Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Friday, 24 October 2008


It's been an interesting week. I spent Monday to Friday traveling around my largest circuit which took me 700 km west. The work is largely about supporting students with physical impairments, and some of it involves visiting the families where these children live, particularly when they're very small, so that plans can be set in motion to make whatever adjustments are necessary to allow their access to school. I've covered over 2500km this week.

Because it's Queensland, the schools are almost universally built on stumps, accessed by stairways. This is a problem for kids in wheelchairs. One of my jobs is to write access audits for the principals so that they have the information they need to plan for these students. Often, because of financial planning issues, the reports need to be available many years before enrollment. So I try to make an assessment of the student-to-be well in advance of actual enrollment, and often the children are as young as three.

On Thursday, I visited the home of a three year old girl with an undiagnosed condition. She is a beautiful child, but requires around the clock care. She is tube-fed, and still doesn't sleep through the night. She is delightfully responsive, mostly cheerful and loved dearly by her mum and dad who live on a very remote cattle and sheep property accessed by a road that is impassable after a few showers of rain.

Her mother has done a fantastic job in setting up learning programs for her, ably assisted by a visiting support teacher who spends a few hours with her every week. It takes about two hours to get to the property from the nearest town, and the nearest (very small) school is about an hour's drive to the south.

There is support from health and disability agencies, but the support teacher is the only professional who actually visits her home. To access therapy (very important for this child), the mother has to take her to a health clinic. Routinely, she has to travel the 600km to Brisbane to access the range of specialist services necessary.

This is by no means an unusual situation. The devotion and sheer grit demonstrated by her parents in ensuring she lives the best quality of life possible is inspirational, but not unusual in rural communities. Her mother simply hasn't had a break in three years, since her little girl was born. She dismisses this with a philosophical shrug – for her it just isn't an issue.

On the day I was there, her dad was out meulsing, but he came in for lunch, and after a quick cleanup (meulsing is a messy activity), he and his two brothers sat down with his wife and the visitors (the support teacher and I) to have lunch. There ensued a lively conversation, and one of the issues discussed was executive remuneration. Given that lack of public funding is often given as a rationale for lack of services in the bush, it occurred, as a passing thought, how much difference the injection of some private money might make to this situation. The parents could, for example, get some respite. They could also employ someone to run a stimulation programme with this little girl so that she might develop some language skills. She's certainly showing some strong pre-communicative behaviours.

I wonder if any of the Masters of the Universe receiving packages in excess of say, 10 million per annum, spare a thought for people in these situations? I wonder whether there is any angst associated with these obscene amounts?

I guess not – Australian Execs aren't noted for philanthropy.

In any case, I find the selfless love demonstrated by these families inspirational, and you can't put a price on that.


"Grendel" said...

It would be interesting to compare philanthropy between Australia and the USA. I don't think their CEOs are any better than our and the salary disparity still exists, but the US at least has a long tradition of private philanthropy to provide some balance.

To what extent that still exists I am not sure.

1735099 said...

This is interesting -

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