on the Dignity Party ticket is speech pathologist Diana Bleby, congratulations on being chosen.

Diana Bleby: Thank you very much, it’s a complete honour. We need to see Kelly Vincent re-elected at the 2018 state election and to be chosen to be second to her and support her is something I’m delighted to be able to do.

Andrew Reimer: What made you gravitate towards the Dignity Party?

Diana Bleby: I have been a lobbyist over time around communication issues and youth justice and other aspects of discrimination in our community with people who can’t speak up for themselves and over time I’ve met with varying politicians and parties to try and help get this on the front page and I would say over the last five or six years the only people who have been able to get some solid success, which includes work around the disability justice plan and youth in incarceration, more recently the NDIS, has actually been the Dignity Party and so having established a relationship with them over time I now find myself moving on to the other side of the fence.

Andrew Reimer: I find it interesting just how powerful smaller parties such as the Dignity Party are and how much influence they can have on politics here in South Australia.

Diana Bleby: I think small parties can have an influence but it’s up to the quality of the people in the role and Kelly is incredible, I’ve got huge admiration for her

Andrew Reimer: I agree.

Diana Bleby: I’d love to say I wasn’t old enough to be her mother, I nearly am, but she’s become a stellar politician and a joy to watch and see the difference that she makes without being affected by all the things that often come with going into politics. Someone said right you’re going to be a politician now and I said well it’s not a career move for me to be a politician. It’s a move for me to find a platform in which I can continue to do the work I’ve already been doing with a group who are already doing it well.

Andrew Reimer: Kelly Vincent has been doing a great job but her support crew are absolutely brilliant as well and they work so hard to go out there and advocate and bring about positive changes

Diana Bleby: They’re very real people and I suppose a bit like myself. It’s very easy to make statements about what’s needed and what’s done without having lived experience but I’m fortunate enough particularly working most of my life in the northern suburbs and in northern country including Berri and Gawler is to see people walk in through the door at the coal face and knowing their stories and knowing their needs. One example I can think of particularly around the National Disability Insurance Scheme is the number of grandparent carers in regions and the challenges that they face not only dealing with the fact that they often have highly disabled grandchildren, they’re faced with the challenges of their own aging but they’re also faced with technology and some of the challenges that technology brings in a world where they’re supposed to log onto portals and do other things to make sure that they can get the necessary funding for their grandchildren to be supported.

Andrew Reimer: It’s terribly laborious, the feedback I’ve been getting grandparents looking after grandchildren with disabilities trying to get changes happening, plans put into place, and very time consuming and not user friendly.

Diana Bleby: I think the technology around these systems could look better, it can be very laborious at a time when they’re already challenged to meet all the needs of that child and themselves and there is quite a distinct difference I think sometimes in the way country areas get help over metropolitan areas and so they can’t necessarily tap into a choice of services or get the help they need immediately without having to deal with places at a distance that’s one of the reasons I like to go to them rather than the other way around.

Andrew Reimer: If elected, how would you bring about change within the NDIS for example.

Diana Bleby: I couldn’t do it alone if I get elected I’ll be working very closely with Kelly Vincent and the Dignity Party on what we do together because there’s strength in numbers on that and I can already see that the number of things they’re taking on board is far broader than possibly the general public perceive as being a party that was elected on the basis of supporting people with disabilities, they actually do so much more. So for me if I get elected it would be about supporting the breadth of what they’re doing, perhaps working around with the people with more invisible disabilities and people who can’t be heard but might look what people would say look normal as opposed to having a more obvious disability. I’m very privileged, I’m able bodied, and working on the other side as a health professional I think being elected it would be a kind of broader yin yang for the party of having greater perspective and lived experience to make a difference.

Andrew Reimer: You’ve got your own business, how are you going to juggle the two if you are elected?

Diana Bleby: I have an amazing speech pathologists in my practice, it’s only been a relatively new practice since it’s grown and it’s very much about service and so it’s lucky I didn’t want to be a millionaire because I’m certainly not but I have, I make sure we provide quality staff within our service who support the other staff so it’s not entirely beholden on me. I’ve recently put in place another very senior speech pathologist to support my newer staff and that’s very exciting and my plan would be to continue in my practice for now while I’m going with the election and if I’m fortunate enough to be elected then I’ve got plans in place for the practice to continue to provide the quality service that it’s doing now with me obviously not in the driving seat.

Andrew Reimer: What are some of the other issues that are important to you as an individual and potentially also as a politician?

Diana Bleby: Literacy is very important to me. We do a lot of teaching about literacy and I think there’s a number of questions that need to continue to be asked about why we are not achieving with literacy in the country and why NAPLAN is not showing the results. NAPLAN is not everything – I’ve worked within education for 25 years – but it’s a benchmark that people can use. I think there’s a lot of things that need to be considered around what happens to the training of teachers, how they’re supported, and some more fundamental issues around evidence based practice with teaching of reading and writing.

