Issue 52, April 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Allan Barnes on one of the numbers listed at the end of this bulletin.
New South Wales News
DADHC Criminal Justice Resource Manual
The NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) is currently finalising a Criminal Justice Resource Manual (CJRM) to provide information and guidance to its staff in the provision of services to people with intellectual disability who are in the criminal justice system, or at risk of contact with the criminal justice system.
The CJRM provides information in relation to victims of crime, witnesses and offenders. It is structured according to typical pathways through the criminal justice system for each of these target groups. The CJRM also includes a section on working with persons with intellectual disability who are in custody.
PWD was invited to comment on the final draft of the publication. In its response, PWD made a number of suggestions to improve the accessibility and responsiveness of DADHC’s support for these target groups, to ensure that these target groups obtain effective access to other sources of support (such as independent advocacy), and for sensitising DADHC staff to issues impacting on victims of crime.
PWD understands that the CJRM will be finalised and published shortly, including on DADHC’s website at www.dadhc.nsw.gov.au
For further information contact Julie Dardel, Advocacy Projects Manager on the numbers below or at email: email@example.com
New Directions for respite services in NSW
The NSW Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) has released a discussion paper that outlines proposed new directions for respite services in NSW. These new directions are to underpin the reform and expansion of respite services commencing in financial year 2009/10.
The discussion paper proposes that the reform of respite care will be guided by four themes:
The discussion paper invites feedback from the community about the proposed new directions. The discussion paper is available on DADHC’s website at www.dadhc.nsw.gov.au. DADHC will accept feedback until 26 June 2009.
PWD will be providing comments on the issues raised in the discussion paper. If you would like to contribute views to be included in PWD’s submission, please contact Sonya Price-Kelly, Advocacy Projects Manager, on the numbers below or at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NSW Companion Card now operational
The NSW Companion Card is now fully operational, having been launched by the NSW Minister for Disability Services, the Hon Paul Lynch, on 31 March 2009.
Companion Card holders will be able to obtain two admission tickets for the price of one ticket, and do not have to pay a booking fee, at participating venues and events. The Companion Card is for people with a disability who always require an attendant carer to support their participation in community activities and venues.
Cards are issued to persons with disability (rather than the companion or carer) who meet the eligibility criteria for the program (residence in NSW; severe or profound disability; unable to participate in community-based activities without significant assistance; and, need for lifelong support).
You can apply for a Companion Card by calling free-call 1800 893 044 or by writing to: Companion Card, PO Box R160, Royal Exchange, NSW, 1255, or by visiting the Companion Card website at www.nds.org.au (then follow links to NSW; then to Companion Card website).
Historic Forensic Mental Health reforms in NSW
On 1 March 2009 amendments to NSW mental health legislation came into effect that abolish executive discretion to determine the release of forensic mental health ‘patients’.
The term ‘forensic patient’ generally covers persons who have been found not guilty of committing a crime by reason of mental illness, as well as people who are found to be unfit to stand trial. Executive discretion is a concept that dates back to nineteenth century English law. In practice in NSW it required the NSW Minister for Health to determine when a forensic patient was to be released. The system has operated without transparency or accountability, and has often resulted in forensic patients being held in detention for much longer periods than any sentence that would have been imposed had the patient been convicted and sentenced for the crime for which they were accused.
Under the new legislation orders for the care, treatment, leave and release of forensic patients will be made by a specially constituted panel of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which is to be chaired by a former judge. PWD has campaigned for the abolition of executive discretion for many years, and applauds this important reform.
Second Review of the Lifetime Care and Support Authority
The NSW Parliament’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice is conducting its second review of the Lifetime Care and Support Authority (LTCSA), and the Lifetime Care and Support Advisory Council of NSW (LTCSAC).
The LTCSA is a statutory authority responsible for the administration of the Lifetime Care and Support Scheme, which provides lifetime care and support to people severely injured in motor accidents in NSW. The Law and Justice Committee is currently inviting submissions from interested organisations and individuals. Submissions close on 6 May 2009. Further information about the inquiry can be obtained from the NSW Parliament website at www.parliament.nsw.gov.au (look under inquiries receiving submissions on front page).
Other State and Territory News
Queensland Companion Card Launched
In March 2009, the Queensland Government launched a Companion Card scheme. The Scheme allows an eligible person with disability to purchase two tickets for the price of one, so that a companion may accompany them to an event or venue.
To be eligible, a person must require significant assistance with mobility, communication, self-care or learning, and this requirement must be of a life-long nature. The card-holder’s chosen companion may be a paid or unpaid assistant or carer, friend, or family member or partner.
