In the Media

Parliament must find new voice

Dan Jervis-Bardy | City Messenger

WHEN the new South Australian Parliament sits for the first time in the coming months, it will be without its most fearless voice.

The convoluted Upper House elections are yet to be finalised, but, barring a miracle, Kelly Vincent’s eight years on North Tce are over.

The Dignity Party figurehead looks likely to be beaten at the ballot box by a block of four Labor and Liberal candidates, two pollies from the now Nick Xenophon-less SA Best as well as Greens MLC Tammy Franks.

Each will have been democratically selected, which must be respected, and with skills and perspectives that will in some way benefit the Legislative Council.

But none will make such a vital contribution as Kelly Vincent would have.

Since being elected as Australia’s youngest ever female parliamentarian at age 21, Ms Vincent has tirelessly championed the rights and causes of those so often overlooked in the halls of power.

The disability sector has always needed a hero, but now more so than ever.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme marks the single largest shift in how disability care is delivered in Australia.

The rollout here and interstate has been beset with teething problems, including delays to approving participants’ plans, staff shortages and a clunky, oftentimes faulty online system.

Ms Vincent has drawn public attention to the problems, calling them out and demanding they be remedied.

Who, I wonder, will hold the NDIS to account in her absence?

Two years ago, the wheelchair-bound Ms Vincent took The City on a tour of the 10 most inaccessible places in the CBD and North Adelaide. Tram stops, public toilets, building intercoms and even the entrance to her workplace Parliament House – were all either off limits or too difficult to access. Who will take this tour now?

Ms Vincent last year rebranded Dignity for Disability to broaden the party’s purview, and ran a 34-strong purple army at the state election, including SA’s first deaf candidate.

None of them came close to winning a seat, but their candidancy alone drew attention to the challenges – and capabilities – of some of societies most marginalised and forgotten.

Kelly Vincent was a powerful voice for the voiceless. I wonder who, in her absence from State Parliament, will be their champion now?