Andrew Reimer: Throwing millions of dollars into the education sector as the Government is doing – is that the answer?

Diana Bleby: Having been on the other side in state education we always welcome donations of money but it’s done with literacy before. I think if anyone pretends that by putting money in now it’s suddenly going to be different then they need to look back at the history of the different times and positions – we had literacy coaches who were funded to support schools. It’s a deeper issue and just throwing money, unless that money is targeted into what’s going to be true change is a short term solution.

Andrew Reimer: Tell us about the deeper issues Diana because we’re not in a hurry tonight, it’s a Sunday night.

Diana Bleby: From someone who’s worked with teaching literacy and working with teachers on how to make a difference in teaching literacy there’s a lot of early skills that sometimes get ignored later perhaps into primary school if they haven’t been picked up in pre-school and junior primary school. There’s emergent literacy skills in the areas of oral language, print concept knowledge and phonological awareness which is the understanding about how sounds work and they’re skills that don’t necessarily develop automatically, they have to be taught, and so for a child to be read to, talked to in particular in the early years, they’re more likely to develop those or be taught those skills naturally but if they’re not and they arrive in school and they’re being given reading and writing tasks and they’re not being successful – they might often know the first sound in the word but now know the rest, there’s a journey that they have to go back on to fill in the gap and build the foundations and in my experience and trust me there’s some brilliant teachers out there and there’s some great leadership in many of our schools, but in my experience I find that teachers have not necessarily had the time at university to be taught really thoroughly how to teach literacy well. We’re not just talking about people who are there now, we’re talking about what happens to the people who are learning to be teachers and I know there’s been quite a lot about the quality and testing that should be around who is accepted into teaching courses, because it should never be a default option if you can’t get into something else.

Andrew Reimer: When it comes to teaching and society and how it’s changed over the years, one of the frustrations I was hearing from country teachers back then and is still the case here in the city is rather than teaching the basics, they’re finding themselves, they’re teaching the basics of life skills to students when they came to school.

Diana Bleby: There are huge challenges for teachers in schools these days with the increasing complexity in society and I think we need to draw in much broader issues too about the impact of mental health, what that’s having on families, the impact of socio-economic status of people and their ability to cope, so you have teachers who’ve got very complex classrooms with a number of different children who need different things and enabling them even to learn well yet, and I won’t say that prevents other children from learning, not at all, we need to have the breadth of disability representation in mainstream schools for all of that means but I’m not just talking about disability here, I’m talking about family challenges, socio-economic challenges, people who haven’t managed to get to breakfast and children who are coming in under very difficult circumstances into school and behaving as a result of that in a way that disrupts others but we need to look at how they can be helped at a fundamental level to redirect them onto a path where they can engage in a positive life force with good learning.

Andrew Reimer: Transforming Health, you and your background, your thoughts as far as hospitals and care is concerned.

Diana Bleby: That’s a big topic and I can’t promise to be an expert on it at this stage.

Andrew Reimer: Coming from your background you’d be very much aware about what’s going on.

Diana Bleby: I’ve been really sorry to see that some key areas of support and forgive me if I focus back on my professional area a little bit but it will broaden over time, is the areas like child and mental health services who are the only people who provide speech pathology services say for adolescents with mental health issues have been under threat for those positions. I think with Transforming Health it has to be done in a way where there’s going to be an improvement in services and sometimes finally that does come down to money. You can re-juggle it all as much as you like but we have in increased aged population, we have increasing mental health difficulties, and if we don’t put the money where that’s required it’s actually going to be more expensive for society and people need to be able to access services easily. If you put coronary care only in one area and not another area then pick which suburb you’re going to be in when you have a heart attack I suppose, I’m watching that space, but I can’t pretend to be expert in it at the moment, my understanding is that Transforming Health as a project has now finished, apparently it’s transformed already.

Andrew Reimer: let’s wait and see if they get re-elected as to whether or not it’s a project that isn’t finished after all.

Diana Bleby: I think it’s always good to be looking at how things can move and change but to announce a project where there’s going to be an outcome that’s all going to be great is in reality pretty unlikely. Having worked in a Government Department for 25 years you get very used to change, can I say to your listeners if they think public servants are rigid, when I was one, you get change thrust upon you all the time and different ideas and I think it would be really nice to have some continuity around some of those changes that’s not necessarily dependent on who is in Government at the time.

Andrew Reimer: Thanks for ringing up the show tonight, so we could find out a bit more about you, feel free to ring again. Wish you all the best for March 17th 2018.

Diana Bleby: I’m really looking forward to it and I’m proud to be with Kelly and her Dignity team they’re great.

Andrew Reimer: They’re a wonderful team no doubt about it.