Letters: Blind workers in too hard basket

Issue 
60% of legally blind people were unemployed and looking for work.

I disagree with a few points in the article “Blind workers fight for jobs at Vision Australia”. There are lots of parts of welfare to work which are not great but there is a particular part which helps people with disabilities be able to compete on the labour market or become self employed more easily.

This is the Job Access Fund [JAF], which is a grant system that gives funding to people with disability to buy infrastructure they need, i.e assistive technology such as talking technology on computers, magnification for the vision impaired or altered desks for a person in a wheelchair.

Stating welfare to work should be scrapped is simplistic since the JAF is part of this.

In regards to unemployment, there was a Vision Australia survey that found 60% of legally blind people were unemployed and looking for work. But when it comes to disability, merely ordering that a company or government department has to employ someone with a disability is not enough, there needs to be a degree of a mindshift.

There is legislation in India, for example, which makes it compulsory for the government to employ a certain percentage of people with disabilities (PWD) in the government workforce. A number of PWD do not feel empowered or engaged as a result of this legislation because they are sometimes told to stay at home yet still get paid.

Having legislation making it compulsory to employ a percentage of PWD's is not enough. A mind shift needs to take place as well. This needs to start with the government taking the lead.

Why are the workers who have been sacked by Vision Australia unlikely to find more employment? It’s because they are in the too hard basket like many of the blind.

Duncan Meerding
Hobart, Tas

SUSTAINABLE AUSTRALIA RESPONDS

In the article “Rise of the populationists greenwashes racism”, Malcolm King claims that: “Talking about population control serves to shift blame from the rich in the West onto those who are least to blame”.

First, Sustainable Population Australia does not advocate “control” as it implies coercion.

Voluntary measures should be sufficient to stabilise and then reduce population numbers and thereby help bring the world back within its biological carrying capacity. Of course the West and highly polluting life-styles are to blame for much of the world's environmental woes, especially in terms of greenhouse gases.

Yet people need to be fed and it is agriculture that not only destroys other species' habitats through land-clearing, but is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

SPA does not advocate contraception as the only means of reducing fertility. You can't “blame” women who have too many children if they do not have the means to control their fertility or the education to pursue a different life-style than merely raising children. Women need empowerment, education and access to a full range of reproductive services.

Those who deny women these things and condone the status quo are the ones practising coercion. For King to go on at length about forced sterilisations in the 1970s that no-one supported, certainly not us, is anachronistic at best. Post-1994 and the International Conference on Population and Development, the focus has rightly been on women's reproductive rights and health.

SPA does, in fact, have environmental credentials. We are recognised as an environmental organisation by the Department of Environment and by the Tax Office. We were set up 25 years ago by people concerned about overpopulation's effect on the environment. Social and economic factors were secondary. Many of us have a background in science so any claims we make are based on science and not ideology.

SPA does not blame immigrants for our environmental problems. If blame is to be sheeted anywhere, it is successive federal governments who have encouraged population growth through incentives for bigger families such as the baby bonus and exceptionally high immigration levels.

The latest State of the Environment: Australia report recognises population growth as one of the major drivers of environmental change. One would hope that a publication that has "Green" in its title would accept this.

Jenny Goldie
President
Sustainable Population Australia
Michelago, NSW

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