More information about the Companion Card, including the application form, and participating entertainment providers and venues, is available by calling 13 13 04, by writing to Card Services Reply Paid 52, Brisbane, Q, 4001, or by visiting the Queensland Department of Communities Website at www.communities.qld.gov.au/community/companion-card
Victoria leads with Build for Life Initiative
Victorian Planning Minister, Hon Justin Madden and Minister for Community Services and Senior Victorians, Hon Lisa Neville, have announced a Build for Life awareness campaign, which includes a Government commitment to assessing the impact of requiring a number of low-cost, or no-cost, design features for private housing development.
These design features include step-fee entry, wider doorways and hallways and a bathroom on the ground floor which could be fitted with access features in the future. These reforms aim to provide practical and accessible housing for all Victorians over the course of their lifetime.
A regulatory impact statement in relation to these proposed changes will be released for public comment later in 2009. More information about Build for Life is available at www.buildforlife.com.au.
South Australian Liberal Opposition Release Individualised Funding Policy
The South Australian Liberal Opposition has released a pre-election policy on individualised funding. The policy Individualised Funding in Disability Services – Empowering people with Disability to Create Better Lives has been released in the lead up to the South Australian State election in 2010.The policy commits a future Liberal Government to establishing a model of individualised funding for services to persons with disability by January 2011, and enabling all persons who wish to access individualised funding to do so by 2014. To obtain a copy of the policy go to www.saliberal.org.au/index.php/policies.
Western Australia develops long-term disability strategy to 2025
The Western Australian Disability Services Commission is finalising a long-term strategy for disability in Western Australia, called Disability Future Directions 2025.
The Strategy includes the vision and future priorities for persons with disability, their families and carers, the factors most likely to shape the future, and the recommended pathways to travel forward. In part, the Strategy will be designed to assist Western Australia meet its responsibilities under United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Strategy is being built around eight priority areas: ‘financial security, employment and government assistance’; ‘well-designed housing and communities’; ‘people who are ageing; people with high support needs’; ‘families and carers’; ‘people living in regional and remote areas’; ‘life-long learning’; and , ‘support by specialist disability services.’
ACT Releases Final Report on Role of Government in Disability Services
The Australian Capital Territory’s Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services (DHCS) has released the final report on its review of the Role of Government in providing disability services.
This review has been underway since August 2006. Following wide-ranging consultations, the ACT Government determined that it has a continuing role as a provider of disability services alongside the community sector. Since making this determination, the focus of the Review has been to examine what the structure of the disability service delivery system should be. This has involved questions such as how Government and the community can best partner to deliver high-quality, person-centred disability services; how people access these services; how priorities are determined; and, how funding decisions are made.
The final report contains a set of 12 recommendations focused on improving disability service delivery; access and information; establishing priorities and making decisions; service relationships; and, sector development. To obtain a copy of this Report go to the DHCS website at www.dhcs.act.gov.au/disability_act.
Pioneering disability advocate unable to gain residency In Australia
PWD is extremely concerned that Australia’s migration laws continue to violate the human rights of people with disability. As reported in our edition 48, November 2008 E-bulletin, the Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended that the Migration Act be reviewed in light of Australia’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
Most recently, Kenyan Dr Siyat Hillow Abdi is fighting a battle to stay in Australia in order to continue to build a life in Australia. Dr Abdi has been given a deadline of the 18th May by the Australian Government before he must leave Australia. Despite valuable contributions to the Australian community, Dr Abdi appears to be denied residency because of his disability.
In 2007 Dr Siyat Hillow Abdi overcame extraordinary barriers to become one of the first blind people to be registered as a teacher in South Australia. This was recognised throughout the disability sector as a significant victory for people with disability in Australia in achieving rights and participation.
Dr Abdi has completed a PhD at Flinders University, South Australia and has published a book (with Brian Mathews) entitled, The Journey of Somali Refugees with Disabilities in Kenya: Voices of Refugees with Disabilities in the Dadaab Camps.
Dr Abdi continues to make a strong day to day contribution to the Australian community, through his work supporting newly arrived members of the Ogaden / Somali community. Dr Abdi currently works as a relief teacher for recent migrants and refugees, and acts as a role model for many young people in South Australia.
A number of organisations, including PWD are calling on individuals and organizations to write to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600, to urge him to use his public interest power under Section 417 of the Migration Act 1958 to allow Dr Abdi to stay in Australia.
More information on Dr Abdi can be found in the article in The Advertiser "Blind Man Wins Right to Teach" at: www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22479141-5006353,00.html. For more information contact Therese Sands, Executive Director, on the numbers below or by email at: email@example.com.
Women’s safety and the law
PWD recently participated in a national forum on Women’s Safety and the Law which was conducted in Melbourne by the Women’s Legal Service Victoria on behalf Women’s Legal Services Australia. The Forum brought together a range of stakeholders including lawyers, academics, community workers and government representatives.
