Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment must focus on solutions

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MEDIA RELEASE – Thursday 27th October 2016

Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

imprisonment must focus on solutions

A major national inquiry into the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must focus on identifying tangible solutions that address the underlying causes of imprisonment, says the Change the Record (CTR) Coalition. In welcoming today’s announcement of an Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) inquiry into the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the coalition of peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, human rights and legal organisations has said it is essential that the inquiry focus on practical measures that invest in and strengthen communities.

CTR Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “For a long time we have been calling for the Federal Government to take a leadership role on these issues, and so we welcome the Turnbull Government beginning to step up to the plate”.

“This year marks 25 years since the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), but our people continue to experience imprisonment and violence at crisis rates. The new ALRC inquiry offers an important opportunity to shine a comprehensive light on these issues at a national level, and identify tangible actions for all levels of government” said Mr Duffy.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rates, and experience of violence, are strongly linked to social and economic disadvantage and so the inquiry must include a focus on early intervention, prevention and diversion programs” said Mr Duffy.

Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook said, “Whilst the announcement of an ALRC inquiry to examine the factors leading to the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is welcome, it is essential that the inquiry also consider issues relating to the prevention of family violence and reducing barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence to access quality, holistic, culturally safe legal services and supports.”

“It is also critical that the Terms of Reference for the inquiry are developed in close consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, and those who are members of Change the Record. To ensure that the inquiry has a meaningful outcome, all levels of Government must commit to implementing the recommendations in full.”

“The Federal Government should also take immediate steps to highlight its commitment to improving justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including by setting meaningful national justice targets through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and committing to review the implementation of RCIADIC” said Ms Braybrook.


More information about the Change the Record campaign is available here.

RI World Conference, Edinburgh Scotland – Create a more inclusive world

June Riemer, Deputy CEO of FPDN is heading to Edinburgh Scotland to the RI World Conference next week.

RI World Congress is staged every four years, in the name of the parent organisation – Rehabilitation International (also known as RI Global) – and hosted by a trusted member. Shaw Trust is hosting the 2016 event in Edinburgh, UK.
This will be the 23rd RI World Congress, following the previous event, held in Incheon, Korea, in 2012. The event was last held in the UK in 1956, when it was opened by The Duke of Edinburgh.

RI Global is the world’s leading network for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities. This network includes people with disabilities, service providers, government agencies, academics, researchers and advocates. Comprising an assembly of 100+ member organisations, it uses advocacy, habilitation and rehabilitation to achieve an inclusive world where all people can enjoy active participation and full human rights.

If you’re interested to know more about the conference have a look at the website. Information about site accessibility is here.

ACT NDIS shutdown must be reversed – joint media release

People with Disabilities ACT logoLogo of Disabled=   
Disability Advocacy Network Australia logo      ACT Mental Health Consumer Network       ACT Council of Social Service Inc logo       Inclusion Australia logo
  Advocacy for Inclusion logo   Children and Young People with Disability logoFriends of Brain Injured Children
17 October 2016
ACT NDIS shutdown must be reversed 
A number of national and ACT disability representative and advocacy organisations are today calling on the Australian and ACT governments to immediately work together to reverse the shutdown of the NDIS in the ACT.
Despite welcome reassurances from Ministers, the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has stated that there will be no new NDIS participants in the ACT because the estimate of 5,075 participants contained in the ACT NDIS Bilateral Agreement has been reached. Significant alarm is being experienced by people with disability who have been waiting many years to receive appropriate disability support and they need a clear statement that the scheme will continue to make plans with eligible NDIS participants.
Craig Wallace from People with Disabilities ACT (PWDACT) stated, “We welcome efforts to resolve this, but are appalled at the decision to cease offering plans to new participants. People were explicitly told that there was no linkage between when you entered the scheme and the access to support you got. We were never told it would become a triaged system. It reverts us back to the old irrational first come, first served model. The Federal Government needs to swiftly move to end this cap and communicate that to people with disability and families.”
“The NDIS was never intended to be a rationed system and this move by the NDIA goes against the principles of the Scheme”, said Fiona May, CEO of ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS).  “We are very concerned for people who are affected by this freeze.  We work with people with disability who because of the complexity in their circumstances have not yet applied but very clearly need NDIS support; we have other clients whose NDIS applications have been delayed for many months by the NDIA and who are now left wondering whether they will ever get the services they need; and a group who have been found eligible but do not yet have planning appointments.”
The disability organisations acknowledge that both the ACT and the Federal Government have stated that the NDIS is not a capped scheme, and that action is being taken to bring in additional ACT NDIS participants.  However, they are extremely concerned that shifting responsibility and blame gaming is counterproductive to ending this crisis.
“This takes us back to the State and Territory / Commonwealth cost shifting and game playing around disability supports that were a feature of the old, broken disability support system,” said Mr Wallace.  “We will not accept this – politicians are morally and politically accountable to uphold the principles of the NDIS and act now to fix this.”
Therese Sands, Director of Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) said, “Halting access to the NDIS in the ACT has profound implications for people with disability across Australia.  It creates uncertainty in all jurisdictions if the NDIS will be shutdown when estimates of the numbers of participants contained in NDIS bilateral agreements are reached.  The situation in the ACT must not become a precedent for other States and Territories.  We urge the Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Christian Porter to quickly resolve this for people with disability in the ACT and people with disability across Australia.”

