Building community

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Canberra, Disability Community

The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East serve as reminders of the fragile state of the world – a particular concern for People with Disability.

Andrew Leigh explaining the economic impact of coronavirus in an ANU radio studio last year.

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At a recent speech at the ANU’s Crawford School, Charities Minister Andrew Leigh emphasised the fragility and vulnerability of civil society, together with the vital need to nurture and preserve community. 

Leigh pointed out it’s now possible “to walk across nearly the widest part of Africa, from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, passing only through countries that have suffered coups in the past three years”. This, however, is not just a problem for democracy. 

The result of economic instability across the world has now resulted in more than a quarter of countries being led by populist governments. This has an immediate economic knock-on effect. 

“Populists,” Leigh says, “erode democratic institutions, and undermine economic growth. Fifteen years after populists take power, income per person is 10 percent lower than it would otherwise have been.” 

What’s particularly critical about this is that people are aware their personal income isn’t buying as much as it used to. They feel under pressure and this has a compounding effect. The outcome of this is often natural: a shrinking of empathy towards others, even those worse off. 

Leigh warned Australia too is suffering from this crisis of disconnection. 

Leigh says “Australians have become less likely to play a team sport, less likely to join a community group, less likely to volunteer, and less likely to donate to charity.” 

Anecdotal comments emerging from focus groups bear out the Charity Minister’s point. 

Some individuals feel they are already paying for the needs of People with Disability through the NDIS. The result has been the shrinking ‘charity dollar’, or amount that is given towards those who are not eligible to be brought into the scheme. 

One of the critical premises of the NDIS Review is that People with Disability are an integral part of any community. 

Comments already made by individual members of the NDIS Review suggest they are well aware of the need to rebalance the scheme in this regard, and will recommend this when they deliver their review.