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The Scheme Project


The Scheme Project

I met with Kris Vanston yesterday after making my pledge to The Scheme Project last week and an exchange of some cyber chit-chat. We realised we had something in common, we want to better the Australian WorkCover system.

What is The Scheme?

(Sound file and excerpt from www.thescheme.com.au)

The Scheme Thumb
We’ve all heard the sensationalist news reports, however the true statistics behind injured workers are alarming; less than 0.5% of injured workers are the ‘fraudsters’ you might see on TV (Victorian Ombudsman’s report 2011), yet most injured workers are spied on by private detectives (yes, really), they’re made out to be guilty until proven innocent, each year costing taxpayers over $14 million in Victoria alone. It seems everyone involved in the system is growing tired of it’s inefficiencies, ultimately though, it’s the injured workers that gets left behind. Insurance companies are delaying and denying claims that should be processed because they can make a profit from it. Recently, CGU (one of WorkCover’s insurers), had locked up over 10,000 files in a hidden cupboard and manipulated invoices which made the company $2.5 million in profits. Now you have to ask yourself. How much more of this behaviour is not being reported? How much information is so incriminating to bodies such as WorkSafe or insurance companies, that they are willing to pay to suppress it? We are here to find out! Sign our Petition below and have your voice heard! We thank you for your continued much needed support. Continue Reading

My_Space, My facade, living with Pudendal Neuralgia


Sunday Style My SpaceWe don’t usually love media, but a little attention after some lengthy hibernation from work was bound to be very valuable for our (Theo’s and my) 12 or so year old business, Origin of Image. The lovely Sunday Style (Herald Sun) offered an interview in their ‘My_Space’ feature… hmmm, quite funny for us as there’s nothing ‘my’ about ‘our’ life. We share work, living, we even share Pudendal Neuralgia (PN). Continue Reading

Subject: Fair Assessment for Compensation?


For those subscribed to this Fair Assessment For Compensation post, I have had a reply and it is posted here!


(CC’d The Hon Gordon Rich-Philips)


My name is Soula Mantalvanos and I am an injured Australian worker ever since an unfortunate incident in March 2006 where the fitball I was sitting on burst and I fell on to concrete. I was diagnosed after 4.5 years, with a painful condition that is often misunderstood; it is Pudendal Neuralgia (specifically Pelvic Chronic Pain).


Obviously you will be able to imagine the difficulties I have had in the WorkCover system with such an injury. Six years down the track, at the age of 43, I am left without weekly payments and an impairment score of 0%. I seriously question whether I’ve ever been assessed fairly.

In the Preamble of the National Workers’ Compensation Action Plan 2010-2013, a paragraph (b) recommends providing “fair” compensation for work-related injury, illness and death. As far as I can ascertain, “fair” means “marked by impartiality and honesty, as well as free from self-interest, prejudice, or favouritism.” Does this definition coincide with that intended by WorkSafe Australia? Continue Reading

Increasing employment opportunities for people with disability


Australian Government website header

Thank you Minister Shorten and thank you too to my wonderful employer for changing their setup to accommodate me and my health issue. Would you employ someone with a disability? Do you have ideas for employers so that they can employ people with disabilities? Minister Shorten wants to hear from you…

Excerpt from the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations webpage. Please read and submit your thoughts.

Increasing employment opportunities for people with disability

Minister Shorten seeks proposals on ways to boost employment participation for people with disability, discussion paper seeking public views on how best to achieve reform. How to provide a submission.

The Australian Government is committed to creating lasting opportunities for employment for people with disability.

To ensure that the most vulnerable Australians are able to find a job, earn a wage, enjoy the dignity of work and prosper from satisfying and rewarding careers, a consultation process has been launched to seek proposals on how best to boost employment participation for people with disability. The discussion paper, Improving Employment Participation of People with Disability, seeks public views on how to best achieve reform, including:

  • how to promote and improve equality for people with disability in employment and in the workplace
  • how to support employers to identify and remove barriers to full and equal participation of people with disability
  • how to promote the removal of all forms of discrimination on the basis of a persons’ disability
  • how to improve workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning people with disability in the workplace
  • how to improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of people with disability in the workplace.

The Government would like to hear from all interested parties, including:

  • people with disability, their families, carers and community representatives
  • employers and employer representatives
  • current Employment Service Providers
  • state and local governments
  • unions and other employee representative groups

Providing proposals (submissions)

It is preferred that submissions be sent by email (Word or RFT format), they can also be sent via post.

Email submission to: dmh@deewr.gov.au

Post submission to:
Disability and Mental Health Policy
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
Location: MC50 Level 5
GPO Box 9880

Submissions will close at 5pm (EST) 15 February 2013.

