#FirstPeoples1st100Days PM: Meet with First Peoples

Today, on the first day of Federal Parliament, FPDN was proud to stand alongside national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership organisations to deliver a strong message to Prime Minister Turnbull, his government and the Parliament: – the relationship with the First Peoples of this nation must be reset.
Following on from the historic Redfern Statement in June this year, the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, along with peak national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations united in front of Parliament House calling for a new era in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Damian Griffis, CEO of FPDN, called for:

an end to the indefinite detention of Aboriginal people with disability;

national Aboriginal led Local Area coordination of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).


Listen to co-chair of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples talking to Patricia Karvelas on ABC’s Drive program here.

Read the opinion piece from the Dr Jackie Huggins and Rod Little, co-chairs of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples here.

Read FPDN’s 10-point-plan for the implementation of the NDIS in Aboriginal ad Torres Strait Islander communities here.

Download the Redfern Statement here.

Parliament House Canberra 30 August 2016
Parliament House Canberra 30 August 2016
Scott Avery and Damian Griffis #selfie
Senator Pat Dodson & Linda Burney with Sea of Hands outside Parliament House


Unmet needs of Aboriginal people living with brain injury. By Damian Griffis

This week is Brain Injury Awareness Week. At the First Peoples Disability Network we say that meeting the needs of Aboriginal people with disabilities is one of the most critical social justice issues in Australia.

It is difficult to think of any more disadvantaged Australians then Aboriginal people with disability. FPDN co-hosted a forum in Redfern with Synapse and we hope to draw attention to the unmet needs of Aboriginal people living with brain injury.

According to the 2011 Census at least 50% of our people have some form of disability or long term health condition, the 2014/15 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey has concluded that at least 7.7% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have severe or profound disability, this equates to approximately 60,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait people with disability who are eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The actual prevalence of brain injury in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is not known but we could be sure that the rate is at least twice that of the rest of the Australian population.  Brain Injury can occur for a range of reasons. It might be the result of an accident, violence or as a consequence of alcohol or substance abuse.  Regardless of the cause it is fair to say that the needs of vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with brain injury remain largely unmet.

Two leading researchers spoke to us and presented data and lessons learned through ongoing research. Professor Eileen Baldry has done some vital research into the prevalence of people with disability in the Australian prison system and Dr Clare Townsend shared with us the research she has done in relation to Aboriginal people with brain injury and homelessness in North Queensland. These research projects are culturally respectful and inclusive of Aboriginal researchers, organisations, Elders and Traditional Owners.  At FPDN we are grateful to both Eileen and Clare for bringing their extensive research experience to this most critical social justice issue. It is vital that we work towards meeting the needs of Aboriginal people with disability including those Aboriginal people living with brain injury.

The overwhelming messages that were raised in yesterday’s forum are ones often repeated among our mobs and at conferences and forums led by Aboriginal people.

In short:

Listen to communities, invest in support, invest in communities – the financial and human costs of a punitive and overly policed society are far greater than whole of community responses to disability and disadvantage that we all advocate. The numbers back this up. There are huge costs to the wider community, and to the individual for that matter, when people cycle in and out of emergency services rather than ongoing and responsive supports from an early age.

I’m reaching out to you today because we need people across the country to champion this issue. It is a national outrage that so many of our people are in prisons and that the rates are increasing. People with disability, including those with acquired brain injury have unmet needs, and too often disability is in effect criminalised. Aboriginal people with disability end up in prison or sleeping rough because they are rendered “invisible” by a system that does not respond to their needs. A responsive and supportive system would cost much less in both the human and ecomonic senses.

Damian Griffis gave a speech at the Redfern Community Centre on Monday 15 August for Brain Injury Awareness Week 2016. FPDN held an event in partnership with Synapse.

This opinion piece was published in First Nations Telegraph.

Aboriginal Disability Network NSW has merged with FPDN

The Aboriginal Disability Network NSW (ADNNSW) has merged with First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN), as of July 2016.


We are the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW (ADNNSW) is an FPDN project of and for Aboriginal people with disability living in

New South Wales.
Our major aims are:
  • empowerment and promotion of the rights of Aboriginal people with disability
  • the creation of a society in which Aboriginal people with disability can fully participate.
We bring together Aboriginal people with disability, our families
and carers to:
  • tell our stories
  • support each other
  • create a voice for positive change
  • speak for ourselves.

The important work ADNNSW does in News South Wales will continue and will operate as a project of FPDN.

Please contact the FPDN office if you have any queries.

International Day of World’s Indigenous People 2016

Today is the United Nations International Day of World’s Indigenous People

“In Australia an Indigenous child with disability is more likely to matriculate into prison than into tertiary education.

 Many Indigenous children are falling through the cracks in the education system because they have a disability that goes unrecognised and is therefore not suppIMG_3481orted.

 To get the best learning outcomes for our kids our education system must be culturally and disability inclusive.”

Scott Avery

Policy and Research Director


From the UN:

2016 Theme: Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education

This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is devoted to the right to education.

The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 14 states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

The right of indigenous peoples to education is also protected by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.

In spite of these instruments, the right to education has not been fully realized for most indigenous peoples, and a critical education gap exists between indigenous peoples and the general population.

Where data exist, they show consistent and persistent disparities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population in terms of educational access, retention and achievement, in all regions of the world.

The education sector not only mirrors the historical abuses, discrimination and marginalization suffered by indigenous peoples, but also reflects their continued struggle for equality and respect for their rights as peoples and as individuals.



Statement on Youth Justice from Aunty Gayle Rankine

ABC’s 4 Corners program brought national attention to the incarceration and institutionalisation of our young people.

The abuse, neglect and torture exposed on 4 Corners is alarming and our thoughts are with the children and their families.

Aboriginal people know about long term institutionalisation, we know about despair and we know about justice, or the lack of it.

We have heard about the things that go on. We know things go on, but to see the images, to see the footage – to bear witness – all the while knowing nothing was done – maybe nothing will be done to truly change the system, is heartbreaking and painful and we get angry.

So many Australians are shocked, and rightly so. But this is not new to many of our people, and while there is genuine comfort that people are now listening, the questions about why it took so long for governments and the wider public to listen remain. I hope that change does come. I ask the wider public to remember their horror and shock and make an effort to listen more and assume less.

We don’t just need change. We need reform. Bigger than reform we need action beyond the scope that this Royal Commission could ever offer. No matter what, no matter who, no matter why – to lock up and brutalise young people doesn’t heal; it harms. It doesn’t leave room for rehabilitation, it pushes children onto a path and keeps pushing them down that path.

Because of the bravery of these young people allowing their stories to be told, allowing their trauma to be made public, Australia and the world is watching. Because of the work of excellent journalists and advocates who are in it for the long-haul, some justice might start to creep in.

Sadly, this is not isolated. Nationally, Indigenous Australians are being incarcerated at increasing rates and we know that there is a high prevalence of disability, cognitive and psychosocial disability among the prison population. In effect disability is criminalised and those who are vulnerable and in need of support are placed in situations where long-term abuse and discrimination is a real risk.

We welcome the Royal Commission announced by Prime Minister Turnbull and we believe the indefinite detention of Aboriginal people with disability (often without conviction) must be investigated, and the prevalence of all disability including cognitive and psychosocial disability within the Aboriginal prison population must be investigated.