International Day: How far have we come and where are we going?

Dear BCA members

It’s been a while since I wrote to the lists, and I thought that International Day of People with Disability was a good time to tell you why. It’s not because we’re pushed into a corner and fighting to survive. It’s because we’re out there doing the work.

On International Day of People with Disability, it’s important that we stop to look at how far we’ve come, and to think about how far we still have to go.

How far have we come?

Since July, our fantastic Policy and Advocacy Officers, Rikki and Hanna, have taken on a steady stream of individual advocacy cases across the range of challenges we face: access to Centrelink, getting a job, getting the information we need in the form that we need it to go about our daily lives. BCA is also supporting systemic outcomes through feisty members like Suzy Hudson, who wants the audio description trial on the ABC extended to television for people who can’t use the internet, and we’re talking to government about how to make sure programs which affect us, like the NDIS, roll out with good design for people who are blind or vision impaired.

Our members and branches are the heart of BCA, so it’s important to say that the office is here to serve you, and that’s been a big part of our work too. Many of you have called or emailed us to talk about what you’d like to see BCA doing, and while we can’t do all of it at once, we love to hear your ideas and share your passion.

Since July, we’ve held three rounds of member forums focussing on issues you told us were most important to you: pedestrian safety, access to information and public transport. We’ve also had two rounds of Meet the CEO teleconferences. We’ll have more to say about “where to from here”? on both of those fronts in the new year.

Each one of our Branches does a substantial amount of work to keep people who are blind or vision impaired informed, connected and advocating. I’ve been amazed to hear about the variety of work done by Branches since I came back to BCA. Some of the Branches – like Geelong – do a great job of bringing people together for social fun as well as advocacy. Others – like Adelaide – spend time talking to government about a range of issues, like better laws to protect people who are blind or vision impaired using the footpath. Then there are branches that spread knowledge amongst themselves: Tweed Heads Branch makes sure everyone knows what all their entitlements are, and helps those who haven’t got access to critical assistance like taxi passes to get them.

Where to from here?

“Where to from here?” is a big question for BCA right now. Over the weekend, the Board met face to face to hold their second meeting and discussed our future. There will be more said by the Board in a communique to be released in the next few weeks, but a big piece of work in the near future will be re-developing our strategic plan so that it better reflects our current situation.

Here is a list of Board portfolio holders (Word docx) and BCA external representatives which you can use as a reference for who might be important to contact about ideas or issues that matter to you.

“Where to from here?” also has some immediate practical implications. At the Leader’s Summit in June, participants talked a lot about the need for BCA to build new relationships and make sure our existing ones remain strong. Since then, the office has been busily working to do this, meeting with government bodies like the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Victorian Department of Transport, working with other policy focused organisations in our sector like the Australian Blindness Forum and Vision 2020 Australia and their service provider members, such as Vision Australia, to focus on key issues such as aged care, telecommunications and employment.

We’ve spoken to some federal politicians responsible for disability, and talked to others involved in relevant Parliamentary Committees. These activities don’t always produce immediate results, but help to make sure our unique voice of lived experience remains loud and clear.

I’d like to draw your attention to two great announcements today which speak to a lot of hard behind-the-scenes work across the sector.

Firstly, the NDIS has announced full Tasmanian roll out details. You can find out more here: Full Tasmanian NDIS Roll out

Secondly, the Federal ALP has announced that, if elected, they will be funding an extra $2 million per year for existing and new disability peak bodies. Their media release can be found here: labor to fund more advocacy for people with disability

Both of these announcements are exciting for BCA and its members, and show that over time attitudes to the importance of people with disability having a say in their own lives are changing for the better.

Most of all, when we ask “where to from here?” at BCA – whether we’re staff, members or Board – we want the journey to be with you. Call, email or write to us if you have suggestions or questions about what we’re doing. Keep us accountable, and help BCA to stay strong.

Kind regards

Leah van Poppel
Chief Executive Officer
Blind Citizens Australia
Ross House
Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Mobile: 0430 210 980
Toll Free: 1800 033 660
Phone: 03 9654 1400
Twitter: @au_BCA
ABN: 90 006 985 226
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