Kelly Vincent’s visit to the Mid North to talk about local issues / NDIS / Decriminalisation of sex work


Paul Culliver: Kelly Vincent is in town before we talk about anything your opinion of fritz?

Kelly Vincent: Of course, a matter of great importance to the State, I do have the typical memories of a child sitting in the trolley getting smiley fritz that was the greatest day, I have since become a vegetarian what used to be a smiley face is now this ominous symbol of death [Culliver laughs] so I’m probably not the best South Australian in that regard but I do like my State very much [Culliver laughs] I feel so bad because I’m meant to like come on and give you the alternate view but as a vegetarian that’s very hard to do.

Paul Culliver: How much do you think eating fritz made you a vegetarian?

Kelly Vincent: if I talk about that I’ll probably get censured, it probably did play a bit of a role it wasn’t the major thing in my mind when I became a vegetarian.

Paul Culliver: you’re travelling to the Mid North

Kelly Vincent: I am here to talk to people about local issues, particularly about the NDIS and how that’s working for people and how it could work better, my office has done a lot of work on it. I’m also here to visit some schools, I’m particularly keen to look at how schools are working with students with disabilities and learning difficulties given that I’ve just finished chairing a committee of the Parliament into that issue which has made some really interesting recommendations about how to improve the experience of students with disabilities in the education system so that they can go on to get better jobs, be more autonomous and independent and have better life outcomes as a result. It’s something I’m really interested in and also meeting with some constituents which is basically a fancy parliamentary word for people who contact my office about some local issues and local counsel as well one of the great things about being an Upper House MP is that the entire state is your constituency a lot of work to be done but it means I get to meet a lot of diverse and really interesting people, which I love.

Paul Culliver: The NDIS is currently rolling out, you’ve got some concerns with how it’s going?

Kelly Vincent: Indeed, there are many concerns but I think particularly for regional and rural areas there is some concerns around services, it’s all very well and good to get a plan if you’re eligible for services but if those services – because of geographical challenges – aren’t available in your area and also therapists don’t get access to funding to help them travel to you, it can be like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. There are definitely some challenges but I think it’s important to keep them in context and remember that this is literally a once in a generation reform, a huge reform of the entire country and by and large is delivering and will deliver really positive outcomes for people not only people who have disabilities now but who will acquire them in the future.

Paul Culliver: There’s been a lot of talk recently with the Federal Budget about is the NDIS fully funded, is it not the people that are receiving NDIS, it’s a big change in their life for a lot of security coming to them what are the actual changes that people are going to see when they get access to the NDIS?

Kelly Vincent: a bit of context about the old system that we’re transitioning away from to the NDIS; the Productivity Commission recognised that as fragmented, unfair and broken. Now the Productivity Commission are not the most touchy feely people they do things because it makes economic sense, they recognised that the old system was dysfunctional and was not achieving the best outcomes for people economically or socially, it was very dependent on where you lived as to what services you were eligible for, it was almost like a post code lottery, it also depended very much on your formal diagnosis whereas the NDIS is more needs based so it depends on your functional support needs that you present with as opposed to what diagnosis you have. Obviously that is still being worked out and is not rolling out as smoothly as we would like in some respects, moving away from that diagnosis lottery is really important so that people can actually get support for the things they need and the needs they have as opposed to a formal diagnosis on a piece of paper so it’s about treating people for who they are and what they actually need help with rather than what a piece of paper says they need.

Paul Culliver: What you are talking about there is that it’s needs-based so the idea is that there is an assessment of what you would actually need in your life to be able to live that full life. Is there a danger though that that process can be messed up so if you aren’t able to properly convey either your own needs or perhaps your child’s needs in that assessment phase that you could end up with not what you need.

