PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5591

OPENING OF ACROD HOUSE, CANBERRA

Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/05/1981

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5591

PRIME MINISTER
FOR MEDIA WEDNESDAY, 20 MAY 1981
OPENING OF ACROD HOUSE, CANBERRA
This is an occasion both for congratulations and for renewed
commitment. This building symbolises a realistic concern for
the well-being of disabled persons within the Australian
community. I have no doubt that this building will be symbolic
of the new hope, and the larger expectations which disabled
persons now have.
And let me say how little I like the term " disabled", which is
a total misnomer for people who are very able indeed in their
various ways. Life now offers a great deal to many people
who, in previous generations, were thought to be at
best-incurable. Too often in the past, and doubtless in some
countries even today, the disabled were ignored, or shut away.
We are now realising more and more that disabled persons
should be treated as-having-essentially-the-same. rights, needs
and aspirations, as other members of our comrmunity. And
indeed, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of
Disabled Persons is an integral part of the Parliamentary Act
which will govern the operations of our new Human Rights
Commission. Disabled persons shouid be encouraged to develop their capacities
to the fullest extent. Disabled persons should also be
enabled, so far as possible, to live with their families in
the general community. Many disabled people are now able to
live almost completely normal lives, whereas only a very few
years ago, everyone assumed that such people could have none
of the . satisfactions of a normal. life, or an independent life
of their own. But now the whole world recognises that the
potentiality of disabled people has been greatly underestimated,
-and that approaches to rehabilitation have been vastly inadequate.
When I had the privilege last year of launching John Hickman's
book One SteD at a Time, I spoke of the way he coped with
the tasks of everyday living, spending a night away from home,
cooking a meal for himself, emptying the vacuum cleaner,
even hitting Sir Garfield Sobers for six, taking on the
bureaucracy, and occasionally winning. It was miraculous that
he could do these things, but increasingly, we want disabled
persons to be doing them as a matter of course. / 12

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1981 is the International Year of Disabled Persons. Only a
decade or so ago, the idea of having such a year would have
been unthinkable. We now recognise that disabled persons have
a contribution to make to the life of the world. Remarkable
changes have occurred in community attitudes in a comparatively
short-time. Of course, there is still far to go. But I am
confident that the activities of this year will be a worthwhile
contribution in removing the old ideas and myths. Once it is
accepted that the disabled are full members of the family and
society, then employment opportunities must be extended, to
ensure that the disabled can really participate as full members__-
of society, able to make their own separate contributions.
This will give further substance to the theme chosen by the
United Nations for the International Year of the Disabled
Persons " Full Participation and Equality". And after this
special year, there will be need for consolidation of the
gains that have been made, and an appraisal of further directions
and further gains which need to be pursued in the years ahead.
Nearly every statement of human objectives in nearly every
culture assigns a high value to work as part of the complete
life. Work plays an important role in personal self-fulfillment
and achievement. Productive employment is, therefore, widely
regarded as a crucial component in a rehabilitation programme.
Day after day passing by without the challenge of tasks to be
performed can be depressing indeed. Mr Watts has told us that
it is something like 45 years since the idea of a national
body specifically concerned with disabled persons was first
discussed. Since-that--time--en-ormous-str-ides--have been made.
ACROD House is the culmination of considerable efforts.
It will certainly provide a focal point for the organisation
at the national level of programmes directed to achieve the
full participation and equality of disabled persons in the--
life of the community. The building provides a wonderful
facility. And it is an exemfplar of how architects should
take account of the particular requirements of the disabled.
But of course it cannot substitute for the efforts and the
dedication of those who are concerned to bring about in
increasing measure the full participation and equality to
which I have referred.
This Government has a very strong commitment indeed to the
goals of ACROD. I am very pleased about the Government
contribution for meeting the cost of this building. We are
also proud that over a billion dollars is being spent in
this financial year on programmes for the handicapped and
the disabled, this is more than double the amount of five
years ago, and it is a very considerable increase indeed
in real terms.-It is money well spent. And let me say that
one of the benefits of the policy of financial restraint and
responsibility we have consistently followed is that we have
been able to do more in areas which we regard as of high
priority. Programs for the handicapped and the disabled have
this high priority. For not only are these programmes designed
to help those who have one of the most legitimate claims of all
to make upon the community.

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In' addition, our programmes help disabled persons to enjoy
the satisfactions and independence which are essential to the
way of life which we seek for this country, we also seek to
help disabled persons to play a more productive role in. the
community. Our approach is to treat the disabled asindividuals
who can gain acceptance and employment in their
own right, although they may need special training and
support so that they can be employed. Assistance to ACROD
so that it can have its own headquarters, as a focal point
in the national capital, is a tangible bricks and mortar
contribution in the International Year of Disabled Persons.
Our other activities are designed to achieve the longer-term
objectives related to awareness and employment. A key element..
in our approach to help the disabled find satisfying work
is a national employment strategy for the disabled, which was
launched last month. The objective behind the strategy is
to place more disabled persons in employment and training,
and to ensure that they are given an equal opportunity in
the . Labour market. Of course, not all disabled persons can
find work in the open market, and we will continue to support
sheltered workshops as well as rewarding training schemes.
The Commonwealth is also looking at its own buildings to
ensure that they are accessible to the disabled, both as
clients and employees..
I believe that the efforts being made in Australia to make
certain-. that disabled persons are fully involved will enrich
tie_--ife-of our community. All credit to AC. ROD for what it
has done, and all credit to the whole Australian community
for its increasing maturity in recognising the rights of
the disabled. I-ay this building be the means of wider
participation and greater equality in Australia. It gives
me great pleasure to open this building, and to unveil this
plaque.

Transcript 5591