Posted submissions must be postmarked before 12 February 2013 to be accepted. You will receive confirmation from the department that your submission has been received.

For further information contact dmh@deewr.gov.au

About submissions

Written submissions will be treated as public documents, unless you clearly mark on your submission that you do not want this to occur. Automatically generated confidentiality statements in emails are not enough to note your intention that your submission should remain confidential. Submissions may be published in full on this website, including any of your personal information provided. Personal information about third parties will be removed from submissions before they are published, unless consent from those parties has been provided. A request made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) for access to a submission marked confidential will be determined in accordance with the FOI Act.

Official page, read more…



Performance ‘fit for modified duties’


Did you all hear I’m back at work part time? Much thanks to our flexible home/office setup and Theo’s immense help. Regardless, how lucky am I hey? But oops, hang on, I have to correct myself. It’s not lucky for me, it’s lucky for the WorkSafe Agent. And I must clarify because from their point of view I didn’t get myself back to work, it had nothing to do with my research, the practitioners I found, their treatment and great therapies (or my hip pocket!). Nope, nothing to do with nerve blocks and medication, but rather, my high activity levels. Yeeees, I have been a full time artist and I’ve been caught red-handed!!!

Excited as I was to finally be seen as ‘fit for modified duties’, I was looking forward to receiving the WorkSafe Agent’s promised ‘dispatch’ mail. I expected to see copies of my new job description, Doctor’s capacity report and a letter explaining I would no longer be entitled to weekly benefits. What also came though, was a ruthless bundle of papers including video and photographic surveillance from February this year, that although amounted to a bunch of thin air, somehow became the reason I was ‘fit for modified duties’. I knew where this was going… Continue Reading

BUY The Big Issue

Strength in Numbers

Strength in NumbersI was on a tram with Theo last Friday, we were heading in for a weekend stay to celebrate our anniversary. Although sardined between a few people and someone in a motorised wheelchair my thoughts were on my new self and how I was going to celebrate: sit, eat, walk, up, down, sit, sit… I even planned my pacing and took an old handbag (haven’t held one for years!). My thoughts were interrupted, I could hear a phone ringing and someone muffling something, oh hang on… it was the disabled person in the wheelchair.

“My phone’s ringing… can someone get my phone, that’s my phone…”.  I finally caught the slightly slurring speech and started looking for the phone, asking for directions but all the same trying not to impose (bit tricky looking under someone’s arm!) Yep, I was uncomfortable. But I found the phone.

“Can you check who called please?” Of course I was going to check, that was an easy bit! When I popped the phone open, I had to report, “You have 64 messages” to which Theo, myself and this gorgeous person burst out laughing (and the one or two people who didn’t have their heads stuck in technology). I checked the last number and reported there was no number left.

“I’ve got to get to work, it might have been work… I have to get to Swanson Street… I sell The Big Issue”. Yes, you read right… and to top it off I was kindly informed, in just a few stops, that I could buy a calendar too! I couldn’t help myself, I asked, “Are you trying to sell me something on the tram?” We all laughed.

I stepped off the tram, obviously we bought The Big Issue, liked it on FB and on Twitter, but I also made a good few notes to myself… here’s one of them;


Australia’s first & only street paper…

The Big Issue, is a high-quality, general interest fortnightly publication that has a readership of more than 180, 000 and features arts and entertainment, current affairs, lifestyle, personal experiences and its own particular brand of irreverence…


Back to life

Soula's Business Card Origin of Image

Soula's Business Card Origin of Image

Words… searching, searching… any second now… … … almost… actually, nope.., it’s not going to happen.  As if there’d be ANY words for me to explain how I feel writing this post. So please gear up with me, imagine the drum rolls and the biggest mountain you can imagine with me standing on the tippy top yelling because this IS real, IT’S true, IT’S official:

“I’M BACK AT WORK!!!!!!!”

No, I’ve not overdosed on my medication and the stress of a chronic pain issue has not damaged me enough to be hallucinating.., I. AM (wiggling heaps but all the same). SITTING. IN. A (very nice ergonomic). CHAIR. TYPING. THIS. POST!!!!

And, I definitely mean to sound excited. After all, I conquered a beast that came pretty close to defeating me and keeping me virtually still for the rest of my days (sadly I’ve not killed it completely but I’m still hopeful!).

It’s been 2,063 days since my ball went burst…


5 years, 7 months, 23 days (including today)


178,243,200 seconds


2,970,720 minutes


49,512 hours


294 weeks (since I’m kindly rounding down but in reality pain calls for rounding UP).

