Lifeboat by Micheline Lee


Caring or careless? In this powerful and moving essay, Micheline Lee tells the story of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a transformative social change that ran into problems. For some users it has been “the only lifeboat in the ocean,” but for others it has meant still more exclusion.

Join Micheline Lee in our webinar, as we discuss her latest book Lifeboat, and how it shows that the NDIS, for all its good intentions, has not understood people with disabilities well enough. While government thought the market could do its job, a caring society cannot be outsourced. Lee draws deeply on her own experience, on diverse case studies, as well as insights from moral philosophy and the law. She begins by considering what it is to be disabled. And since to be disabled is part of the human condition, she also considers what it is to be human.
This is an essay about common humanity and effective, lasting social change. “Unless you change how people think about things, you’re not really going to change their actions or responses.” Only on Australia Institute TV.


Micheline Lee is an author and her novel, The Healing Party, was shortlisted for several awards including the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Born in Malaysia, she migrated to Australia when she was eight. Micheline has lived with a motor neurone disability from birth. She is also a former human rights lawyer and painter. Her forthcoming Quarterly Essay is on humanity, disability and the NDIS.

Dr Fiona Macdonald is Policy Director, Industrial and Social with the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work. The Centre for Future Work conducts progressive economic research on work, employment and labour markets. Fiona has researched and written extensively on work and industrial relations, including on social care employment, insecure work, wage theft, gig work and contracting, equal pay, collective bargaining and low-paid workers. Fiona’s recent research has explored disability support work as gig work and the impacts of digital platforms on personal support workers in the NDIS. In 2021, her book Individualising Risk: Paid Care Work in the New Gig Economy was published by Palgrave Macmillan


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