Know your rights!

05 April, 2012 By meryldorey

The first thing you need to know is that in Australia, vaccination is not compulsory. It doesn’t matter what your doctor, school principal, mother in law or neighbour say – no school, preschool, childcare centre or playgroup is legally allowed to discriminate against a child because of their vaccination status.

Secondly, whether you vaccinate fully, selectively or not at all, you will not lose any government entitlements including the new $726 Family Tax Benefit Part A Supplement announced by the Federal Government in July 2011.

In order to get the Tax Benefit Supplement and the Childcare Allowance (the only 2 payments currently linked with vaccination compliance) if you don’t fully vaccinate, you will need to get either a GP or a clinic sister who is able to administer vaccines – in other words, anyone who has an immunisation provider number – to sign a Conscientious or Medical Objection form.

All Medicare and Centrelink offices as well as every GP and council vaccination clinic are required to have these forms available, but they rarely do so feel free to click the link above and download and print the form yourself so you can bring it with you when you go to get it signed.

The significance of conscientious objection to vaccination

In the late 1990’s, the Australian government was considering making parents prove their knowledge of the vaccination debate prior to allowing them to not vaccinate their children. This was early days for the AVN, but we found out about this legislation after it had already passed through the House of Representatives and just days before the debate started in the Senate. We mobilised parents from the Gold Coast and Northern NSW, raised $2,000 for airfares and the help of a lobbyist and photocopied an information pack for every single Senator which we hand-delivered during our time in Canberra.

We met with dozens of Senators and Representatives and were helped greatly by Democrats Senators, the Greens party and several Labor MPs including 2 who were also doctors!

The outcome was that we were able to get 2 out of 3 amendments to the Childcare Payments Bill passed through parliament and as a result, parents who had chosen not to vaccinate would not be required to prove anything to anyone in order to access the same government entitlements as those parents who vaccinated fully.

This was a huge step forward for parental rights and as a result of the action of our small, membership and donation-driven organisation, a generation of Australians have been protected against draconian laws which would have subjected them to discrimination and financial penalties.

So when you feel that only large groups and rich people can change society for the better, remember the saying by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Getting the darn thing signed!

The AVN got 2 out of 3 amendments passed, as we said before and those amendments enabled non-vaccinating parents to get their financial entitlements just as those who vaccinate do.

The amendment we were not successful in getting through Parliament was the one stating that all a parent needed to do in order to become a conscientious objector to vaccination was to fill in a statutory declaration stating they had considered both sides of this issue and had chosen not to vaccinate. Simple, cheap and it fulfilled the government’s aim of ensuring that parents who didn’t vaccinate hadn’t simply forgotten about it or were too lazy to care for their children. It proved that they had made a conscious, informed decision which is their right under the law.

Instead, what the government chose to do was to require parents to visit a GP who would then advise them of the benefits and risks of vaccination and discuss the issues with them before signing the form.

From the beginning, we were concerned that doctors would refuse to sign the paperwork even though their signature only indicated that they had fulfilled their obligation under the law to counsel parents – it did not signify that they agreed or disagreed with the parent’s decision. Some parents have had to see 5 or more doctors – a great personal cost – before finding one who would sign the form.

This is why the AVN has established a buddy system whereby local parents who have been through the conscientious objection system themselves and are aware of the relevant legislation, will go with you to get your form signed.

If you would like this support or if your doctor or clinic nurse has refused to sign your conscientious objector form signed, please contact us at [email protected] and we will see if there is a buddy in your area who can help. If you would like to volunteer to be a buddy, please contact us as well and we will add you to the list.

Don’t forget…

Once the form is signed, it will need to be sent to the Health Insurance Commission in Tasmania. Please do not EVER send the form out without making a copy since the HIC regularly loses these forms and you will need to go through the whole process all over again! So keep a copy and if they lose your original, all you need to do is make another copy and send that off.