Australia has a National Disability Strategy (NDS) which has been adopted by the States and Territories through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The NDS is also the avenue through which Australia implements its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which it ratified in 2008.

The National Disability Strategy is the key element to disability reform in Australia. The NDIS is a vital underpinning to improving the lives of people with disability but it cannot work alone: It won’t fix transport services; it won’t improve infrastructure barriers; it won’t provide accessible technology and communications; and it won’t tackle training, jobs and barriers to broader social and economic participation. We need an NDS and an NDIS working in tandem in order to address issues of this magnitude. Using this approach will also address the infrastructure challenges facing an ageing 21st Century Australia as the baby boomers retire and the population ages.

The NDS is a good framework but it is under resourced and lacks leverage and specificity. It requires greater resourcing, a public reporting mechanism, and transparent accountability measures within State and Territory agreements to ensure strategy outcomes are achieved at both the State and Federal level.

Specific areas of the NDS which need to be given a priority focus include:

Increasing access to employment opportunities as a key to improving the economic security of people with disability: Nearly half of people with disability in Australia live on or near the poverty line. Open employment opportunities are essential to enable people with disability to forge prosperous lives for themselves and their families.

Establishing a public, private and community transport system that is accessible for the whole community: Success in delivering the NDIS or achieving more jobs for people with disability cannot be realised without more integrated and accessible transport networks. Federal leadership, through a more robust and timely standards process is essential to ensure States implement the required transport improvements which would also be of significant benefit to the wider community.

Addressing infrastructure barriers: Universal design is the design of products, services and environments so that they are useable by everyone regardless of their age or ability. The introduction of universal housing design provisions in the Building Code of Australia for all new and extensively modified housing would considerably benefit people with disability by improving the available accommodation options.

Reforming discrimination law: We need strengthened disability discrimination law backed by robust mechanisms with teeth. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, has an implementation authority capable of enforcing standards and regulations which continuously drives industry improvement.

Ensuring that people with disability are free from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation: People with disability, especially women and girls with disability, experience greater incidences of all forms of violence than other people in Australia. For people living in congregate arrangements such as institutions this can be a daily occurrence. Time and time again we have seen that institutions are havens for predators who take sexual, physical and financial advantage of people with disability because they are living in an environment of dependence. Institutions must be closed and people with disability supported to live in the community.

Access to justice for people with disability: Support for independent advocacy and community legal centres is central to ensuring that people with disability are able to enforce their rights. Courts and tribunals also need to know how to support people with disability to participate in the justice system as victims, witnesses, defendants and appellants alike; and this must be reflected in law and procedure. The police and lawyers must investigate and prosecute violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation against people with disability to the same extent asfor people without disability.

Creating more effective responses from the criminal justice system for people with disability who have complex needs or heightened vulnerabilities: People with disability, in particular women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, are vastly overrepresented in our prisons and juvenile justice facilities. This includes the unwarranted use of prison for the management of unconvicted people with disability deemed unfit to plead. Prevention programmes, court diversion schemes and alternative support options need to be developed and strengthened in order to stop the incarceration of people with disability with complex needs.

2013 is also a significant year, as this September the Committee to the UN CRPD will review Australia’s compliance with the CRPD and make observations and recommendations. Taking more vigorous action to implement the NDS will demonstrate a stronger commitment to the CRPD. Moreover, there are important elements of the CRPD that the Government is yet to address. These include the collection of disaggregated national data about the situation of people with disability, and the establishment of a genuine and consistent framework for actively engaging and consulting people with disability and their representative organisations on policy and legislation that affects them.

Key Recommendations

  • Fully resource the range of measures under the NDS designed to implement the CRPD.
  • Strengthen the NDS by including a public reporting mechanism and transparent accountability measures within State and Territory agreements.
  • Establish a policy engagement framework detailing how people with disability and their representative organisations will be consulted on legislation and policy that affects them.

 Make the Convention Real Word 103kb

It is estimated that 20% of Australians are people with a disability. Yet historically, we have been shut out of civic life, the community and jobs. Hindered by negative attitudes, unimaginative programs, and inaccessible transport, buildings and information, people with disability in Australia have been excluded from ‘a fair go’, and basic human rights.

People with Disability Australia is uniting Australians with disability to call on government, politicians, the media, business and voters to end protracted and systemic marginalisation: to stop the abuse of people with disability and bring an end to institutions; to increase the number of people with disability in jobs and reduce poverty; to provide people with disability the adequate and appropriate supports we need to live lives of our own choosing by building a sustainable, person centred DisablityCare Australia; and to promote, protect and fulfil our human rights.