Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


International Day of People with Disability

7:32 pm

Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the International Day of People with Disability, something that I am very pleased to say has been celebrated quite widely in this building today and in the days leading up to it. I started myself on Sunday with a picnic in Boyd Park, Nundah, which is not far from where my office is and not far from where I live. The picnic was designed to bring together people with disabilities and people without disabilities to do things everybody enjoys irrespective of whether they have a disability—things like face painting, balloon stick people and the like. You can see some of the results of that on my Facebook page, which I would encourage people to do.

Tonight, I want to speak about attitudes toward disability and then move on to some of the barriers, if I have time. The Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, earlier today spoke about disability having moved from the margins of society and being far more in the centre of society because of the work that has been done by Mr Shorten and many others on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I must commend everyone who was involved in that. I would like to commend Senator Fifield too for his very real interest and his almost immediate grasp of the problems present in the disability sector.

One thing I would particularly like to thank him for is returning to the name NDIS and completely abolishing from our landscape the blot of the name DisabilityCare for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which Ms Macklin and others managed to develop towards the end of the last government. I was talking to people from the disability sector about how you almost feel like someone has physically hit you in the stomach when you think they have understood the issue and you suddenly realise they have not got a clue what you are talking about when you talk about the issues in the disability sector. That is a little how I felt and how many, many others in the disability field felt when the former government produced the name DisabilityCare. A press release from the National Council on Intellectual Disability was headed 'Dignity, respect and citizenship or charity, welfare and little else'. Their view was that the name DisabilityCare, which they say must have been thought up by a PR agency, indicated 'charity, welfare and little else'. To suddenly go back and try to equate disability care with Medicare was stepping back well over 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years to the time when disability was seen as a deficit that needed to be fixed by the good burghers of the scientific and medical world—what was known as the medical model, where you try to fix the individual, rather than the social model, which simply looks at dealing with the discrimination that is experienced by people with disability. To have moved back to a model that the National Council on Intellectual Disability referred to as 'giving dignity, respect and citizenship to people with a disability' by using the name the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a fantastic start. This move clearly demonstrates the attitude this government has towards assisting people with disability to be the best they can be and not poor little sufferers who are looked after. That was the attitude displayed to people with disability perhaps 100 years or so ago.

The other way you know that disability has moved off the margins is that the November issue of the magazine of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Company Director, features the National Disability Insurance Scheme and disability on its front page and in a major article. You know disability is in the mainstream when it is being written about in a corporate magazine. The article is titled 'The changing conversation on disability boards'. It is wonderful that this area is finally getting some recognition from the corporate world. I have pushed hard at various times for organisations, like the Institute of Company Directors, to recognise private family businesses and not-for-profit businesses as organisations needing the same sorts of governance and assistance as major companies in Australia. I am somewhat concerned that the magazine quotes Mr Trent Bartlett, a non-executive director of Good Samaritan Industries, saying:

Hopefully there will be fewer smaller-scale, inefficient operators but more choice for clients. Hopefully that adds up to a better quality of life.

I agree fully with Mr Bartlett in wanting efficient operators and service provision to give clients the choice they want and a better quality of life, but I am very concerned about the attitude within the service provision part of the disability sector that Mr Bartlett indicates in talking about there being fewer small-scale organisations. There is going to be and must be room within the National Disability Insurance Scheme not just for large or medium-sized organisations but also for plenty of very small, niche organisations providing services needed by a small part of the disability community. We need a whole range of services, and there is absolutely no reason why disability sector businesses should be run differently from other businesses, from sole traders to massive organisations.

I agree with Mr Bartlett and others, such as Ms Joy Cusack of ParaQuad in New South Wales, that we are about to see a huge shake-up in the service provision industry within the disability sector. This will be the first time that people with a disability and their families can genuinely choose the products they want and pay for those products themselves. In the past there have been elements of choice and some good organisations going out of their way to provide choice. More often, organisations have provided services that were sort of or maybe what people wanted, and if those people did not accept the service closest to what was needed, they got no service at all. That situation would not have been accepted within the mainstream of Australia but was supported for far too long and allowed to continue to exist by federal and state governments. One thing we need to keep in mind, as this article points out, is that there will be massive changes and a massive need for change and for more and new types of personnel. We are looking at social change, so there will be a lot of pressure in this sector. We need to support the sector through this transition.

A petition was launched today by the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, FECCA, to push for an increase in the employment rate of people with a disability. People with a disability are currently employed at half the rate of other Australians. People with a disability and an ethnically, culturally or linguistically different background have half the employment rate of people with a disability, so they form a group with only 25 per cent of the employment rate of the rest of Australia. I urge people to support that petition and the International Day of People with Disability.