Issue 51, March 2009 - ISSN 2202-0705
Welcome to PWD’s e-bulletin. The e-bulletin goes out to members and interested others regularly by email. For members who do not have access to email, a printed version of the e-bulletin will be sent by post. To be added to or removed from our mailing list, or to change your email address, please email email@example.com or contact Allan Barnes on one of the numbers listed at the end of this bulletin.
New South Wales News
PWD mounts legal challenge to redevelopment of institutions
In the last edition of the E-bulletin, we reported again on the NSW Government’s redevelopment of a number of institutional accommodation services for persons with disability. We noted that these and other related developments represent the most regressive disability policy to emerge in Australia in 30 years.
We also noted it is PWD’s view that it has no alternative but to confront these developments using every option at its disposal. After many months of unsuccessful attempts to persuade successive Ministers for Disability Services that these developments represent a violation of the human rights of persons with disability, and that they are contrary to the requirements of the Disability Services Act, 1993 (NSW) (DSA Act) , PWD has reached the point where its only option is legal action to stop these developments.
PWD has now filed an application with the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT) formally seeking a review of the Minister’s decision to continue to operate the Grosvenor, Lachlan and Peat Island Centres, contrary to the requirements of the DSA Act. PWD has taken this action very reluctantly and as a last resort. We do not seek conflict with the Minister for Disability Services or the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC). However, we would fail in our duty as a disability rights and representative organisation if we did not act to prevent a return to institutional approaches to providing housing and support for persons with disability.
The initial indications are that the Minister and his Department will strongly defend the ADT application lodged by PWD, and the proceedings could be protracted. The Minister’s representatives informed the ADT at the first directions hearing that they will seek to challenge PWD’s entitlement or standing to bring the present application. They have also queried whether the ADT has jurisdiction to hear the application on the basis that there is no “decision” or conduct of the Minister capable of being reviewed since continuing conduct such as the ongoing operation of the Centres does not constitute a “decision”. These and a number of other arguments have been anticipated by PWD, and will be met as and when required.
The Minister's initial strategy appears to be to argue every procedural point open to him which will delay the proceedings generally. This is perhaps the best indication so far of the Minister and Departments’ view on the compliance of these redevelopments with the requirements of the DSA.
The first stage of the process will involve an attempt to formally mediate the dispute before a Tribunal member of the ADT. PWD will genuinely attempt to resolve the issues in this mediation, which is set down for late April. However, if the mediation does not succeed we are prepared to continue with the litigation if this proves necessary. If resolution is not available through the ADT and Australian domestic legal processes, the issue might have to be referred to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We will continue to keep members and colleagues informed of the progress of these matters through the E-bulletin. For further information, contact Matthew Bowden at firstname.lastname@example.org (note that due to legal constraints there may be limits to what it is possible to discuss).
NSW Parliament Inquires into Homelessness and Low-Cost Rental Accommodation
The NSW Parliament’s Social Issues Committee is conducting an inquiry into homelessness and low-cost rental accommodation. This Inquiry has been initiated by the Minister for Housing and Minister for Western Sydney, the Hon David Borger MP.The inquiry will examine and report on policies and programs outside of mainstream public housing that are being implemented within Australia and internationally to reduce homelessness and increase the availability of key worker accommodation.
In particular, the inquiry is to look at cooperative and community housing; methods of fast tracking the capacity of providers to deliver low-cost rental accommodation; strategies to attract private sector investment in the provision of low cost rental accommodation; current barriers to the growth in low cost rental housing; and strategies to avoid concentrations of disadvantage and grow cohesive communities. The Inquiry is to report by the end of September 2009. In its submission to the inquiry PWD has argued for a human-rights-based approach to meeting the needs of housing disadvantaged groups in the NSW community, and persons with disability in particular. We have drawn attention to the significant shortfall in the availability of social housing for persons with disability in NSW, and the failure to appropriately regulate commercial boarding houses so as to protect the basic rights of licensees. We have also strongly argued against segregated, institutional approaches to meeting the housing and support needs of persons with disability. On the positive side, we have highlighted the Housing and Support Initiative and the Disability Housing and Support Initiative as good practice approaches to providing housing and support for persons with disability that ought to be significantly expanded.
The Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) has released for public comment draft new policy directions and guidelines for day programs for persons with disability.