Media Contacts:
Craig Wallace 0413 135 731
Campaign Manager, People with Disabilities ACT (PWDACT)
Fiona May 0411 538 879
CEO, ACT Disability, Aged and Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS)
Therese Sands 0412 935 128

Director, Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia

Follow the Twitter hashtag #HandsoffourNDIS for the latest news.

Statement to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry into the adequacy of residential arrangements for young people with severe physical, mental or intellectual disabilities

Download document here.

Statement to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry into the adequacy of residential arrangements for young people with severe physical, mental or intellectual disabilities
19 February 2015
Good morning. I would like to commence by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. My name is Scott Avery, and with June Riemer, we represent the First Peoples
Disability Network. By way of background, the First Peoples Disability Network is a national organisation established by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. Our Board is comprised in its entirety of First Peoples with a
lived experience with disability, and it is the narratives of their lived experience which guide our policy and advocacy work. We believe the voice that our governance provides to First Peoples with disability is unique in Australia, if not the world.
We commend the Senate Community Affairs Committee for undertaking this Inquiry.
The Coalition of Australian Governments attempted to address this issue as far back as 2006, with Terms of Reference similar to this inquiry. That the Committee is being presented with much the same issues and similar experiences of those affected shows the dedicated effort that is required to ensure that all young people can access their right to an optimal quality of life.
There are issues common to all young people with severe physical and intellectual impairment. There is a lack of specialist services, not just in disability support but also across other areas such as education, housing and health. Accommodation
options are not suitable, usually multi-purpose facilities, nursing homes and community hospitals. There are no respite options. Those services that are provided are not coordinated. These issues are amplified by poverty and remoteness, to the
extent that appropriate services are non-existent.
Because appropriate services are missing, people are moving into the ageing system as a default, even though the principal diagnosis is disability. Families are presently compelled to work with an inadequate system to get some support, even if it is the
wrong sort of support. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, the life expectancy gap, currently 11 years less than other Australians, means that the transfer into ageing happens sooner.
There are issues that are peculiar to a First Peoples disability perspective. There are
three main considerations which we highlight:
1. The prevalence of young Aboriginal and people with severe mental and cognitive impairment will be understated in official data, and there are young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people falling through the system. As with most social data sets, there is little disaggregated data to understand the scope of the issues as they affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with severe mental and cognitive impairment. However, if the population-based statistics of disability hold true, then the prevalence will be twice that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to other Australians. There is also likely to be a considerable number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait people with who are not receiving any care at all, effectively unknown to the various systems. Based on our observations and private communications to us, some of the risk factors which might result in a young Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person falling through the formal support system include:

(i) A young person who has an acquired brain injury through to exposure to violence, or alcohol or volatile substance misuse. A common residential arrangement for these people can be a town camp, or living under a bridge.

