Friday, 11 November 2011

How can you remember

things if you do not listen to the people who are telling you these things? You don't.
I was sent a thick government report to read yesterday. It is one in a long line of government reports I have read in my lifetime.
I suspect most people who receive it will read the recommendations being made but they will not read the actual report. They will not see any need to read the report. They participated in the inquiry. They know what they told the government. They expect it to be in the report and they expect the government to act on it.
I will read the report because I have to be able to tell others what is in it. They need to know about more than just the recommendations. I will write a precis of it in Plain English and pass it on to people who have problems communicating. They are going to be disappointed by the content. I am disappointed by the content.
It is yet another report about the needs of people with disabilities and the biggest issue of all has been ignored yet again. How can any government claim to be listening when they ignore the issue of communication? How can they remember what they are being told? They can't.
I have lost count of the number of inquiries I have participated in over the years. I have participated in most of them by invitation. Many of them have involved the needs of people with disabilities. I have attempted to find ways for them to speak up for themselves and, where they cannot, speak up for them. Successive governments have failed to listen. They do not want to listen. It would mean changing policy directions and that can be as difficult as spending money.
I have also been involved in inquiries about the electoral process, road safety, foreign aid, refugees and asylum seekers, language planning and language teaching. Diverse as those topics appear to be they all involve the need to communicate with other people.
The issue of "Plain English" comes up from time to time. Government departments will make a vow to write their material in a language the general public can understand. They rarely succeed. Legal issues get in the way. They do not want to state anything too plainly even when they are telling you "your rights under this Act are...". I can understand why they do this but it is frustrating.
It is even more frustrating that the issue of communication is taken for granted. "If people speak English then there is not a problem" I have been told. "If they do not speak English well I suppose we will have to find an interpreter." For many people that is the end of the story. They know about "people who do not read and write very well" but they have no idea what the implications are for people who are in that position.
There is an ever increasing need to be able to communicate - to be able to listen in many ways and then to speak in many ways. This report was supposed to be about listening. It has failed to do so. Failure to listen results in a failure to communicate.
Oddly, the report is called "Strong Voices."


widdershins said...

Irony, thy name is Government Reports!

catdownunder said...

I was going to write about Remembrance Day this morning but that came up instead. I feel a little guilty because Remembrance Day is very important too - so many servicemen and women are simply unable to communicate the horrors they went through.

widdershins said...

That's OK, it's Remembrance Day here now .. so your cat-tail is covered!

Anonymous said...


Our Federal government boasts about how many pieces of legislation it has passed ... they have instigated just as many reports but have done nothing about any of them that have handed in the final report. They are not listening, or reading.

Communication is how we share memories ... of war and peace, so don't feel guilty about not writing about Remembrance Day.

Judy B

catdownunder said...

Thanks Judy - I got it in while it was still the 11th in some parts of the world!