In its comments on these policy directions and guidelines, PWD has applauded DADHC’s emphasis on person-centred planning, individual community based models and self-managed options, which strengthen a much need shift towards individualised funding and individualised service delivery. We also applauded the greater flexibility in transition pathways between these new day program options.
PWD is, however, disappointed that these initiatives are taking place without the fundamental reform of the day program spectrum that is required to ensure overall program coherence and equity for persons with disability. There is a continuing need for reform that will provide a clear policy and program framework that will promote coherence for pre-vocational and vocational training, and structural pathways into employment, community participation, and recreation and leisure support across all types of day programs. Reform is also required to achieve equity in individualised service models, funding methods and allocation levels between programs and services across all types of day programs.
PWD has expressed particular concern about the funding levels available under the Lifestyle Support and Active Ageing Programs which may result in low intensity group based programs in centre-based congregate facilities.
For further information contact Sonya Price-Kelly at email@example.com
During 2008, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) conducted a review of the fees charged by the Office of the Protective Commissioner (OPC). IPART’s report on this review, and the NSW Government’s response to it were released in late February 2009.
The Protective Commissioner is an independent public official appointed under the Protected Estates Act 1983 to administer the financial affairs of about 9000 people who have been deemed by a Court or Tribunal unable to make their own financial decisions. The Protective Commissioner is also responsible for about 2500 private managers who have been appointed by a Court or Tribunal to administer the financial affairs of people who have been deemed unable to make their own financial decisions. OPC also acts as ‘banker’ for about 700 other clients on behalf of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC).
The OPC currently charges for the cost of its services to directly managed clients by levying three fees: an establishment fee, an annual personal management fee and an investment fee. The first two fees are calculated as a percentage of client assets, with a combined fee cap of $50,000.00. The investment fee is charged as a percentage of the funds invested with the OPC. The cost of OPC’s services to privately managed clients is funded primarily by a fee on net annual income and an annual accounts fee. An investment fee is also collected which is calculated as a percentage of the value of any assets under management by OPC.
The IPART review concluded that ‘the fees paid by clients are fundamentally disconnected from the services the client’s receive and the cost of providing those services. As a result, IPART concluded many of OPC’s clients ‘are paying fees that far exceed the cost of the services they receive.’ IPART made a number of recommendations about fee levels to the Government, the principal of which are:
The Government has accepted these recommendations and they have been scheduled for implementation from 1 July 2009 and 1 April 2009 respectively.
These changes will significantly reduce the level of cross-subsidisation of client services by high-net worth OPC clients. Currently, fees levied on clients with large estates and/or incomes pay for services for clients on low incomes (such as a pension or benefit). In order to address the short-fall in operating funds for the OPC that will result from these changes, IPART recommended a major injection of funds ($10.6million) from Treasury to pay for services to clients on low incomes. The Government has failed to respond to this recommendation, and proposes instead to merge the OPC with the Public Trustee in an apparent attempt to fund OPC’s existing level of services by achieving efficiencies across both organisations, and through the Public Trustee’s commercial income streams.
PWD is very concerned about this proposal for a number of reasons which are outlined in the next article.
Merger of Office of Protective Commissioner and Public Trustee
In E-bulletin 49 we reported the NSW Government’s November mini-budget decision to merge the Office of the Protective Commissioner with the NSW Public Trustee. In response to this announcement, PWD released a Position Statement that outlines a number of concerns we have about this proposal. This Position Statement is available on PWD’s website at www.pwd.org.au Principal among our concerns are:
Since this proposal was announced PWD has made extensive representations to the NSW Attorney-General, to the NSW Opposition and cross-bench members about these and other issues. We have been disappointed by the lack of understanding and engagement demonstrated by many Parliamentarians to this point, with the sole exception of the Rev Hon Gordon Moyes, who has taken up a number of issues with the Attorney on our behalf.
PWD understands that legislation to give effect to the merger will shortly be introduced to the NSW Parliament. This represents a further opportunity for Parliamentarians to properly scrutinise this proposal, and in coalition with a number of other State disability peak organisations, PWD will again be urging them to do so.
PWD will also be raising its concerns at the stakeholder briefing regarding the proposed merger being conducted by the Merger Implementation Team (MIT) to be held on 1 April 2009. The MIT has been established to manage the merger process.