(ii) An inherited distrust of Government bureaucracies, a consequence of the forced removal practices of the past, where people with disability were institutionalised and often placed into an environment where they were exposed to abuse and neglect.

2. An increased exposure to the criminal justice system means that prison has become a de-facto residential arrangement for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with mental and cognitive impairment. A number of cases have emerged in the past year where young Aboriginal people with mental impairment have been held indefinitely in prison. Some of these people have been held in prison without conviction for up to a decade. Again, the absence of data means the exact scope of this problem is unknown, but the fact that more cases of people with mental impairment in indefinite detention continue to be identified points to a major systemic fault. We believe that supported disability programs as a cost-effective alternative to detention will give these people a better outcome in life, as well deliver substantial social and economic benefits. Therefore, solutions to the unwarranted detention of people with mental impairment must be included as part of a comprehensive approach. Supported disability programs could address the inappropriate housing of young people with disability in numerous settings, including nursing homes and prisons.
3. Community-based solutions are the way forward in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people draw strength from their connection to community. We have heard many cases where people in need of support choose to live on Country close to their community, without formal support, rather than move off Country to a regional centre that has some supports. Making the NDIS work provides an answer to many of the common problems referred to earlier. However, rigid application of a market-based methodology must be tempered to accommodate the important role of community if it is to succeed in Aboriginal and Torres communities. We see community driven solutions, with local
people trained up and employed as disability support providers, as a significant untapped opportunity, that offers social and economic benefit. It should be noted that the NDIS is just one mechanism within an overarching national disability strategy. People need support across the spectrum within a social model of care; in disability services, housing, education and justice. But one barrier has been the delivery silos through which supports are organised, and the parochialism through which Federal and State agencies guard their responsibilities. However, people don’t live their lives in silos, and their lived experience highlights the great chasms that exist in integrated support.
In conclusion, there are practical solutions to these issues which can be achieved through a targeted action plan. Progress will require ‘co-operative federalism’, combining Federal and State collaboration, the expertise of community organisations and a healthy dose of political will. This was the promise of COAG in 2006, and we must revive that.
Scott Avery
Policy and Research Director
First Peoples Disability Network (Australia)

Peak disability group condemns decision to deny Deaf juror equal access

Logo of Disabled=
5 October 2016
Peak disability group condemns decision to deny Deaf juror equal access
Today the High Court of Australia unanimously rejected an appeal from Gaye Lyons, a Queensland women who had been turned down for jury service because she requires as Auslan interpreter to participate in proceedings.
“The decision is very disappointing”, says peak national disability group, Disabled Persons Organisations Australia (DPO Australia). “However, we won’t be deterred in our fight to ensure that people who are Deaf, or with disability, can access the justice system on an equal basis with other Australians,” said Ngila Bevan, Co-CEO of People with Disability Australia and member of DPO Australia.
“Australians who are Deaf, or have disability, have the right to participate in civic duties, including serving on juries.  Denial of this right also excludes the perspective of people with disability from the administration of justice, and means that juries do not reflect the diversity within our communities,’’ said  Dwayne Cranfield, CEO of National Ethnic Disability Alliance and member of DPO Australia.
DPO Australia will support actions to take this decision to the UN Committee to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Australia ratified in 2008.
“The Convention states that people with disability must be supported to exercise their rights and express their opinions ‘through all forms of communication of their choice’” said Ms Bevan.
“People who are Deaf, or who require Auslan interpretation to participate in court proceedings, are being denied equal recognition before the law and this must change. It’s a problem across both civil and criminal justice systems, and it’s time for our courts and legal process to adapt to peoples differing communication requirements.”
“This decision highlights the need for a human rights act in Queensland that will recognise and protect the human rights of people who are Deaf, and have disability, on an equal basis with other Queenslanders,” said Ms Bevan.
“DPO Australia calls on the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Attorney-General to immediately enact legislation that will enable people who are Deaf to serve as jurors’’, said Ms Bevan.