I was part of the audience for Q&A on Monday 25 June. It was specially themed around the NDIS. I haven’t been to a regular Q&A, but I imagine that the attendees are usually those interested in the typical run of the mill politics. But on Monday, as we waited to be shown to the film studio, I realised that this edition was about people with personal stories to tell, people with a shared sense of identity who just wanted to try and find answers.
I met one lady with autism. She was devastated that her question hadn’t been shortlisted… upset that maybe she didn’t matter. But we spoke for a while and she realised that rather than her question being unimportant, she was actually part of a big group who asked the same thing. It wasn’t about whether she mattered or not. She actually belonged and had strength in the numbers of people who felt strongly about the same thing. And her question would be asked, albeit differently and by someone else. There are many ways to have a voice - perhaps we can shout out as individuals, but on occasion, we have strength by being part of a tribe, all united by a common purpose.
I did not get to ask my question either, but Sarah who was with me had another version of my thought, and she did get called. It was about carers navigating the NDIS.
Sadly, the panel didn’t provide what I would call an answer. Instead, panelists digressed and spoke about bad IT systems. They talked about rights, they mused on living a life that one deserves, but they did not mention unpaid carers. Though we did learn that NDIS call centre staff are not apparently given empathy or disability training. Maybe between all those thoughts lies some clue as to what an answer should contain, but not an answer per se.
Always tempting to blame the processes or the systems, isn't it? These look like easy scapegoats because they never fight back. Machines don't get happy, they don't get sad, they just run programs. But what I realised, even more on that particular evening, is that it is the outcome that matters. We must be clear about what we want and find a way around the hurdles, rather than an excuse to blame. Because that's when we stop making progress.
It is easy at times to give up because the computer platform is no good, or the policy says the goal impossible. But when we are determined to do what is right, persistent, tenacious, curious and compassionate, then invariably we find our answers, and more importantly, we get to test our questions too.