The Forum compared and contrasted State and Territory intervention order laws; examined how family law can be improved to better protect women and children from violence; identified the gaps in family law, child protection and family violence laws; examined how the law can help women heal from violence, including restorative justice approaches; considered how Australia’s Human Rights Act can protect women and children from violence; and, examined Victoria’s model for a family violence death review process.
In its contribution to the debate, PWD urged approaches to these issues that took account of the multiple and aggravated disadvantage experienced by women and children with disability, and which were accessible and inclusive of women and children with disability.
For more information contact Maria Attard, Advocacy Projects Manager, on the numbers below or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disability Employment Services to be Uncapped
On 7 April 2009, the Commonwealth Minister for Employment Participation, the Hon Brendan O’Connor announced details of the new Disability Employment Services (DES). The DES are part of the Rudd Government's National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy.
A recent review of the current DES found that the system forced some job seekers to wait for services, and that it was inflexible for both job seekers and employment service providers. From 1 March 2010 existing caps on services will be removed and all job seekers with disability will have access to individually tailored employment services. The measures also include a new Employee Assistance Fund which will better support employers with broader access to workplace modifications and Auslan interpreting services. The new service also includes an intermittent post-placement support option which will better support employees with episodic disability including mental health conditions.
Additionally, from 1 March 2010 employment service providers will have greater scope to plan services and will receive payment quarterly in advance instead of the current system of monthly in arrears.
Outrage at Recommended Discontinuation of Electronic Voting
The Federal Parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee tabled a report on its review of the 2007 federal election electronic voting trials in the House of Representatives on 17 March 2009. The trials provided for electronically assisted voting for electors who are blind and vision impaired and remote electronic voting for selected Australian Defence Force personnel serving overseas.
The Committee has recommended that these trials be discontinued on the basis of the low participation rates of electors who are blind or vision impaired (only 850 electronic votes were cast across 29 metropolitan and regional locations), and the high unit cost of these votes ($2,597.00) as compared with other votes ($8.36). Chair of the Committee, Hon Daryl Melham said ‘the high cost of improving the quality of the voting experience for a limited number of voters is unsustainable given the low number of votes cast and the limited opportunities to lift participation.’ The Committee concluded that blind and vision impaired electors will not be disenfranchised because the Commonwealth Electoral Act permits assisted voting where required.
The opportunity to cast a confidential, personally verifiable, vote is a fundamental human right. PWD therefore rejects these conclusions and the analysis upon which they are based. In our view, it is unsurprising that uptake of electronic voting by persons who are blind or vision impaired at the first opportunity was somewhat tentative – uptake is bound to improve as knowledge and confidence in this option increases. Indeed, many blind and vision impaired voters did not even know they had the option of electronic voting at the 2007 elections.
PWD is in the process of raising its concerns about this issue with the Committee and key members of Parliament. For more information, contact Dean Price, Advocacy Projects Manager, on the numbers below or by email at: email@example.com.
Pension rise guaranteed for disability support pensioners
In March 2009, speculation intensified that the Commonwealth Government would abandon expected increases to the disability support pension (and other income support payments) in response to the rapid deterioration in Government revenues brought about by the World financial crisis. However, on 26 March 2009, the Prime Minister, Hon Kevin Rudd, provided a public assurance that a rise in the pension was guaranteed to disability support pensioners in the May budget.
This guarantee was also provided by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin, who said “we have always been clear: age pensioners, disability support pensioners, carers and veterans will get a pension rise in the May budget.”
PWD welcomes the Government’s unequivocal guarantee of a rise in the disability support pension this year.
Companion Card National Website
A Companion Card National Website has now been established to provide information about the scheme and its areas of operation in Australia. The Companion Card allows people with high support needs, who require attendant care, to purchase two admission tickets to events and venues for the price of one. The website address is www.companioncard.org.au.
Right to an Ordinary Life – Parliamentary Secretary addresses National Press Club
On 1 April 2009 the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, the Hon Bill Shorten addressed the National Press Club on the Rudd Government’s priorities for persons with disability and their associates in Australia.
In a wide-ranging speech the Secretary refers to the Australian Disability Agreement, the work of the National Disability Investment Group, the proposed National Disability Strategy, and the potential for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is a passionate and compelling address that is well worth reading.
You can access this address on the Secretary’s website at www.billshorten.fahcsia.gov.au/internet/billshorten.nsf.
Australia supports United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons
On 3 April 2009, the Australian Government issued a Statement formally supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration). The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations in September 2007. It refers at a number of points to the multiple and aggravated disadvantage and human rights violations experienced by indigenous persons with disability.
