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Why Indigenous Australians need a properly funded NDIS


Why Indigenous Australians need a properly funded NDIS

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) presents an overwhelming opportunity to revolutionise the care and support given to Indigenous people. But the equity of the scheme is already at risk, with treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday warning the scheme will have to be made more efficient.

Our research for the NDIS this year revealed that people living in the remote communities face a complex web of system failures spanning health care, disability services, housing and infrastructure.

Without political will and bi-partisan commitment from all tiers of government to address the chronic gaps in infrastructure and health-care delivery, the NDIS scheme can't deliver on its promises in very remote Indigenous communities.

Current shortcomings

We investigated acquired brain injury (ABI) within Indigenous populations. Talking with people living on Cape York and in the Northern Territory, we were shocked by the low level of understanding of the ABI condition - by carers in remote communities, through to highly qualified medical practitioners.

We found no reliable, culturally appropriate instruments to measure and assess the extent of one's impairment, without which eligibility for the NDIS would be difficult to establish. This could prevent thousands from benefiting from the scheme.

The 2010 National Prisoner Health census found 41% of female and 38% of male prison entrants reported having sustained at least one head injury that led to loss of consciousness. Knowing that Indigenous people are over-represented in the prison population, many live with an ABI.

People with ABIs rarely receive early intervention treatment; their first contact with the justice system is often in their home communities when their behaviour becomes unmanageable and anti-social, threatening the safety of others. They're met by police, are charged and go to court. They may receive a community service order but if they breach its conditions they return to court, receive a jail sentence, and risk aggravated assault in jail causing further injury to the brain. And so the cycle continues.

Of course, not all people with an ABI are problematic to carers and communities. In every place we visited, we were told of the vital importance of caring for people, on country. But the burden of care is so high in places where infrastructure and services are chronically deficient.

References and further information

This article was originally produced by The Conversation.


To read the rest of the article visit The Conversation website 


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