BY IAN KIRKWOOD
GRAHAM Burgess is a determined man.
As the Newcastle Herald recently reported, he walked across the Nullarbor Plain at the start of this year, pulling a 180-kilogram cart behind him.
At 73, he has a list of trekking achievements that would put most people half his age to shame, and it appears he applies the same determination to other aspects of life, especially where his son, Stuart, is concerned.
Stuart, 51, lives in a state government group home at Belmont, which his father described as ‘‘a magnificent set-up, a benchmark for the sort of design that allows someone with a disability to go to and stay forever’’.
But he said the National Disability Insurance Scheme, along with the state government’s decision to ‘‘give away’’ or close its disability assets by 2018, had threatened that expectation.
In general, Mr Burgess feared the NDIS would become a Trojan horse for big multi-national for-profit ‘‘care’’ companies, who he said would undercut the non-profit sector that most people thought of as providing disability care. Right now, he feared that residents of at least some group homes – including his son’s – were being signed up for NDIS packages without proper independent representation.
He said the sort of care his son and others received, including regular visits from a psychiatrist, was threatened by the NDIS because the pricing being built into the system would rule out the use of expensive specialists.
Mr Burgess said a campaign by the Public Service Association to keep the Stockton Centre open and oppose the privatisation of state disability services was ‘‘not simply about jobs’’.
‘‘I have a social conscience and seek the truth behind the lines being put forward by the government on the NDIS,’’ Mr Burgess said.
‘‘The PSA’s actions are … about the people for whom they have cared for, in some cases for decades on end. I urge the people of Newcastle to rise up against this tragedy of farce being foisted upon the community.’’
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