Tag: change

Changing Attitudes Changes Lives

Dave changed his attitude, which changed my life. This is how it happened.

I roared out of the garage of Sydney University, and the College of Law, a shiny new lawyer. My social justice engine, fuelled by its knowledge of unfair dismissals and unconscionable contracts, was ready to drive people from the back roads of disadvantage onto the freeway of life.

Then reality kicked in. I spun my wheels for twelve months while I went to thirty job interviews. I didn’t get any of those jobs, mostly because employers could not comprehend how a blind person could work as a lawyer.

So that shiny new baby lawyer took a job as a Clerical Assistant, the first step in the NSW Public Service. I used to joke that I was the only clerical assistant in the NSW public service with a law degree.

My first job was answering the telephone, and telling people the winning lotto numbers. I was made redundant from that role by an answering machine.

After a short stint at the Land Titles office, I found a job in the Department of Consumer Affairs. Again I was answering the telephone, but at least I was providing advice to consumers. But I was still the only clerk with a law degree.

Then I met Dave. He was the Senior Legal Officer at the Department. We used to chat at the coffee machine, and at drinks in the pub across the road on a Friday night. I kept talking to him about how I wanted to be a lawyer, and how I would do the job if I could get it. He wasn’t absolutely convinced, but agreed to give me a try. Dave’s change of attitude changed my life.

I worked as a Clerk in Legal, and then as a Legal Officer. I contributed to the department’s work on bicycle helmet regulations, and the National Uniform Credit Code. I was there in a time of reform, when Sid Einfeld was the Minister for Consumer Affairs. I was living the dream.

Then the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act was amended to include disability as a ground of discrimination, and the President of the ADB, Carmel Niland, wanted someone with lived experience of disability, and some knowledge of the sector, as a conciliator. I had made it.

I made it because I was determined, and because Dave changed his attitude. He was definitely not convinced that a blind person could operate as a lawyer, but he decided to give it a tryPeople with disabilities in Australia are limited by the soft bigotry of low expectations. We don’t get appointed to jobs that we know we can do, because others think that we can’t. We are not offered the careers that we want, we are told what more limited careers we can have. We don’t do things because people assume – usually incorrectly – that we can’t.

I, and the Board of the Attitude Foundation in Australia, want to change those attitudes, because we know that changing attitudes changes lives. We will use film, television, media and the internet to change those attitudes.

You can work with us, and others like you, to change attitudes.

You can write the story of how attitudes changed, and be a guest blogger.

You can become a supporter, and recruit others to our cause.

You can contribute to Attitude Foundation Australia.

Go to http://www.attitude.org.au now, and let’s start changing lives today.

My seat on the bus

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly site harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” Change according to CS Lewis.

Stephen Hawking also believes in change. He said “I have noticed even people who claim everything is pre-destined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road”.

And David Mamet, through the script of “Wag the Dog”, thinks change requires co-operation. “For progress to occur, it is necessary for two generations to agree”.

In my view, change is easy. It’s awareness, and willingness to change, that require effort.

Seven-year-old Duncan’s parents are worried. He’s about to be suspended from school.

Duncan and his family live just outside a regional town in Victoria, Australia. He catches the bus to school each day – the first stop on the route is right outside his house, so he gets the seat right behind the driver. He returns on the bus at the end of the school day. He’s doing all right at school, and getting on with friends.

But the school says he has been violent towards other children on the bus in the afternoons. Duncan (not his real name) has autism.

The school Principal is supportive of Duncan’s attendance, but the school has a strong anti-violence policy with which she must comply. She can only conclude that the school day is too tiring for Duncan.

Mum and Dad both work, so can’t pick him up, and Grandma – who minds him in the afternoons – doesn’t drive. Parents and teachers have talked to Duncan about the problem, but the reports of hitting and pinching keep coming. Suspension seems the only option.

Duncan’s mum has read about the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, and State and Federal disability discrimination legislation. She knows how much Duncan loves school, and wants to do everything she can. As a last resort, she talks to a Disability Rights Advocate.

The Advocate contacts the Principal, and details Duncan’s rights to education, and the need for the school to provide reasonable adjustment for Duncan. The Principal agrees that the Advocate can observe Duncan for a day at school before she imposes the suspension.

The Advocate sees that Duncan is happy on the way to school, and during school. The problem only occurs on the way home, when all of the kids rush onto the bus, and Duncan can’t sit in the front seat. So, with a small change to routine to let Duncan get on the bus first, and sit in the front seat, his education continues.

Have you seen situations where a small change can make a big difference? Comment below!

This story was obtained from the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and has been used by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes in a number of his speeches.

Graeme Innes thirsts for change, and is passionate in his belief that a successful sustainable society is a society which includes everyone.