10 December 2022

Disability access back on the agenda after decade delay

By Chris Shearer

21 October 2021

DISABILITY advocates hope for an invigoration of stalled plans to ensure the diocese’s public places have disabled access, after a motion passed late Saturday by Anglican Diocese of Melbourne’s synod.

The motion called for the allocation of funding in the 2022-23 budget for a full time dedicated disability access and inclusion officer for a period of two to five years.

It also called on the diocese to reaffirm a 2010 synod resolution that called on parishes and organisation in the diocese to develop plans to remove obstacles that “prevent people affected by disability from sharing in congregational life”. 

Additionally, it noted a 2015 motion passed by synod that required the president to report annually on the progress of this disability plan until at least 98 per cent of the diocese’s public places were disability accessible. 

Speaking for the motion, Jill Pickering of St Stephen’s Richmond said the lack of progress since 2010 may indicate the complexity of the issue or that it wasn’t high on the diocese’s agenda. But Ms Pickering said more should be done to address the problems now. 

“For me it seems that we’re going round and round in circles. We ask for help, we get none,” she said. 

“I realise there are many, many things in this diocese which need careful attention. I’m not trying to put disability above them. But I am strongly trying to get disability at least on an equal footing along with all the other priorities.

“If you can’t get into the church you can’t even begin the process of being heard. So this is really marginalising.”

Ms Pickering’s noted that for a public place to be compliant with disability access, it only needed the one disability-friendly entrance.

“It’s not that complicated,” she said in a passionate speech. 

“We just need someone to concentrate wholeheartedly for say one to two years on getting a process out and ensuring the changes. That’s all we’re asking.”

President of the synod Dr Philip Freier thanked Ms Pickering for her “admonishment” over what he called an important issue of inclusion for the diocese.  

The motion was passed by synod 402 to 16, with 14 abstentions.

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