Disabled Peoples International

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International Year of Disabled Persons stimulated disability activism at the international level. Up until the late 1970s, the views of persons with disability were largely filtered, nationally and internationally, through the voices of service providers, professionals and family members.

At the time, the key international disability organisation was Rehabilitation International – the international equivalent of ACROD in Australia Rehabilitation International. Rehabilitation International had a policy which meant, while people with disability were welcome to attend its periodic international conference as observers, they were not permitted to speak. 

At the 1980 Conference of Rehabilitation International, held in Winnipeg, Canada, this policy prompted a walkout by people with disability and a decision to establish a new international organisation of and for people with disability.  Several Australians with disability were present at this meeting and participated in the walkout and in the formation of the new organisation. The organisation founded was Disabled Peoples International (DPI), which now has members in over 160 countries throughout the world.

As a result of the efforts of Australian activists who had been involved in the formation of the DPI, a NSW branch of Disabled Peoples International was established in 1982. Branches were also established in other States and Territories in the early 1980s along with a national assembly – Disabled Peoples International (Australia).

In 1984, the World Congress of Disabled Peoples International was held in Singapore. Several activists involved in both the NSW branch of Disabled Peoples International and the Handicapped Persons Alliance attended this conference. When they returned from Singapore, they created momentum to merge the Handicapped Persons Alliance and the NSW Branch of Disabled Peoples International.  This occurred in 1984 under the organisation name of Disabled Peoples International (NSW Branch), which reflected the very strong sense of connection felt with the emerging international social movement of people with disability.  This name was registered with the Department of Fair Trading in 1985.

In 1985, Disabled Peoples International (NSW Branch) adopted a constitution based on a regional council structure and became incorporated under the NSW Associations Incorporation Act, 1984. Each regional council nominated delegates to the central Board of the organisation. There were four metropolitan regions – Eastern, Southern, North East and North West – and five country regions Western, Riverina, Illawarra, North Coast and Hunter. This regional structure operated until 1991, when a new constitution was adopted based on a Board directly elected by the membership.

A young man standing and looking out the window in an old country house. He is weraing a hat and a hooded jumper.

People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc

In 1991, along with a new organisational structure, the organisation also assumed a new name – People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc. The new name was adopted to capture a changed perception of people with disability as ‘person first, disabled second’.

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