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Russell Lalara lives in Groote Eylandt and has impaired vision. He would like to get a job to support his family. He explained that this was the first time that he had been asked about his disability.
Russell: I come from here and my name’s Russell Lalara.
Tammy: What’s this place called?
Russell: Groote Eylandt.
Tammy: Now, can you tell us about the disability you have?
Russell: The disability I have…a couple of decades ago I got into a fight.
Sheree: Do you wanna finish your cigarette before we start?
Russell: Yeah yeah, I’m done.
Tammy: Want to keep your hat on?
Russell: Yeah, it keeps the sun from out of my eyes.
Tammy: Alright so where you left off, tell us about you.
Russell: My name is Russell Lalara and I was born here on Groote Eylandt, I live in the community of Angurugu. I was born in 1964 and I’m still living here and struggling. It’s pretty hard for me because of my heart problem. A couple of decades ago I had a problem, I hit on the eye and lost my eyesight on the right side. I had cataracts in the left eye and then after 9, 10 years I’ve got another one in my good eye, which is around 8, 9 years from getting blind. And my vision is not good, it’s still alright but it comes and goes in a split second – it just comes in and goes out again like that. I’ve got what looks like a dark centipede in my vision, it must be the cataracts that I’ve got on my good eye, which got infected from my other eye.
I kept on working, once I was cutting steel with a grinder, but instead of cutting the steel I cut the power cord off and the grinder stopped and I cut off here (looking down towards feet?). I’m just lucky I didn’t get electrocuted. Since then, I gave up my job, I didn’t want to keep working.
Tammy: Because you couldn’t see properly?
Russell: Yeah, I couldn’t see properly, I made a lot of mistakes, I could still drive but not at night. During the day times, yes. But at night when you’ve got bright lights from other cars, nope.
Tammy: Now that you’re not working, what are some challenges you find at home with your disability, with you know your eyesight? What do you struggle with?
Russell: Nothing much, I don’t struggle with anything. Except stay at home, things that are close I can see but not things that are around 200 yards away.
Tammy: Do you still do cooking?
Russell: I still do cooking, you know clean my house. I look after my grandkids, I have two grandkids which are adopted. I grew up my two nieces, I never had a baby between me and my wife. My partner passed away in 2017, last year. So, from then on, I’m still struggling with the two kids. One is 14, one is 12. Their mother, she passed away when she was 21 after she had the kids. I’m still looking after them.
Tammy: What are some things you’d like to do in your life that you can’t do because you’ve got vision problems?
Russell: Hmm, I can’t really do army, I’ve been asking for a job and I can’t get a job, don’t know why, maybe I’m too old (laughs) but nobody’s ever too old here and I still want to work.
Sheree: Is there any information you feel like you need about your vision or support with your life, things like that? Where do you go for information, internet or anything like that?
Russell: Ahh information, I don’t go for information. I just stay at home, and just struggle. I don’t have enough income to look after my kids, it’s just $400 for the pension plus the children’s money, that’s not enough. Now that I’m getting a new house, I’ve got no money, that’ll be a big struggle unless I can get a job, or they give me a job, yes.
Tammy: So you can get things for your kids?
Russell: Yes, furniture, you know things like that.
Sheree: You get support money with the disability, you know the disability support pension?
Russell: No, I don’t get disability money. I did ask, but actually they should be paying me it. This is what I was asking for, but I never get paid for disability. I only get Newstart.
Tammy: And you’ve still got to look for work on Newstart?
Russell: Yeah, I have to, if I’m on Newstart I have to find a job. Otherwise I go back every fortnight, every two weeks and report, make an appointment and after two weeks go back again, I’m sick and tired of it.
Tammy: It’s not safe for you to work aye?
Russell: It’s not safe for me to work, they can’t see what I see, nobody sees what I see or what I do. Not even the doctors can see what I see. They know I have a problem in my eyes, but they’re not in my eyes if you know what I mean. So I struggle.
Tammy: Yeah that’s a struggle, yeah.
Russell: It’s hard for me to get a job. It’s sad but true, but you know aye everybody has their own problems.
Sheree: Well Newstart’s not going to work for you.
Tammy: You got that medical report from doctor?
Russell: Yes I do, maybe I should try and go back and do it again.
Tammy: Yeah, I think so.
Russell: See if I can get some pension money or disability money or something.
Tammy: It’d be worth a try.
Russell: Yes it’d be worth a try, I’ve tried it before.
Sheree: This is a new system starting now, NDIA, purple t-shirt mob, they’re the ones you need to speak with. New system.
Russell: What do they do?
Sheree: For people with disability, you have to be tested, if you qualify, then you choose your own treatment, and you get access to money and you choose how you spend. But you can’t spend it on just anything, it has to be related to your disability, something that helps your disability. But you choose, the doctor doesn’t choose, nobody else chooses, you choose. But you have to get on their system. So next time they come to Angurugu, you have to speak with them and find out.
Tammy: But it can’t be for food and blankets or things like that, furniture, yeah.
Russell: No, no.
Tammy: But if you follow that other thing up and you get onto a different payment then you’ll be able to have a little bit more money to get them things.
Russell: Mm that’s where I am at the moment. But, you know, people like you coming in and asking me if I had a problem, I never had people coming in and asking me if I had a problem.
Sheree: Well that’s a good sign, maybe.
Russell: You’re the first people.