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Mark Moodie is on the dole because he can’t open his front door

Email Darwin quadriplegic says NDIA rejections are stopping him from getting a job By Emily Smith

Posted May 04, 2019 08:50:20

A close up shot of Mark Moodie in his house Photo: Mark Moodie is hoping to return to work but requires support from the NDIA. (ABC News: Emily Smith) Related Story: Family's fight to get help for their toddler reveals cracks in national system Related Story: How an 8yo schoolboy with complex disorders fell through the cracks of two government institutions Related Story: Parents of quadriplegic man say NDIS funding delay left them feeling 'broken' Map: Darwin 0800

Mark Moodie is on the dole because he can not open his front door.

Key points:

  • Mark Moodie became a quadriplegic in 2013 after falling from a motorbike in his son's backyard
  • He is trying to secure a new wheelchair, an automated door and bathroom upgrades from the NDIA
  • He estimates they would cost $73,000 and allow him to re-join the workforce

The 51-year-old quadriplegic has been rendered a prisoner inside his fourth-floor Darwin city apartment by a round, metallic doorhandle that is impossible for him to twist.

Yet the National Disability Insurance Agency has rejected his application to swap it for an automated alternative.

Not only did that deny him a chance at some rare independence, but it poses a serious safety threat.

"If we did have a fire, I'm buggered," Mr Moodie said.

But his main frustration is that until he can leave his house, he can't get a job — a goal he has been striving towards for years and which would eventually reduce his reliance on the government agency.

"I've still got a functioning brain. I can still get work. But I can't get out of my house to do it," he said.

"I hate being on the dole. And there's no reason why I should be.

"It's just so frustrating. Because my hands don't work, I can't turn the doorknob.

"If I go anywhere, even if someone opens the door to let me out, someone always has to be here to let me back in again."

Along with the door, he has made two other requests to the NDIA that would help him re-join the workforce: upgrades to his bathroom so he can shower independently, and a wheelchair with bigger wheels that would prevent the 140-kilogram machine tipping or getting bogged on rough surfaces.

All up, he said it would cost $73,000 — far beyond the means of his $500-a-week pension but a drop in the ocean for the national agency.

Mark Moodie and his carer approach his front door Photo: Mark Moodie can't open his front door without assistance. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

'Pure terror'

Mr Moodie learned what pure terror was on September 22, 2013 when he woke up in a hospital bed and could only move his eyeballs.

The three stand with their arms around each other Photo: Mark Moodie stands with his parents, before he became a quadriplegic. (Supplied: Mark Moodie)

Until that moment he had spent his entire life in the bush — going to school in Alice Springs, celebrating his 21st at the Hayes Creek pub, working in road construction and barge landings throughout the Territory.

He said he went to East Timor to help the United Nations as it fought for independence and to Indonesia to build a hydro electric dam.

As a teenager, he said he was even the fastest cross-country runner in the Northern Territory and qualified for the Pacific Games.

But that life of constant movement ended when he went to Townsville to visit his son, fell from a kids motorbike in the backyard and broke his neck.

"Before that, nothing would scare me, basically," he said.

"I'd been out bush all my life and worked hard, around animals and everything.

"But the feeling of just being able to move my eyeballs — I couldn't speak or anything because all the tubes in my mouth, because I couldn't breathe for myself or anything at that stage.

"To think I'd never be able to walk again, do anything again, just be a head on a pillow, it was just devastating."

Mark Moodie moves through his living room in a wheelchair Photo: Mark Moodie is hoping for the NDIA to fund modifications to his home. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

That day marked the beginning of more than 18 months of rehabilitation in Queensland, before moving in with his son and brother in Palmerston, 30 kilometres from Darwin.

The wheels of Mark Moodie's wheelchair pictured in his tiled kitchen Photo: A different wheelchair with bigger wheels would allow Mark Moodie to travel to worksites without getting bogged. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

While carers came to help, he said they were poorly trained and the experience was "just hell".

"I got dropped over 40 times. Knocked a cap off my teeth," he said.

"I was recovering from a broken neck and they were dropping me on my neck every week for nearly three years."

Photographs provided by Mr Moodie show severe bruising and damaged skin, that he said were made by being roughly handled by the carers.

While he said he brought the issue up with the Office of Disability, he said it did nothing to fix the problems.

"I felt like I was just screaming and no one was hearing me," Mr Moodie said.

"I just didn't want to live.

"And that went on for nearly three years."

A spokesperson for the NT Office of Disability said Mr Moodie's complaint against his service provider was referred to the Health and Community Services Complaints Commission to undergo an independent investigation.

The spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to provide details on his individual case, however it "can confirm that the Office of Disability worked with Mr Moodie and his advocate to identify new service providers".

Mr Moodie said through the help of a lawyer from Darwin Community Legal Service he has now secured "excellent" full-time carers.

A small bathroom with no modifications made to accommodate Mark Moodie Photo: Mark Moodie wants to have modifications made to his bathroom to help him shower. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

'They just got to give me a go'

This year Mr Moodie started his own business, an Indigenous mining and energy consultancy, where he hopes to train young Aboriginal people to use drone technology.

He is also on the board of the Northern Territory Indigenous Business network, which advocates for Indigenous employment.

A woman stands in the kitchen Photo: Mark Moodie has a carer at his place almost all the time. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

But once again, bureaucracy and barriers from the NDIA are holding him back.

Since January he has been trying to access funding through the NDIA for home modifications, to change his door and upgrade his bathroom.

Last year at an appeals tribunal, Mr Moodie's lawyers said they negotiated an agreement with the agency to provide him with an off-road wheelchair, but five months later it has yet to arrive.

"Give us the wheelchair, the door and [a functional bathroom], after that I'll look after myself. I'll be right," he said.

"They just got to give me a go."

The NDIA was contacted for comment and a spokesperson said it was aware of Mr Moodie's concerns and "will continue to work with him to ensure he receives the reasonable and necessary supports he needs".

Remote residents falling through the cracks

The National Disability Insurance Scheme was officially launched by the Labor Government on July 1, 2013, in a bid to provide better support to the 4.3 million Australians who have a disability.

Yet this promise is yet to be realised for many participants, especially in regional and remote parts of Australia.

David McGinlay stands by palm trees wearing a checked chirt Photo: Darwin Community Legal Service's David McGinlay says the NDIA could do more to help many Territory clients. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

In the lead-up to the looming Federal Election, the Labor Government has promised to fix the troubled scheme.

Following the departure of the agency's CEO this week, Greens senator Jordan Steele-John believes the replacement should be someone who lives with a disability.

Meanwhile in the Northern Territory, a recent COAG report found only 56 per cent of the funds committed for its NDIS participants have been utilised.

And while it found there are 707 service providers registered under the NDIS in the Territory, it said only 18 per cent of those are active.

Darwin Community Legal Service lawyer David McGinlay pointed out the agency had a mandate to help participants live their best possible lifestyle.

"And decision-making by the NDIA that we come across seems to hamper that and places obstacles in the way of participants who are trying to achieve that," Mr McGinlay said.

"It does surprise me in situations where clients such as Mark for example, where his situation could be rectified, where the supports that he needs could be given to him so that he can live the lifestyle independently that he can do with those supports."

For Mr Moodie, change can not come soon enough.

But for now, there is one thing getting him through it — his family and his friends.

Mark Moodie holds a photo of his family as he sits in his apartment Photo: Mark Moodie says he never would have got through the past few years without his family and friends. (ABC News: Emily Smith)

Topics: disabilities, health, government-and-politics, community-and-society, work, darwin-0800, nt

Contact Emily JB Smith

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