When Polio Australia’s campaign heroes go to Canberra on Wednesday 26th June 2013 and meet with parliamentarians of all persuasions in the lead-up to this year’s federal election, they will be leaving behind copies of this proposal document calling for long-overdue support for Australia’s polio survivors.

Click the picture to download a copy

Executive Summary

Australia experienced waves of polio epidemics throughout the 20th century. However, with the introduction of the Salk and Sabin vaccines, polio was an uncommon infection in Australia by the early 1960s. Thankfully, Australia is now free of new cases of polio, although years after contracting the infection, increasing numbers of Australia’s 400,000 polio survivors are developing a range of new symptoms, collectively identified as the Late Effects of Polio or Post-Polio Syndrome (LEoP/PPS).

Most of those affected by LEoP/PPS are now over 50 years of age, limiting this potentially debilitating disease to an ageing – and therefore finite – population. However, it is clear that its origins date back several decades.

In the late 1980s, Polio Networks were formed in every state of Australia, predominantly governed and managed by volunteer polio survivors, to provide information about the LEoP/PPS for their brethren. Most were funded through membership; others attracted small amounts of state government funding.

In 2007, these Networks came together to discuss the need for a national body, as the volunteer polio survivors become increasingly more debilitated by the LEoP/PPS. The result is that Polio Australia was incorporated in 2008 to represent polio survivors throughout Australia.

Although not a new condition, federal government support for people living with the LEoP/PPS has been nonexistent, resulting in widespread issues including, but not limited to:

  • misdiagnosis due to lack of awareness of the LEoP/PPS across the health sector;
  • lack of awareness of polio survivors’ own condition;
  • the exacerbation of motor neurone damage;
  • a significant increase in falls leading to the need for expensive acute care; and
  • extraordinary costs relating to health and disability.

Following intensive lobbying by Polio Australia, a federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing Roundtable Forum was held on the 30th of March 2012. Three recommendations were proposed in the resulting Discussion Paper on the Late Effects of Polio/Post-Polio Syndrome.

The federal government has taken no action to progress these Recommendations in the 12 months since the Discussion Paper was released. Polio Australia already has the expertise, programs and strategies to realise these Recommendations. However, what Polio Australia lacks is the necessary financial and human resources to realise the Recommendations at the level required to adequately benefit the population experiencing the LEoP/PPS.

In terms of support through disability programs, it should be noted that apart from younger migrants, most polio survivors will not be eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) due to the 65 year cut-off.

A commitment of federal government support is required to strengthen Polio Australia so it can properly service Australia’s polio survivors. Adequate resources would not only allow Polio Australia to run its current programs more efficiently, it would also facilitate the development of a raft of other innovative programs, further underpinning the Recommendations proposed in the Discussion Paper on the Late Effects of Polio/Post-Polio Syndrome.

Polio Australia recognises dependency solely on federal funding is not sustainable and has planned a number of funding revenue wells to carry the service through its projected thirty year service requirement.