For further information contact Thereses@pwd.org.au
Responding to Sexual Assault of Persons with Intellectual Disability
Living free from fear of sexual assault is a basic human right. However, research indicates that 50-90% of persons with intellectual disability will experience sexual assault at some point in their lifetime. Their human right to live free from assault is often violated or denied because of the environments they find themselves living or working in, and as a result of the attitude of the very people they are dependent on for support.
It is normal for sexual assault to go unnoticed, to be ignored because the solution seems too difficult, or dismissed because the impact on the victim seems insignificant. This creates a culture where persons who have been assaulted are left traumatised and unsupported whilst perpetrators of sexual assault are able to operate without fear of being apprehended.
In order to reverse this trend those people entrusted to provide support must develop awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault, recognise the indicators of it, understand their duty of care, and how best to respond to individuals who experience sexual assault.
From March to June 2009, PWD, in collaboration with Family Planning NSW, is delivering 12 sessions of a two-day training program on Sexuality and Responding to Sexual Assault to staff of the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) in NSW.
PWD is also able to deliver this training to other government and non-government organisations throughout Australia. The course is designed for service providers and others who work with persons with intellectual disability, and will cover ways to ensure that persons with disability are supported to live free from sexual assault. Day one of this training covers models of sexuality, sexuality through the lifespan, and the sexual lives of persons with disability. It also examines personal and professional values, and explores legal issues. Day two topics include indicators of sexual assault, responding to disclosures, managing duty of care and dignity of risk, issues of consent, and creating safer environments.
For further information, contact Fiona Godfrey, Manager Training at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PWD joins in Mardi Gras Celebrations
Under the banner Inaccessible Unacceptable, PWD marched in its first Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, held in Sydney on 7 March. PWD was keen to protest, celebrate and raise awareness about human rights issues for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) people with disability.
The theme of this year’s parade was Nations United and we took the opportunity to celebrate our rights being enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
About 80 people participated in the PWD entry, which not only included PWD Board, members and staff, but also other colleagues and supporters - Access Plus (an advocacy group of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people with disability that began meeting at PWD in 1997), the Disability Discrimination Legal Centre NSW, Brain Injury Association of NSW, Scarlett Alliance (the national peak organisations for sex workers), Touching Base (an organisation that works on improving access to the sex industry for people with disability) and people who access The Spastic Centre of NSW support services.
Thanks to everyone who participated and those who assisted with buying craft supplies, designing and ordering banners and t-shirts, writing slogans, painting placards, stencilling the banner, and sequin/pipe cleaner and pompom sticking. It really was a fantastic team effort.
Other State and Territory News
Queensland Election – Disability Policy
The Queensland election was held on 21 March 2009. In the lead up to the election, a number of Queensland disability groups reconvened the Disability Alliance to press all political parties and candidates to develop and take forward to the election strong and positive disability policy platforms.
The Disability Alliance was formed in Queensland for the 2007 National Election process. For the Queensland State election, the Alliance developed and distributed a lobby kit to assist Queenslanders with disability and their associates raise issues of concern with their local candidates, and to participate in local media and talk-back radio. The Alliance has also conducted campaign launches in Brisbane, Townsville and Bundaberg, and a rally outside Queensland State Parliament House.
The Alliance’s campaign has achieved media prominence with reports on Channel 7, ABC Television News, the Townsville Bulletin, and the Bundaberg News-Mail. The Alliance’s activities, Party and candidate policies and media statements, and the Alliance’s analysis of candidate policies and statements, are available on the Alliance’s website at www.disabilityalliance.org.au.
National Disability Advocacy Program
PWD has been successful in its applications for funding under the National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) to expand the delivery of individual advocacy support and improve service coverage with NSW and QLD. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), which funds NDAP, informed us that we were successful for the following Local Government Areas:
PWD is now planning the establishment and delivery of high quality individual advocacy support in each of these locations.
For more information contact email@example.com.
Campaign for a robust Nation Disability Strategy
PWD has joined with other national and state and territory disability rights and advocacy organisations to launch a campaign for a robust National Disability Strategy.
The campaign responds to what many viewed as a superficial and limited consultation paper released by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAHCSIA) in October 2008, which generated concern that the NDS is not being constructed in a strategic way, or at the necessary level. The campaign calls for a much more ambitious and robust strategic development process than the consultation paper implies is currently occurring.
