Six And A Half Years

Six and A Half Years

This 6 ½ years (July 2011 – February 2018) in shared supported accommodation, has had a significant impact on the deterioration of my disability. This attains to using the phrase ‘on a dunghill’ as a description of my life in a shared supported facility. This term of expression gives readers an idea of the ugly reality; of the helplessness, immobility, failure to speak and see; and of course the power of irritation towards the delivery of life circumstances pertaining to the disability sector. This bureaucratic mess is subsequent to a lack of true empathy, which may conflict with any budget bottom line, thus enforcing the creation of social dilemmas which then draws attention away from the original problem. This is something that can also be performed by non-government authorities, as is seen in my own circumstance.

My aim in this book is to affirm vital principles that must be better understood and implemented if the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is going to be of benefit and fulfill its mandate; so that care doesn't become careless.

I want to encourage people to keep on pushing the case for disability justice! My book is aimed at those providing a service to people with disabilities with high support needs. I want to address all who are involved in disability care; professionals, social workers and especially those managing facilities that look after communities and groups of people.

I am giving myself a wide focus in this book, and my aim is not to win a fight, but to present a case.

Reviewer's comments

At a time when public policy for people with disabilities is much in the news, this is a timely book. It is a real insider's view of what it is like to be dependent on policies that determine, for example, the accommodation and services provided to people with disabilities. The author has a particularly severe disability - Friedreich's Ataxia - that began its debilitating effects during his teenage years. The disease has progressively limited his capacity for physical movement and destroyed his speech. He is now also suffering loss of vision. Yet his disability did not prevent him from completing two degrees at Monash University, followed by a PhD at the University of Melbourne that was awarded when he was 43. During his doctoral studies, although consigned to a wheelchair, he travelled inter-state, interviewing prominent Australian social scientists such as Hugh Stretton, whose political economic views strongly influenced his thinking about social justice and public policy issues. He adapted his thesis for a book called The Politics of Disability, published in 2014.

Peter’s new book takes its title from the years he has spent living in shared supported accommodation in Melbourne. It details problems such as the high turnover of carers, a process that requires each new worker to be taught by the people in their care about their individual needs. This is tough on everyone concerned, not least the people with disabilities themselves. Peter writes positively about the principle of choice which are embedded in the new NDIS policy, but he also points to the limitations of the 'medical model' of disabilities that has for a long time being the dominant frame for provision of disability services. He also presents, especially in chapter 5, a strong critique of the influence of neoliberalism in public policies and it impact on people with disabilities. He weaves in some interesting, ethical economic reasoning. For example, he draws attention to the crude misinterpretations of Adam Smith's views that produce the alleged case for basing society solely on self-interest. The nexus between poverty and disability gets similarly strong emphasis. The result is a powerful blend of analysis and 'down to earth' personal experience.

Bruce Wearne, a former academic who has been supportive and helpful to Peter over many years, says in the book's preface that it should be read as the author's 'pushing back' against his debilitating condition and seeking 'to keep his own responsibility as an advocate for social justice on his and our horizon'. Indeed, the very existence of the book is a tribute to the author. More than that, it is a courageous and commendable contribution to broader thinking about public policy in this difficult area, blending progressive social policy concerns with an insider's view of how even quite well-intentioned policies can fail if they are insensitive to personal needs.

This is not standard political economy but, of course, that is just the point. Applying a universal standard, even one nominally centred on freedom of individual choice, can be catastrophic where people have inescapably different abilities and disabilities. NDIS policy-makers and all care-providers, please note.

- Emeritus Professor Frank Stilwell

'6 and ½ years On A Dunghill' is another significant contribution from Dr Peter Gibilisco to the ongoing struggle for social, political and economic justice in the context of people with disability. Mobilising a sociological worldview, Peter Gibilisco draws on his personal experiences, as well as the experiences and insights of others, to highlight profound policy and structural challenges and constraints in the disability sector, and in society more broadly, that impact negatively on people with disability. At the same time, he provides important insights into pathways forward, based on a strong conception of the need to create an inclusive society. In particular, he highlights the importance of action around synergy, altruism, passion, empathy and pragmatism as providing a means of moving towards a more socially just and inclusive society. I recommend this important book authored by Dr Peter Gibilisco to all people interested in the struggle to create a socially, politically and economically just society.

