In Hobart this week was the Greens national conference with delegates and members from all over the country coming together to work on policy, ideas and celebrate 25 years of the Australian Greens.
Among the participants was newest Western Australian Senator, 23 year old, Jordan Steele-John and Tammy Milne, alderman of the Devonport City Council – both users of wheelchairs and strong advocates for the rights of people living with disability.
Tammy Milne said it was a great having people living with disability in all levels of government, federal, state and local government – meaning that the voices of people living with disability are at the forefront of policy as well as in the public domain where people can see that people living with disability are able to be successful at whatever fields of work they choose.
People living with disabilities in politics gives depth and reality to discussion that could another otherwise be sterile and academic. People living with disabilities know the reality of day-to-day living, the struggles and what needs to change to make life better for all people living with disabilities.
These changes also have a flow-on effect for instance with access. If people in wheelchairs are able to negotiate areas and have good access so can older people as well as mums and prams and families.
Having people with disabilities in government means these changes are able to be made with confidence that they are indeed what people living with disabilities need. We often have a network of friends who are able to discuss their needs with us. In my own case I have deaf and visually-impaired friends that I am always mindful of when talking about accessibility as well as friends with neurological issues. Accessibly does not just mean flat wheelchair friendly but equity for everyone.
During my time thus far on Devonport City Council I have been able to have a bus shelter redesigned to suit visually impaired people and give access to wheelchairs and also negotiate the soon to be convened Disability Access Policy for Devonport City Council.
The Australian Greens have a strong belief in having diversity in our government – this being the case both for Alderman and Senator Steele-John are examples of the success of this.