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Devil in the detail for Thalidomide support package

After almost a decade of campaigning, the $44 million compensation package announced in today’s budget has the potential to be a huge win for Thalidomide survivors, who have been fighting for decades to get the recognition and support they deserve from the Australian government.

Australian Greens Disability Rights spokesperson Senator Jordon Steele-John said that after a lifetime of discrimination, bullying, ongoing health problems and even suicide, Thalidomide survivors and their families now finally had an opportunity for justice.

“Like so many things with the Morrison Government the devil will be in the detail, and it is disappointing that survivors have not been given the information that they need right now,” Steele-John said.

"Health Minister Greg Hunt has called Thalidomide his 'passion project' and over the last 18 months he has met with survivors, advocates and Greens representatives on countless occasions. 

"We know that he has heard from the community what they need, however it is not clear that the package in today’s budget will meet those expectations.

“A letter from Lisa McManus on behalf of Thalidomide Group Australia - a group representing forgotten survivors of the pharmaceutical disaster - asking for help was one of the first things on my desk when I became a Senator in 2017.

"I want to commend Lisa and all Thalidomide survivors for their tireless work and advocacy over the past 60 years. Because of you, the Australian government  has finally acknowledged the role that their predecessors played in this medical disaster.

“All that survivors have been asking for is an acknowledgement of the failures that led to this health disaster and a guarantee that the remaining 130 survivors will get the support that they need for the rest of their lives.

“Survivors like Lisa shouldn’t have had to fight so hard to get assistance from the people they elect to represent them.

"I will continue to work with survivors to get the detail about this package that is needed and if it falls short, work to expand it so that it provides the support that survivors and their families need for the rest of their lives, and meets the expectations set by the Senate Inquiry."

Here's what we know so far:

  • A lump sum compensation payment of between $75,000 and $500,000 scaled according to the level of disability;

  • An ongoing annual pension between $5000 and $60,000 scaled according to the level of disability; 

  • An Extraordinary Assistance Fund worth over $10 million will be established to aid survivors to meet major expenses such as home and vehicle modification from 2020‑21;

  • A healthcare assistance fund worth almost $4 million; and 

  • An official government apology.

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