Marayke Jonkers pictured with Pat Donachie represented her country with pride and success. Now she’s trapped in Brisbane, unable to return to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane after her old wheelchair broke and denied access to funding for a new one by the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Photo: Marion Jonkers
Marayke Jonkers pictured with Pat Donachie represented her country with pride and success. Now she’s trapped in Brisbane, unable to return to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane after her old wheelchair broke and denied access to funding for a new one by the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Photo: Marion Jonkers

'Broken system': NDIS nightmare leaves sports star stranded

SUNSHINE Coast Paralympian Marayke Jonkers is stranded in Brisbane, unable to return home since before Christmas, due to the failure of a vital piece of equipment she had warned the National Disability Insurance Scheme last February required replacement.

The swimmer and paratriathlete, who won two bronze medals at the Athens Olympics and silver in Beijing, missed an important Christmas with her much-loved grandparents and relatives from Holland and north Queensland, having been left bed-bound since her wheelchair malfunctioned.

She had travelled to Brisbane in mid-December to attend the McDonalds Queensland Swimming Championships where she was presented her Olympic pin on the pool deck.

A stranded Marayke Jonkers and the signs she had made to support Sporting Dreams athletes at the Queensland Swimming Championships but was unable to attend because of a broken wheelchair she warned the NDIS last February would need to be replaced.
A stranded Marayke Jonkers and the signs she had made to support Sporting Dreams athletes at the Queensland Swimming Championships but was unable to attend because of a broken wheelchair she warned the NDIS last February would need to be replaced.

However, plans to attend events later in the meet to cheer on young swimmers she had mentored and supported through her Sporting Dreams charity had to be shelved when her chair failed in the driveway of her friend's home in 38C heat.

She's been there since with the support of carers.

The Queensland swimming community has rallied to her support but without the vital piece of equipment she was trapped.

Ms Jonkers said she, and others like her with complex needs that required customised equipment, were struggling to get adequate funding from NDIS to pay for testing and adjustment and to make it commercially viable for suppliers.

Pressure has grown over the rollout of the NDIS since revelations that more than 1200 people had died just waiting to get into the system.

Ms Jonkers' said that situation was tragic but that being accepted alone did not ensure need was being met.

Paraplegic swimmer Marayke Jonkers, pictured training for the Bejing Paralympic Games where she won silver has been the poster girl for all abilities sport in Australia.
Paraplegic swimmer Marayke Jonkers, pictured training for the Bejing Paralympic Games where she won silver has been the poster girl for all abilities sport in Australia.

Her malfunctioning wheelchair and now bed-bound state have made her again vulnerable to pressure sores, previous infection of which nearly claimed her life.

"It's a very broken system," Ms Jonkers said.

She said in recent months NDIS had rejected - without speaking with her - her requested review of the funding provided for reports to be written that would justify the need for a customised chair.

The matter is now subject a lengthy Administrative Appeals Tribunal process.

"NDIS does not have a method for dealing with people who have complex equipment needs and cannot use off-the-shelf product," Ms Jonkers said.

"Due to my disability I require a customised height joystick as I am unable to elevate my arm or drive the usual ones, and a customised backrest to accommodate my scoliosis.

"Without these the other body overuse injuries which caused my retirement from swimming close my hands and arms to curl up in extreme pain and I'm unable to manoeuvre the wheelchair or perform any activities of daily living."

After being contacted by the Sunshine Coast Daily for comment a National Disability Insurance Agency spokesman said the organisation would contact Ms Jonkers to discuss her change of circumstances, and provide any assistance in accessing the appropriate supports.


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