The campaign seeks to make it clear to all Australian governments that much is expected of the NDS by persons with disability. It will be a principal means of implementing the obligations to which Australia is now bound under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and for ensuring that the Commonwealth’s social inclusion agenda penetrates in a meaningful way to the lived experience of persons with disability.
A copy of the Position Statement that underpins this campaign is available on PWD’s website at www.pwd.org.au. We encourage supporters to endorse the Position Paper and/or to incorporate its proposals into their own policy work around the NDS.
To endorse the position statement or for any further information contact Therese Sands at To endorse the position statement or for any further information contact Therese Sands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PWD responds to draft Access to Premises Standard
As we reported in E-bulletin 49, the Australian Government tabled the draft Disability Discrimination Act Access to Premises Standards in Parliament on 2 December 2008. Shortly afterward, the draft Standards were referred to the House of Representatives Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for inquiry. The Committee is examining the Standards’ ‘appropriateness and effectiveness,’ their interaction with existing State and Territory regulatory schemes; and whether the Standards will have an unjustifiable impact.
In PWD’s view the current Draft Standards fall short in a number of key respects, and we have been working collaboratively with a range of disability organisations to voice our concerns. We have agreed on key areas that need to be addressed in the current Draft including a lack of targets to focus implementation action and to measure progress; the failure to include common areas (such as hall-ways, car parks, laundries, BBQ areas) of Class 2 buildings (residential unit blocks); the failure to include comprehensive requirements in relation to wayfinding; and, the exemption of isolated stairwells from providing the full range of currently available access features necessary for safer emergency egress.
PWD has supported the sector-wide submission and developed its own submission to lodge with the Inquiry. We have emphasized the fundamental importance of a well-designed Access to Premises Standard to eliminating the barriers that prevent many persons with disability from fully participating in community life, including in employment, in education, in gaining equitable access to healthcare, and in participating in cultural, social and recreational activities. In this respect, we suggested that a robust Access to Premises Standard was essential to underpin the Australian Government’s social inclusion agenda, as well as to meeting Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Committee is now holding Public Hearings in Canberra (26 Feb, 12 March, 19 March), Sydney (25 March), Melbourne (30 March) and Brisbane (3 April). A number of PWD members attended the Public Hearing in Sydney on 25 March to support representatives from disability organizations who were presenting our viewpoints to the Committee.
For more information about the Public Hearings, go to the Committee website at www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/laca/disabilitystandards/hearings.htm.
Our submission is available on our website at www.pwd.org.au. For information on the sector wide submission, and the key agreed points of concern go to access.afdo.org.au and click on the links Detailed submission and Brief Guide.
For further information contact: ThereseS@pwd.org.au.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women comes into force in Australia
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) came into force with respect to Australia on 4 March 2009, following Australia’s accession to this treaty in December 2008.
Australia has been a Party to CEDAW since 1983, but under the Howard Government had refused to ratify the CEDAW Optional Protocol which was negotiated in 1999. The Optional Protocol establishes a procedure for complaints (or ‘communications’) to be made to the United Nations CEDAW Committee about the violation of CEDAW rights provided that all reasonably available domestic remedies have first been exhausted by the complainant.
On the occasion of the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland said ‘Australia’s accession to the Optional Protocol last year sent a strong message that we are serious about promoting gender equality and that we are prepared to be judged by international human rights standards.’ Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said that ‘becoming a party to the Optional Protocol demonstrates Australia’s commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of women, both at home and abroad.’
For further information, contact Therese Sands at email@example.com.
Towards a national Bill of Rights - consultations underway
As we reported in E-bulletin 49, on 10 December 2008 the Australian Government launched a national human rights consultation which is to consider the possibility of an Australian Bill of Rights. An independent committee has been established to conduct the consultation. The Committee will ask the Australian community:
PWD strongly encourages members and colleagues to become involved in this consultation process and to urge the incorporation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into any Australian Bill of Rights.
Details of the consultation sessions to be conducted across Australia are now available on the Committee’s website at www.humanrightsconsultation.gov.au.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has produced a Toolkit and Factsheets on the human rights consultations including information for people with disability. This is available at www.hreoc.gov.au/letstalkaboutrights/info.html.
The Human Rights Law Resource Centre has also produced information and a Toolkit on its website at www.hrlrc.org.au/html/s01_home/home.asp.