Australia, under the former Howard Government, was among a small minority of nations to vote against the Declaration, causing great distress to Australian indigenous persons and their supporters. Since coming to office the current Rudd Government has consulted with indigenous representative bodies and others about the appropriate way for Australia to indicate its support for the Declaration. (As it is not a treaty, Australia is not able to indicate its support by ratification or accession.) This resulted in a decision to issue a formal Government Statement supporting the Declaration. The Declaration can be accessed at: www2.ohchr.org/english/law.
Nominations open for 2009 National Disability Awards
Nominations are now open for the 2009 National Disability Awards. There are five award categories: Minister’s Lifelong Achievement Award; Disability Rights Young Leader Award; Business Award; Local Government Award; and, Social Inclusion Award. Nominations close on 22 May 2009.
Further information about the awards can be found at www.idpwd.com.au or by calling 1800 440 385.
Pacific Disability Forum: Pacific Regional Conference
The Pacific Disability Forum (PDF) held its first Pacific Regional Conference in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 20-24 April 2009. The Conference consisted of three separate events - the Women with Disability Forum, a two-day Conference program and the PDF General and Council meetings.
Co-hosted by PDF member Disability Promotion and Advocacy Vanuatu (DPA), the Conference provided PDF members, including PWD, and other participants with an opportunity to discuss disability and development and regional initiatives and projects.
PWD was encouraged by the participation of many Australian development organisations that are actively engaging or wanting to engage in Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) capacity building activities in the Pacific region.
PWD acknowledges with appreciation the financial support provided by NZAID, AusAID, the Global Fund for Women and the Vanuatu Government for this event. For more information contact Sonya Price-Kelly, Advocacy Projects Manager, on the numbers below or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Expert Group Meeting on Mainstreaming Millennium Development Goals
From 14 to 16 April 2009 the United Nations held an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) to review existing policy frameworks, resources, tools, and mechanisms for mainstreaming disability in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Currently, there are no references to persons with disability either in the MDGs themselves or in the accompanying framework for ongoing MDG implementation. The EGM on Mainstreaming Disability developed a “roadmap” to include disability issues in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of all MDG-related plans, programs and policies in international development currently in operation or in the planning stage. It reviewed the on-going international, national and regional efforts in mainstreaming disability and empowerment of persons with disabilities in developmental contexts. It also identified emerging issues and trends concerning the advancement of the rights of persons with disability in the broad human rights-development framework. A report on the meeting is expected shortly.
The inside story
PWD wins tender to operate Hotline/CRRS Services
PWD is pleased to be able to inform members and colleagues that it has been successful in its tender to operate the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline (Hotline) and the Complaint Resolution and Referral Service (CRRS) on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs for a further 2 year period after the current contract period completes on 30 June 2009.
The Hotline provides an Australia-wide telephone hotline for reporting allegations of abuse and neglect of persons with disability who use government funded services. These allegations are referred to an appropriate authority for investigation.
The CRRS is an independent complaint resolution service for persons with disability who use Commonwealth funded disability employment and advocacy services.
PWD has been operating these services on behalf of the Commonwealth since their establishment in October 2001 and July 2002 respectively. Under its new contract with the Commonwealth, PWD will continue to operate these services until 30 June 2011. The Hotline and CRRS operate independently of PWD’s other services.
You can contact the Hotline and CRRS on Free-call 1800 880 052, or for TTY 1800 301 130 between 8:00am and 8:00pm, seven days a week, no matter where you live in Australia.
Members Event: Having Our Say – the Australian Government’s National Human Rights Consultations
The PWD Board would like to invite members to an information evening and social gathering to discuss views about an Australian Charter of Rights. Guest speakers will provide information on a Charter followed by an opportunity for members to provide their views on human rights.
This event will take place at the Mercure Hotel Central, 818 - 820 George St Sydney (accessible car drop-off in Little Regent St) on Friday 15 May 2009 at 6pm – 9pm.
Please RSVP by Thursday 7 May 2009 to Laura Davy, phone (02) 9370 3100 or 1800 422 015, TTY (02) 9318 2138 or email email@example.com. If you have any specific participation needs (e.g. interpreter, attendant carer) please let Laura know.
PWD Board Member Campaigns for Accessible Tourism
PWD Board member, Sheila King, is campaigning to raise awareness about the benefits and value of accessible tourism. She claims that accessible tourism is now the fastest growing sector of the tourist industry, but this fact is not well recognised and understood by the tourist industry.
In a recent article she has called for a concrete dialogue between tourist industry users with disability and service providers to raise awareness and understanding. The article highlights that “(a)ccessible business is big business and the market is growing fast – partly because the world is growing older. The tourism industry should realise that open access benefits all customers – accessibility is a competitive and economic advantage, not just a social or legal responsibility.”
Sheila has also established a website which provides information on accessible tourism options internationally. To access this website go to www.australiaforall.com.
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 Fiona Godfrey, Manager, Training.
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People with Disability Australia Incorporated