Australia's disabling income support system : tracing the history of the Australian disability income support system 1908 to 2007 : disablism, citizenship and the basic income proposal

Mays, Jennifer (2012) Australia's disabling income support system : tracing the history of the Australian disability income support system 1908 to 2007 : disablism, citizenship and the basic income proposal. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The present study examined the historical basis of the Australian disability income support system from 1908 to 2007. Although designed as a safety net for people with a disability, the disability income support system within Australia has been highly targeted. The original eligibility criteria of "permanently incapacitated for work", medical criteria and later "partially capacitated for work" potentially contained ideological inferences that permeated across the time period. This represents an important area for study given the potential consequence for disability income support to marginalise people with a disability.

Social policy and disability policy theorists, including Saunders (2007, Social Policy Research Centre [SPRC]) and Gibilisco (2003) have provided valuable insight into some of the effects of disability policy and poverty. Yet while these theorists argued for some form of income support they did not propose a specific form of income security for further exploration. Few studies have undertaken a comprehensive review of the history of disability income support within the Australian context. This thesis sought to redress these gaps by examining disability income support policy within Australia. The research design consisted of an in-depth critical historical-comparative policy analysis methodology. The use of critical historical-comparative policy analysis allowed the researcher to trace the construction of disability within the Australian disability income support policy across four major historical epochs. A framework was developed specifically to guide analysis of the data. The critical discourse analysis method helped to understand the underlying ideological dimensions that led to the predominance of one particular approach over another. Given this, the research purpose of the study centred on:

i. Tracing the history of the Australian disability income support system. ii. Examining the historical patterns and ideological assumptions over time. iii. Exploring the historical patterns and ideological assumptions underpinning an alternative model (Basic Income) and the extent to which each model promotes the social citizenship of people with a disability.

The research commitment to a social-relational ontology and the quest for social change centred on the idea that "there has to be a better way" in the provision of disability income support. This theme of searching for an alternative reality in disability income support policy resonated throughout the thesis. This thesis found that the Australian disability income support system is disabling in nature and generates categories of disability on the basis of ableness. From the study, ableness became a condition for citizenship. This study acknowledged that, in reality, income support provision reflects only one aspect of the disabling nature of society which requires redressing. Although there are inherent tensions in any redistributive strategy, the Basic Income model potentially provides an alternative to the Australian disability income support system, given its grounding in social citizenship. The thesis findings have implications for academics, policy-makers and practitioners in terms of developing better ways to understand disability constructs in disability income support policy. The thesis also makes a contribution in terms of promoting income support policies based on the rights of all people, not just a few.

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ID Code: 59604
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Knox, Marie F., Dee, Michael J., & Tomlinson, John
Keywords: social policy, disability, critical historical-comparative policy analysis, critical discourse analysis, disablism, Australian disability income support system, basic income model, social citizenship
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 02 May 2013 00:50
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2015 00:27

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