Love or Financial Independence? The Disabled Dilemma

Michael Pendergast (Convenor, QUT Guild Disability Collective)

With the current growing cost of living and housing crisis, people who receive the Disability Support Pension (DSP) already have limited financial independence. This independence is further undermined by the practice of determining the amount a disabled person in a relationship receives from the DSP based on how much their partner earns. Many non-disabled people may not know this, but it’s an unfortunate fact of life for many disabled people.

Disabled people are required to disclose their relationship status to Centrelink, which can lead to their DSP rate being reduced by up to 100%, depending solely on the income of their partner. People do not have to be married or live together for this to happen. Why should a disabled person be forced to sacrifice their financial independence when they find a partner? How is that fair?

This puts disabled people in serious danger, as it might lead to them being trapped in abusive relationships simply because they cannot afford to escape. Disabled people are also not afforded the right of having both a relationship and financial independence, as their sole source of income ends up being from their partner.

In addition, disabled Australians are already disadvantaged by the base rate of the DSP being a measly $1026.50 per fortnight, which totals an annual income of $24,624. This equates to
about half of the median Australian annual income, and about a third of the average Australian annual income. Could you live on that?

It is long overdue for the practice of disadvantaging disabled people who are in a relationship to be abolished. Disabled people deserve to be financially independent of their partners. We deserve to not have our freedom revoked simply because we choose to be in a relationship.

We have the power to urge our elected representatives to abolish it. Currently, there is a petition to the Federal Parliament calling to abolish this. As of writing this, over 9,000 people have signed this petition, which closes Wednesday, 19th of April at 11pm AEST. I urge you to join them in the fight for disabled people’s fight for financial freedom.

You can sign the petition here.

The fight for disability rights has a long way to go, but we have to power to make change happen.

To stay up to date on this and other campaigns, plus more on life on campus for disabled students, you can follow the QUT Guild Disability Collective on Facebook and @DisabilityCollectiveQUT on Instagram.

If you are a disabled student, you can join the Collective here and join our private Facebook Group.

About the author:

Michael Pendergast (he/him) is the Convenor of the QUT Guild Disability Collective. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Urban Development (Urban and Regional Planning) at QUT.

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