Support Travel Rights for Australian Deaf & Disabled people

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The Problem:

In 2015 the Federal Government limited Australians on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) to only four weeks travel overseas per year.

Past the four week point, Australians on DSP get cut off.

The DSP is income replacement for people who can’t enter the conventional labour market due to barriers placed in the way of Deaf people and people with impairments. This 4 week rule discriminates against Deaf and disabled people and penalises us for seeking social inclusion, and career and training opportunities, as well as recreation options.

We are Australian citizens who vote, who pay bills and rent/mortgage, plus we have living expenses to consider while travelling that include food and transport. These traveling expenses can also be greater for us, eg. Travel insurance, where premiums increase when you disclose that you’re disabled.

Travel overseas is not a luxury. In 2017 10.5 million Australians, or nearly 50%, travelled overseas.

We’ve been effectively told we are different from these other Australians, that we don't deserve to travel.

The reality is that since 2015 we as Deaf and disabled people are missing out on regular life experiences, career development and unique study or health options.

The reality is that according to the ABS, 50% of Australians with disabilities are unemployed and over 60% of us live below the poverty line. Our employment statistics are so bad that for many of us, overseas travel offers us work and development opportunities we simply do not have here in Australia.

These include: artist grants to travel abroad and study (where we’re limited to full time study only), the Churchill Fellowship, volunteer or part-time or contract employment opportunities, residencies and attachments for specific projects or exhibitions; as well as the opportunity to stay with family and enjoy cultural activities, or assist in an acute family crisis, or for humanitarian reasons, or for eligible health treatments unavailable in Australia; or learning experiences which tend to run for more than 4 weeks.

Often these opportunities go for between four months and two years.

Many of us have had to knock back work, grants, scholarships, adventures and awards because we can't keep our pension to survive for living expenses while abroad. Also, due to our low levels of employment generally, we face the same work discrimination when overseas. Where another person can subsidise a grant with part time work or casual work, those of us in the Deaf and disability community generally do not have the same access to casual work overseas, thus perpetuating our poverty and underemployment cycle.

Social and professional isolation harm Deaf and disabled people. This 4 week condition dis-empowers our growth, our learning and our exposure to the sorts of projects occurring in other countries besides our own.

We have no option but to protest as the NDIS currently refuses to fund living expenses abroad too.

Our Demands

We need our right to travel abroad for up to two years without losing/suspending our disability pensions. We want this reinstated.

We would like to see the discrimination removed on our right to travel abroad, and we would like to keep our pensions while we travel as we have living expenses to consider both back at home and while traveling.

Personal stories:

• Michelle - In 2016, I won an artist grant to travel abroad, and I had to go for 6 weeks to do projects in Paris and UK, and this was in less than 12 months that I had already travelled overseas to do an exhibition, so in total I had done 10 weeks in 12 months between 2015 and 2016, so I lost the pension for the whole 6 weeks of my travel in 2016! This was extremely upsetting for me as I found I had no money to feed myself or use transport. I may as well have been homeless, had I not had support from family and friends, as well as "busking" on the street with my artworks! After I returned to Australia, I found myself in DEEP debt of thousands of dollars because I could not pay the bills or mortgage!!!!! I struggled for more than a year after this, and ended up selling my house to return to Victoria to live with parents, and I was fortunate to be able to get a house in country Victoria for much less than the house in Adelaide!

• Kath – won a Scholarship to attend the Unlimited Festival in London in 2018, and had already planned an overseas holiday for 3 weeks, to come back in time to not lose the DSP. Couldn’t fly back and fly out so I had to extend my stay and I lost 2 weeks’ worth of benefits. A difficult time to cover the extra expenses, like scooter hire, but I felt I had to grasp the opportunity, as these are rare.

• Andrew - Overseas gigs aren't paid as such.... Berlin last year we had our flights and accommodation plus a daily allowance... but this was to be able to eat and get around over there....we still had to pay rent and bills back home... this was only a 2 week stint which didn’t affect our DSP's.... but I wondered what happened if I landed a gig which went on would I keep a roof over my family's head?

• Jeremy - Having been awarded a Create NSW Fellowship for professional development, I have come to realise that it is not economically viable for me to attend a residency in New York without any form of income support. This also affects my ability to travel to other cultural and educational opportunities, let alone cover my I meant to return to Australia after one month despite being offered professional artist residencies in 2 countries in order to satisfy a discriminatory and unjust policy?

• Laz - I can't work full time, never have and never will easily be able to. I don't have the assets available that able bodied working people in Australia have. I can't save up 6 months extra rent or bills money for while I am away, I don't get to earn enough. So I have been planning for many years to have a big travel and now this. This disrespectful kick in the face is that I will be cut off from DSP support if I want to fulfil any of my travel dreams. I now can’t go. I am not going to spend an extremely large (for me) amount of money just for approximately 24 days travel! It's an insult and a discrimination, institutionalising disabled people's living experiences to a minimalist pauper level.

• John - I've had to defer acceptance twice as a doctoral candidate because the scholarship interfered with my pension and I couldn't balance the books without it! My partner/ career is a disability pensioner so accepting or even applying for an overseas opportunity is totally out of the question let alone going overseas to study or study for a year!
We all have so much to contribute DESPITE our difference! The treatment we receive under these stupid rules makes one feel that all the bureaucracy wish that they could apply retroactive abortions on us!
It's just so unfair and exclusionary!

• Rachel - I was cut off from centrelink while I went to work in Singapore. now I have to wait a year before I can go overseas again

• Peter - I was aware of the DSP being cut off if expands holidays or host the festivals show at overseas. The money I had was from beneficiary and should have happiness to enjoy the overseas trips but 4 weeks a year is not enough.

We are members of CACK! Deaf and Disabled Creatives Across Australia. You can find us on Facebook at: