I rise to speak in support of this bill. What I have found since being elected is that I have been provided with an opportunity to meet with a whole range of people from diverse backgrounds who confront a number of issues in their daily lives. The area of people with differing abilities is one I have taken a particular interest in.
Whilst many of us in this chamber, regardless of what political party we belong to, have very strong principles in relation to social justice, the fact remains that we have differing levels of understanding of particular issues within the realm of social justice. Indeed many of us, if we do not have people in our own families who are experiencing or have had situations that are different from the majority, are poorer for it in many respects. I have found this to be the case in respect of people with differing abilities. I believe the education parliamentarians receive as a result of being out in the wider community is of enormous benefit, particularly when we are confronted with making decisions and speaking on these types of bills, which some of us, prior to entering this chamber, would not have had too much exposure to.
I had the privilege last week of attending the launch of Bar None, which is a campaign that the government and community members of varying abilities are heavily involved in.
It was the launch in Geelong of a campaign that is all about the inclusion of all types of people regardless of ability. I can tell the house that the people who spoke at that launch instilled in me great humility and much optimism in respect of there being that degree of advocacy on behalf of people with different abilities to take us forward. I support this bill.
It is probably one of those areas that many people in the community have not thought all that much about. As I said, unless it affected someone in your own family or your extended family, you probably would not think about it. It is nonsensical that there are members of our community who have not been able to construct a will that will determine their intention in relation to their accumulated assets and other things. It goes to the very core of our being able to look after each other as a community, not just in respect of a person who has a disability but also those people in the community who are looking after that person. It provides a safety net for them and an understanding of the consequences and the parameters within which they go about their lives.
There is a case in point that I will draw upon. It involves a child who was hit by a car and as a result was left profoundly intellectually and physically disabled. Her parents divorced when she was still a child, and she then had no contact with her father. She received an award of compensation for the car accident, but that money was in part used to buy the house in which she lives with her mother and stepfather. Her mother and stepfather are her primary caregivers and maintain and improve the family home. She does not have the capacity to make her own will.
If she were to predecease her mother, the laws of intestacy would mean that her estate would be split equally between her mother and father, and if her mother predeceased her, the full entitlement would go to her father even though she has not seen him and he has not been involved in her care.
In lots of ways it is not just about the individual. It is about making sure that the people who are around and who are caring for the person are treated as proper family members in all respects, because, as in this circumstance, they have been involved with the child and have gone beyond all reasonable levels in the so-called normal world to ensure that the child has at least some quality of life.
This bill needs to be vigorously supported. It enhances the rights and dignity of people with disabilities by enabling their property to be distributed appropriately having regard to their current situation. I commend the bill.