I feel like… like… ME! And there isn’t a greater feeling. Continue Reading

John Quintner’s point of view


I’m forever searching for a decent explanation as to why the AMA Guidelines used to assess injured workers in the WorkCover system are so poor and out of date, especially when it comes to assessing chronic pain (and in my case of pudendal neuralgia measures a total score of 0!!).

Along my social media travels, searching for answers and researching for treatment or updated information regarding my condition, I have met John and had the pleasure of some great discussions. Dr John Quintner is a consultant physician in rheumatology and pain medicine and has kindly offered to share his published opinion on the matter. Thanks John!

Here’s an excerpt, or download the full pdf document. Continue Reading

Expired and fallen through the cracks


Milk with Expiration date: 1990

For over a year now, I’ve been seeking an employee in the WorkCover system who has a thorough understanding of my case and not one that walked into a mountain of papers new to his/her job (and would be walking out again in just a few weeks). After 5.5 years in this WorkCover system I’ve found it extremely difficult to find anyone who can speak openly and be frank with me and who I feel understands me or my injury. It’s no surprise really, when the Hon Gordon-Rich Philips chooses not to promote clearly he also manages WorkCover amongst his vast portfolio . I’m left to thinking this is the land of wusses!

After a few battles regarding my massage treatments, peripheral stimulation implant and finally receiving a letter form my WorkSafe agent stating I would no longer be receiving medical reimbursements/support, I began a hunt for a deserving explanation.

For a second time, I wrote to the Hon Gordon-Rich Philips, but this time approaching him before beginning a dispute with the ACCS. I went off the Hon’s first letter of reply where he states the following: As this matter is currently going through the dispute resolution process provided by the Act, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics of your claim.

Almost two months later, I received a reply. It came with one very inaccurate detail, a few template sentences but most importantly a contact. I was impressed! The Hon states I withdrew my application for dispute of my medical expenses but the withdrawn dispute was for my implant reimbursement. I didn’t complain about the Hon muddling up the details, mine is a huge case and the error does clarify how confusing, messy and complicated this system is. Even the Minister and his associates get the details wrong. Might also be hint of disorganisation from the coming-and-going of case managers and let’s not forget the complexities of the system… what are you going to do with an injured worker who’s injury isn’t stated in the guidelines?

But back to my main point, the answer I was seeking. I called the contact the Hon advised and it led to a conversation with my WorkSafe Agent’s Injury Management Advisor (IMA) and for once, I seemed to be having an open and honest conversation with a WorkSafe Agent employee. It’s hard to say it was honest because this system has taught me not to trust anyone, sadly. It felt like a great relief to be speaking to an educated, intelligent, experienced and capable person (a Psych who is continuously studying the National WorkCover systems). I didn’t get invalid and poor excuses or worse still, lies. Every point I made was dealt with and the conversation was about me, my case and my specific issues. I was bewildered when the IMA responded with, “I know, I know you’ve done… I know you’ve seen… I know Dr so-and-so” and the grand finale was that the IMA was going to answer why my medical expenses support had ceased?

The following day, yes, the following day, I had my answer (and another very civilised conversation). In two phone calls my frustration was greatly reduced, I had someone tell me they understood how much the system has frustrated me, how much the system frustrates many injured workers, I had been told I was doing all the right things, and she understood I was not being commended for it, the conversation went something like this:

  • You’re right, your issue is not in the AMA guidelines and I spoke to the impairment doctors about this and they confirmed it true. I asked if you were to be assessed under the guidelines four and five would it be better but they don’t include your issue either
  • This is a system and like any other it can’t cater to everyone
  • Yes it can get better, we have a long way to go but it is a better WorkCover system in Victoria. The Victorian system doesn’t operate from taxpayers money but rather dips into the premiums companies/businesses pay (with larger organisation may make contributions of millions per year)
  • WorkCover was initially set up for workers, the system is not like other insurance companies, it must abide and is bound by Parliamentary laws
  • WorkSafe Agents don’t have their own doctors/examiners, these are independent doctors that choose to work for the agent (yes they choose to assess injured workers with limited guidelines, this is legal!!)
  • WorkSafe Agents are bound by  Parliamentary laws (not a set of their own)

And as for my answer:

  • Each injury/claim is allocated an amount and your injury has reached the end of its allocated funds
  • I know it’s frustrating, doing all the right things but you fall between the cracks
  • You could take the matter to Court but of course the Court functions under Parliamentary rules and follows the AMA guidelines

So in summary? For the last year I have had two attempts at conciliation, called, emailed and spoken to many incapable people, written to the Minister twice, stressed and been frustrated when all that trouble could have been saved with one phone call. The difficulties I have are mostly explained with the fact my injury isn’t acknowledged within the WorkCover system. This knowledge also explains why my horrible condition measured 0% at my impairment assessment.

