Disability groups rally in Queanbeyan to ask Deputy Premier save disability services

People with disability, disability information and advocacy services and MPs will rally in Queanbeyan Park at 11am today to call on the Deputy Premier John Barilaro to act to save them.

“Disability advocacy and information services will close in NSW on June 30 unless the NSW Government reverses their cuts to our organisations,” said Ms Bonnie Millen, President of People with Disability Australia. “We’re asking the Deputy Premier, John Barilaro, to save our services and make sure our voices continue to be heard.”

“While our voices will never be silenced, the cuts by the NSW Government mean that our efforts to remove the barriers that exist for people with disability to participate in our communities and make life better, fairer and more decent for people with disability will be seriously affected.”

Over 50 disability groups across NSW will have their funding cut by the NSW Government on June 30 this year, which will lead to many of them closing their doors. This means many people with disability will no longer be able to get help when they need it.

“It can be difficult for people with disability to get a fair go and speak up. Sometimes they need someone to help them when things go wrong. Advocacy organisations help people with disability speak up and understand their rights,” said Ms Serena Ovens, convenor of the NSW Disability Advocacy Alliance.

Many mainstream services are not accessible for people with disability. Advocacy and information services provide independent information and advice for people with disability, often from other people with disability. They have built up considerable expertise over many years, which will be lost after June 30, unless Mr Barilaro, and the NSW Government, acts soon.

“Our office in Queanbeyan provides vital support to people with disability, and their local concerns contribute to our advocacy across NSW on issues like public transport, education, housing, justice, employment and health. As people with disability, we provide expert advice to the NSW Government, but this will end on June 30,” said Ms Millen.

“Independent information is incredibly important for people with disability to be able to have choice and control over the services that they use. These services were vital for my son’s ability to have his voice heard,” said Bob Gilholme, Gundagai resident and former Chair of IDEAS -Information on Disability and Education Awareness Services.

Queanbeyan resident David Brown, a man with vision impairment who has accessed local disability advocacy support, will also speak at the rally. “Having local disability services is vital for me to be able to equally access mainstream services that are often not accessible for people with disability,” he said.

The NDIS will not provide advocacy services in NSW, and other state governments are increasing advocacy and information funding as the NDIS rolls out across Australia.

“NDIS funding covers service providers not advocates. This means that a core piece of disability support infrastructure is about to disappear. This will leave significant gaps in advocacy, information and representational services for the 20% of people living in NSW with disability – the largest single minority group in NSW,” said Ms Ovens.