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MSWA Bulletin Magazine Spring 2021

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What is assistive technology and how can it help you? | Good health monitoring practices | Pain and pain management series: Part 2 | Farewell Marcus Stafford


COMMUNTY CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT SUPPORT TEAM STILL INDEPENDENT AS NDIA SCRAPS CONTROVERSIAL PLAN GEOFF HUTCHINSON MANAGER CLIENT ENGAGEMENT In September 2020, when the then-Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert announced that the government had accepted many of the Tune Review recommendations, most across the disability sector were pleased. After all, the Tune Review (an independent review of the NDIS Act) had made a bunch of sensible recommendations that would help build a Scheme that would work for everyone. However, buried deep in the announcement, was news that would dominate the conversations across the sector for months to come: that the NDIA planned to introduce Independent Assessments to all participants. The Minister announced Independent Assessments would be introduced for everyone applying for the NDIS from February 2021 and then gradually include every single participant when they have a plan review. We were assured that this wasn’t a cost-cutting measure and they would be ‘independent’. The true independence became clear in February when the NDIA chose the successful contractors to complete these Independent Assessments, just three days after submissions closed. Concern for the meaning of ‘independence’ became greater when the NDIA awarded a contract to an organisation headed up by former NDIA CEO Rob De Luca and several of his executive team, who left the NDIA just months before the announcement of the Independent Assessment concept. So, what was the response from the community? In short, massive. Participants, providers, the media, state governments and the wider community all spoke out in opposition to this plan. The pushback on this idea and importantly the way it was introduced was loud, impassioned, and effective. Catherine McAlpine, the CEO of Inclusion Australia, summed it up when she stated that “the immediate outcry occurred because the government broke its fundamental promise to people with disability, to engage as equal partners in decisions. And, at the same time, decided to fundamentally change the personcentred nature of the NDIS.” The NDIS Joint Standing Committee received more than 320 submissions on the issue from a range of individual advocacy organisations, academics with the vast majority highly critical of the proposed assessments. The people had spoken and eventually, the government listened. In early July and in the face of sustained opposition, the Federal Government agreed not to make any legislative changes to the NDIS and very nicely committed to consulting on any future amendments. The Independent Assessments were off the table. Victory for the People... for now. Because while Independent Assessments are ‘dead’, we know that this is not the end. Both the previous and current NDIS Ministers have continued the narrative around cost blowouts and the need to change the NDIS legislation. The government would have you believe there are too many people on the NDIS, plans are over-funded, and the Scheme is financially unsustainable. And while there may be some truth to that, this claim has not been backed up with sufficient evidence to sway public opinion. So, rejoice one and all because we, the people, have stopped independent assessors before they impact thousands. But while we savour victory, we should remain vigilant because the Department of Social Services website recently announced that, “Public consultations on draft amendments to legislation are expected to occur from late August ahead of introduction to Parliament in October 2021.” The changes are back and it’s up to everyone to use our voices and ensure the NDIS continues to work for all of us. 12

VALE DR GREG BROTHERSON It is with great sadness we say our final goodbye to former longstanding Board Director and Bulletin Editor Greg Brotherson. After more than a year of struggling with various health issues, he passed away on 7 August 2021. Greg joined what was then the MS Society in 1979 after being diagnosed with MS. From the start he showed a willingness to put his skills and abilities to use helping others with MS. Shortly after, Greg became the Editor of the magazine, MS Bulletin, which over time evolved from a typed newsletter into a highly valued, quality, quarterly colour magazine. He remained Editor of Bulletin until 2019, only handing the role on when his health deteriorated and compromised him. As Editor, he was passionate and committed to providing people living with MS the latest information about multiple sclerosis in a very accessible and understandable way. He also used Bulletin to help Members connect with others, whether with MSWA staff who could help them live their best lives, or with other people living with the condition who could share stories and experiences. Greg started his working life in the mailroom at Dalgety’s. He and Myrna, his devoted wife, married in 1961. He spent some time as a truck salesman for a while, then he undertook a flying course, graduated as a pilot, and went on to work for various airline businesses for a number of years. As a result, he was often known as ‘Biggles’. Greg was elected to the Board of MSWA in 1982 and continued to be re-elected for many years at the end of each of his terms of service. He was so well known to Members that they never thought twice when election time came around. Greg decided to undertake various studies at Murdoch University, and was granted his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in 2000. He then became a tutor in history. I met Greg on my very first visit to the Wilson Services Centre after being diagnosed with MS. His gentleness, wit and intelligence were a great comfort to me at what was a difficult time. He heard that I was a high school English teacher and encouraged me to begin writing articles for Bulletin. His encouragement gave me a new interest when other areas of my life were closing down. Greg has always been an inspiration to so many others, as he lived his life with gentleness and fortitude in the face of the continuing progression of his MS. Dr Greg Brotherson served MSWA with loyalty, commitment, and great honour for over forty years. He will be fondly remembered as a hero of our organisation. I would particularly like to mention his wife Myrna’s constant support for him over the years. We all wish you well Myrna as you go through this tough time. I would also like to express my deepest condolences to Greg and Myrna’s sons, Kim and Jason. Vale Dr Brotherson. We will miss you. ROS HARMAN 13

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