I promised myself I wouldn’t swear on my blog but honestly how f*****g hard was it for someone with some b***s to speak to me in the first place?

I didn’t win anything, nor will part of my medical expenses be reimbursed (except my GP visits for capacity reports) but I know now not to bother with court, and I don’t have that torment inside that some incapable person is making excuses in mumbo jumbo lingo to me. I have my answer and more peace than rage. I’ve done my bit, and can now go back to focusing on myself and with closure perhaps get a little bit more pain relief.

I’m left wondering about the doctors who sign up for this system though, who assess injured workers with out of date and limiting guidelines. Worst of all I can’t believe our Government passes such laws. They created a system for workers (IMA certified comment) and chose to do it this way. Sure there have been some great amendments but wouldn’t it be more beneficial for everyone if the guidelines were updated… in the last 20 years!?

The Hon thanked me in his letter for bringing my matter to his attention but I was more looking for ‘We’re working on this, I know the guidelines are 20 years old we are trying, There were discussions about WorkCover..’ and suggestions where an injured worker can get answers, a little less tragically than I had to. I understand this is a tough portfolio but what’s tougher is being injured, unable to work quite possibly for the rest of your life and having a system that is not only limiting but also adds to your pain, adds obstacles in your attempts to cope and deal with your injury.

Do I need to point out it’s important for injured workers to communicate their issues with the Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips and that he is approachable? I’m not sure it’s worth hounding your insurer or WorkSafe.

Speak up people!!!! It’s easy in this day of technology. The Hon’s details are:

Of course I had to thank the Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips and make sure he understood my problem afterall I was excited, I had just found out what it was!

Subject: thank you
Date: 20 June 2012 5:28:26 PM AEST
To: gordon.rich-phillips@parliament.vic.gov.au

Dear Hon Gordon Rich-Phillips,

I wanted to thank you for replying to my letter of frustration and for referring me to (IMA details).

After a lengthy, open and honest conversation with (IMA), who was well aware of my case and previous frustrations, I finally received a clear understanding and an answer to the snap ending of my medical expenses support and why my stimulation device could not be funded.

You thanked me in your letter for bringing the matter to your attention. I still want to make sure my issues are clearly understood in the event a change can be made as obviously the lack of support is very unhelpful for an injured worker with an issue such as mine. The problems I am experiencing with my support are completely due to the fact that my injury is not specified in the AMA guidelines and therefore can’t be acknowledged anywhere by anyone in the WorkCover system (or by associated practitioners). This is also how my horrendous injury is given a 0% impairment score.

It’s a little steep to accept this when you’re living in Australia but I’m hoping somewhere at some point this will be tackled in Parliament for injured workers who unfortunately will follow and suffer the same neuropathic injuries.

Can you please just imagine having a health issue and visiting a Doctor whose experience and knowledge was limited to the 1990’s? I expect you simply wouldn’t go.

If there is any chance of helping, please do. Once again I will document this information on my blog in hope of helping other injured Australians with similar issues. Please advise me if you prefer this information not to be publicised (obviously the Insurer’s name will not be mentioned).

Kind Regards
Soula Mantalvanos

Me, a case study! Pudendal Neuralgia-Masters Coursework


Pudendal Neuralgia Presentation by Alesha Sayner

The condition and existing barriers to management and practice

My understanding of a ‘syndrome’ is that it seems to remain myth-like until serious research is undertaken and repeatedly produces the same findings in many patients. The Research for Pudendal Neuralgia is minimal worldwide, almost non-existent in Australia. Although specialists and therapists are documenting their work Pudendal Neuralgia can’t seem to penetrate its existence in Western Medicine’s Bible, and so it is unrecognised, misunderstood or ignored.

So when my physiotherapist at The Women’s Hospital mentioned Alesha Sayner and I heard she was compiling a presentation for her Masters specifically about Pudendal Neuralgia, I jumped at the opportunity to hand over all my experience knowing this is exactly what the issue desperately needed. I was even more enthusiastic that Alesha was interested in documenting WorkCover’s understanding (not) and treatment (not) for injured worker’s with the issue.

Thank you Alesha Sayner and The Women’s Hospital for this huge first step, so crucial to Australian sufferers of Pudendal Neuralgia, such therapy for me too! Continue Reading

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Definitions of pain

What is Pudendal Neuralgia (PN)?
Most simply put PN is Carpal Tunnel in the pelvis/buttocks. Compression of the Pudendal Nerve occurs after trauma to the pelvis and is aggravated with pressure. The pain is often described as a toothache like pain, with spasms, sensations of tingling, numbness, or burning. It can be very debilitating.

What is Neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is the result of an injury or malfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. The pain is often triggered by an injury, but this injury may or may not involve actual damage to the nervous system. More…

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