Featured Country Reps. Article

Mike Galea – Australia

Mike is an Architectural Building Designer, Project Manager and Access Consultant. His career spanning over 40 years, has specialised in “Accessible Living” and advocating against Disability Discrimination. He advises to all levels of government, in particular Local Government Australia wide. He lectures on Disability Discrimination and Disability Awareness to governments, in addition to community and commercial organisations.

He has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for 29 years, which has taken most of his sight in addition to causing him to have a range of physical and sensory impairments. This does not stop him from his passion of assisting people with disabilities wherever he can. He has also travelled throughout Europe, Malta, Egypt the USA, Canada and Malaysia to research new innovations in Accessible Living and equipment to aid people with disabilities and their careers.
Mr. Michael Galea, GAATES Country Representative for Australia

Community service for youth and the disabled is also a passion of Mike’s, where he has held positions on the Boards of the Blind Society, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and is currently on the Board of one of South Australia’s largest regional disability support service organisations, being Community Living Australia. He holds the prestigious Rotary Accreditation, being the “Paul Harris Fellow”, and the prestigious service to youth – “Silver Koala” award from Scouting Australia.

When asked by GAATES for an update on the Situation in Australia, this he what he shared:

In Australia today, disability issues and people with disabilities is an area of significant interest, and as a sector, this is encompassing invaluable reform. One area of reform includes recent statutory authority being given to revised and improved national standards and construction codes. Whilst 10 years in the making, this has seen the establishment of an improved clarity in the areas of accessible design, transport, technology, signage, etc. and has opened many new doors of opportunity.

Another major reform is the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Like never before, people with a disability and their carer providers are feeling more empowered, particularly in relation to their human rights. This is evidenced by an increase in discrimination complaints being bought before the Australian Human Rights Commission. This right is preserved in legislation by the Australian Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Fortunately, almost half of such complaints are resolved agreeably through an effective conciliation process.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme Act 2013 locks in place a nationally consistent approach to the provision of consumer directed care in areas such as; referral services and activities for people with disabilities; funding for individuals or entitlements to assist people with disabilities to participate in an inclusive economic and social life; and individual plans with which reasonable and necessary supports will be funded for scheme participants. The operation of the scheme is supported by administrative provisions in the Act, which include deliverables relating to children, nominees, confidentiality; the review of decisions and the treatment of compensation. A potential participant in the scheme must meet various requirements regarding age, place of residence and either disability or early intervention. When fully implemented, the annual cost of this scheme will be in the order of $25 billion AUD. This scheme is currently being implemented in strategic stages.

Last year, the Australian Government undertook a survey to consult with the disability sector and wider community. The range of participants was far-reaching and included people with a disability; an associate or carer of a person with a disability; a member of an advocacy group or organisation; service providers; employers or recruiters; family members; or support workers, nurses, educators, students and researchers. The results from this survey are now providing direction to the Government on gaps and priorities that need to be addressed.

The Australian Government is also undertaking a National Inquiry into employment related discrimination and workplace barriers against people with a disability.

While all this is positive, there are still many gaps in the sector that need to be addressed. Some of the obvious ones for people with a disability and/or their carers include services for indigenous people and people living in rural and remote areas, people with intellectual disabilities, homeless, abused etc.; general community awareness; disability research; stigma; employment barriers; education barriers etc. Government agencies, advocacy groups, religious support groups, Not-For-Profit service providers etc do what they can to assist in these areas. These gaps and support mechanisms mentioned, are far from complete, however I like to remain confident of a caring and progressive future without discrimination.