Please contact PWD for information about consultation sessions closest to you. For further information contact Therese Sands at Thereses@pwd.org.au.
First International Community-Based Rehabilitation Congress
PWD participated in the First Asia Pacific Community Based Rehabilitation Congress, Community – based Inclusive Development: Persons with disabilities and their families, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand from 18-20 February 2009. The Congress was held as a joint initiative between UN agencies, Governments and civil society.
The Congress brought together leading experts in Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), people with disability and their organisations, donor and development agencies involved in disability inclusive development, Government and Non-government organisations and many others to share knowledge and experiences of CBR, promote the effectiveness of CBR as a multi-sectoral strategy and develop future alliances and networks for the realisation of the rights of people with disability.
CBR was first developed as a strategy three decades ago by the World Health Organisation (WHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a multi-sectoral strategy for rehabilitation, equalisation of opportunities, poverty reduction and social inclusion for persons with disability and their families.
Since this time, CBR has grown and developed alongside global and regional mandates including the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action (BMF) and its supplement the BMF plus five, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and more recently the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to create a paradigm shift from a charity to a rights based approach to disability and development.
Through its participation, PWD was able to increase its understanding of the CBR approach and its potential application in Australian and the Asia Pacific, and develop partnerships and networks for strengthening the global disability rights movement.
A key outcome of the CBR Congress was the formation of a CBR Asia Pacific Network, which will eventually become part of the CBR Global Network. PWD is a member of the Australian sub-group of this Network.
For more information contact Maria Attard at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sonya Price-Kelly at email@example.com.
First Meeting of United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) establishes a treaty body which is designated the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
As we reported in E-Bulletin 48, an Australian nominee, Professor Ronald MacCallum, AO was elected to this Committee at the First Conference of State Parties, which was held in New York in November 2008. The Committee met for the first time since its election at the United Nations in Geneva from 23-27 February 2009. At this meeting, the Committee elected its Office bearers and began the process of considering its rules of procedure, methods of work, and cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specialised agencies and bodies. Meetings were also held with State Parties and disabled peoples organisations. The Committee elected two Chairs who will each serve one year consecutively, and five Vice Chair positions. Professor MacCallum was elected to the position of Committee Rapporteur (or spokesperson) on CRPD and will serve a two year term. A Committee Rapporteur was also elected in relation to the CRPD Optional Protocol.
The inside story
Vale Matt Laffan 1970 – 2009
The PWD Board would like to pay tribute to the respected lawyer and disability activist, Matt Laffan, who passed away on Sunday 1st March 2009 after several weeks battling health complications.
Matt was a successful lawyer with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions and was an active member of the Disability Council of NSW.
A memorial scholarship fund, Matt Laffan Memorial Scholarship has been set up by friends to assist university students with physical disability to achieve their goals. To find out more about Matt and the Scholarship go to www.mattlaffan.com.au.
2009 PWD Executive Committee
The first Board Meeting for 2009 was held on 7 February. At this meeting, PWD Office holders were elected. These Office holders make up the new PWD Executive:
Portfolio Advisory Groups
At the Board Meeting on 7 February, Board members elected Convenors for PWD’s Portfolio Advisory Groups (PAGs), which are one way the Board fulfils its constitutional requirements to determine PWD policy. The purpose of the PAGs is to:
The ten PAGs and their respective Convenors for 2009 are:
If PWD members are interested in finding out more about the work of the PAGs, please contact the respective PAG Convenor or the PWD President at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWD) is a national disability rights and advocacy organisation. Its primary membership is people with disability and organisations primarily made up of people with disability. PWD also has a large associate membership of other individuals and organisations committed to the disability rights movement. PWD was founded in 1981, the International Year of Disabled People, to provide people with disability with a voice of our own. We have a cross-disability focus; we represent the interest of people with all kinds of disability. PWD is a non-profit, non-government organisation.
For information about membership, contact Laura Davy by email or on one of numbers below.
PWD’s training services
PWD has extensive experience in the development and delivery of professional training across a wide range of disability areas, including:
Training packages developed are flexible and tailor-made to meet the needs of the particular organisation. To find out more about PWD's training services or to discuss your specific training needs, contact the Senior Education Officer, Fiona Godfrey.
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People with Disability Australia Incorporated