- Professor Tim Marjoribanks
Associate Dean (Research and Technology) Faculty of Business and Law
Swinburne University of Technology

Written with clarity and first-hand insight, '6.5 years on a dunghill' tackles some incredibly important challenges for people living with disability.

- Adam Vogel
Associate Professor
Centre for Neuroscience of Speech (NeuS)
The University of Melbourne

Peter Gibilisco writes of his experience living with a disability and fighting for his rights. It is a remarkable insight into the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracies for those with disabilities. Peter describes his experiences and his views on how the lives of those with a disability can be improved by changing processes and removing barriers. Peter is to be congratulated on this very important work.

- Professor Martin Delatycki
Medical Director,
Victorian Clinical Genetics Services
Director, Friedreich Ataxia Clinic,
Monash Medical Centre
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute

I have worked with Dr Peter Gibilisco over a period of about 15 years. Over that time I have watched Peter’s amazing perseverance, admired his intellect and wondered at his ability to dispassionately scrutinise the situation in which he finds himself. In this book you feel his frustration and raw pain as he critically discusses being disenfranchised by the system that is meant to care for our disabled citizens. This book gives an insight into the true grit of the man and his selfless willingness to take up the fight for the benefit of others who find themselves without a voice.

I can commend this book to anyone with an interest in our disability care sector.

- Susan Prior.
Editor, writer.

Peter’s experience and knowledge provides insight into how people with disabilities are faced with growing struggles, almost on a daily basis. I believe this book is an excellent depiction of the current state of affairs concerning social exclusion in today’s community.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out more about the political and economical landscape of today’s disability sector.

- Steffan Irugalbandara
Bachelor of Management | Master of Marketing
2015 Graduate of the Year, Deakin University
2016 and 2017 Student Excellence, Monash University

Dr Peter Gibilisco is a social justice activist who speaks from the dual perspective of a successful academic together with the lived experience of a progressive neurological condition which is having an increasingly devastating impact on every aspect of his life. This book will strike a chord with people who have disabilities everywhere especially those with severe physical disabilities living in shared supported accommodation facilities. With great intelligence and integrity it describes the mental torture associated with a disintegration of control and individuality worsened by factors as fundamental as a lack of empathy and continuity in the caring relationship. It gives voice to serious shortcomings in a system that is failing many in the provision of truly individualised care.

- Jenny Williams
Social Worker, Friedreich Ataxia Clinic, Monash Medical Centre 

Author Bio

Friedreich’s Ataxia does not affect my intelligence, but many working in the disability sector act as if they do not believe this. But the reality can be highlighted by my academic qualifications, which are a double degree from Monash University, Master of Arts from Monash University and a Doctor of Philosophy from University of Melbourne. My PhD was achieved late into the pro- gression of my disease, when I was 43 years old. Many say to me that this was a huge achievement, and I am aware of some taken-for-granted misunderstandings about Friedreich’s Ataxia. At the time of my diagnosis when I was 14, medical specialists told my parents that ‘I would not live much beyond the age of thirty’. One can only imagine their response if they were then told I would obtain a PhD! These days, I still perform research and Melbourne University gives me honorary fellow status. I have written and published over 100 articles and currently have now authored three books.

However, there are many degrading effects to be battled with, such as blindness, very poor speech, hearing impairment, poor heart and limited mobility and coordination. But in all spheres of life, I’ve always tried my best; the jury is out, but there is still some chance that my writings may create positive change.

This book has been achieved with the assistance of two very good friends, Bruce Wearne and Christina Irugalbandara.


Six and a Half Years on a Dunghill can be purchased from Amazon as a paperback or in kindle ebook format. It can also be purchased from Fishpond for Australians.

You can also order directly from Peter Gibilisco.