Kelly Vincent: That’s a really interesting point, while it’s great to say you have all the choice and control, you can choose where you get your services and when, what supports you receive and when, because we’ve lived so long people with disabilities, under a system that made us passive recipients of those services, we were sort of lucky to get what we got and that was the end of the matter, you can’t expect overnight for people to completely understand how to self-manage their funding, how to look for services, how to network, how to be an advocate so I think there’s a really important space for advocacy under the NDIS. Independent advocacy is important because one of my concerns that we are seeing a little bit is service providers starting to provide some of that advice to people about ‘Oh this means we’ll be able to give you so much more services’ and that might be great if the person wants to stay with that particular service provider but if they don’t and they don’t realise that they have an option to move away. There’s almost like a conflict of interest there so we need objective, independent advocacy to make sure that people know how to navigate this huge new system and get the best for their funding that meets their needs.

Paul Culliver: What are you hearing from people that are starting to transition to the scheme in this area and the availability of services.

Kelly Vincent: I think it’s a mixed bag and it doesn’t only apply to regions I think across the country, it’s been a really mixed bag as I said you would by and large expect for such a large reform. In a nutshell I would say generally for people who are young enough to have not been born on the scheme but been born with a disability very newly or acquired a disability very newly at a young age, the transition has been a bit smoother but for the older people transitioning away from the current system it’s a bit more rocky generally speaking I also have concerns for some service providers who might have to travel great distances to provide services because of the geographical challenges and aren’t necessarily getting reimbursed for that which is particularly worrying when we consider that a lot of them, particularly allied health workers like speech pathologists, OTs, are SMEs or even sole traders so they don’t come from a big financial base to begin with so I’m worried that there might be a bit of disincentive to provide services in the region if we don’t some support to service providers or to the person with disability if they need to travel to receive services.

Paul Culliver: What scope is there though to be able to provide that extra support both for the people delivering and also for the people that are applying for NDIS.

Kelly Vincent: You can get a travel allowance in your plan, I think it’s still being worked out as to what exactly that can be used for and whether that can be used for travelling a great distance if you needed to do that to receive your support services and that’s something that we will continue to lobby on. If it’s sitting there in the plan that they’re eligible for these services but they’re not able to get it because of the geographical challenges then the scheme’s not achieving what it’s meant to achieve which is the best outcome for people with disabilities all over this country and so we’ll continue to lobby on that.

Paul Culliver: Is there an opportunity to come and see you?

Kelly Vincent: I’ll be doing a few school tours, I’m also meeting with local councils so if you see me around I’m the one in the wheelchair, well that’s stereotypical, there are more people in wheelchairs than me, but the one with red hair. This is a big part of my job getting people to understand that I’m not the only one and I’m not actually the Minister for Disabilities and while I’m actually on that point it would be really nice to see the NDIA rolling out the NDIS, doing some more briefings to other MPs so that everyone can take responsibility for their constituency when it comes to disability support. But I’m the nerdy looking one with the glasses and the reddish hair, please feel free to come up and say hi because that’s what I’m here to do, talk to people about local issues

Paul Culliver: The possible decriminalisation of sex work that is before the Legislative Council, will probably be voted on in about a month or so, where do you see that going?

Kelly Vincent: Absolutely I personally support the decriminalisation of sex work. Research has shown by and large that this is the best model for providing the best health and the best protection to workers and clients alike. This is frankly the oldest profession, it’s not going away so we need to find the best model possible to protect workers and clients alike and no matter what industry someone chooses to work in in this state they have the right to expect to be as safe and protected as possible so the WHO supports decrim, so does Amnesty International and frankly I think a lot of MPs need to put their morals aside, or so-called morals, and look at the research that by and large supports decriminalisation of sex work for the safety of workers and clients alike so I’m really looking forward to this going to the vote. As you said, I think you said, there’s been a committee that’s been looking into this that has just handed down its report which surprise surprise also supports decriminalisation so we’ve had committee after committee, report after report, it’s time for us to get on with the job that we’re paid to do and make sure that everyone in our community is safe and protected and able to be respected for the work that they do and the taxes that they pay from that work.

Paul Culliver: Thanks.