Conference: Policy and Research Director Scott Avery presented at Nga Pae o te Maramatanga

Our Policy and Research Director Scott Avery attending and presented at Nga Pae o te Maramatanga  –
International Indigenous Research Conference at the University of Auckland. The research conference brought together Indigenous researchers and scholars from around the world to share experiences, research methods and study outcomes on issues which affect Indigenous people across the globe. Maori culture and ceremony were a feature and highlight of the four day event, of which Maori and other Indigenous concepts of ‘human flourishing’ was a key theme. Interestingly, one international keynote speaker, Sir Mason Durie, cited the imprisonment rate of Australia’s Aboriginal people as an example of how ‘too many of our people are languishing’.
Scott presented FPDN’s research program which involves collecting narratives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a lived experience of disability.  It covered the broad historical and social explanations  of why disability amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is under-reported in data and research, and hence negated in public disability policy,  and addressed the forces of intersectional discrimination which holds back the potential for a person who is both Indigenous and has disability. The presentation then looked at the inclusive methods used in the research, and that in reaching out to obtain the voices of people who have been historically marginalised in public commentary is in itself a form of healing and reconciliation, which in turn could form a foundation for the flourishing of First Peoples with disability community – consistent with a key theme of the Conference.
A special thank you to the Lowitja Institute for their research support grant which enables Scott to present and participate in learning experiences such as these.

Interview on lateline with Damian Griffis and Jonathon Hunyor on indefinite detention.

Last night on Lateline Jonathan Hunyor, CEO of The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and our CEO, Damian Griffis, were interviewed following an update on Rosie Ann Fulton’s situation in the NT.

Damian Griffis tells Lateline there is no support for Indigenous people with disabilities in the Northern Territory and the issue must be addressed immediately. While Jonathon Hunyor says jailing people with cognitive impairments is unacceptable.

You can watch the video online.

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)

Yabun Festival 2016: Annual Kevin Cook lecture – One of the greatest social justice issues facing Australia

25 January 2016

First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) CEO Damian Griffis and Chairperson Aunty Gayle Rankine will give the annual Kevin Cook lecture to open Yabun Festival on Australia Day tomorrow.

Yabun Festival is one of the largest celebrations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in the country. Held annually on 26 January on the traditional lands of the Gadigal people at Victoria Park, Camperdown, the festival has a vibrant program of arts, dance, music and speakers.

Damian Griffis and Aunty Gayle Rankine are key figures in the Aboriginal disability movement in Australia and have played critical roles in the establishment of FPDN, which is the national peak body of and for First Peoples with Disability.

Damian Griffis said: “At least fifty per cent of Indigenous Australians live with a disability or long-term health condition. Disability in Aboriginal Australia is one of the critical social justice issues in Australia today.”

The speeches will explore cultural understandings of disability, human rights, the impact of colonisation and the changing disability sector in Australia.

Note to editors

The annual Kevin Cook Lecture began in 2009 at the Yabun Festival to honour the pioneering land rights work and commitment of Aboriginal rights advocate Kevin Cook in NSW for more than 50 years.  Sadly, Kevin passed away in July 2015 however this lecture acknowledges his ongoing legacy and aims to spark debate and inspire the next generation to continue in his footsteps.

FPDN is the peak national body of and for Australia’s First Peoples with Disability. @FPDNaus

FPDN is also hosting a stall at Yabun between 11.30am and 3.00pm.

Aunty Gayle Rankine, Chairperson First Peoples Disability Network

Gayle Rankine is Chairperson of First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) and was elected chairperson of the Indigenous Persons with Disabilities Global Network in 2015.

Gayle is a Ngarrindjeri woman born in Raukkan (formally Point McLeay Mission) on Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. Gayle has represented Australia and FPDN at the United Nations in Geneva and New York.

Gayle has extensive knowledge of the needs of people with disability across urban, rural and remote communities. She has a lived experience as a person with physical disability and as a carer of relatives with physical and neurological disability, including autism.

Damian Griffis, CEO First Peoples Disability Network

Damian Griffis is a leading advocate for the human rights of Aboriginal people with disability.

Damian is a descendant of the Worimi people. He’s the CEO of First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN Australia). FPDN is the national peak body of and for Australia’s First Peoples with disability and their families. FPDN provides a strong voice of and for Aboriginal people with disabilities. The board of FPDN is made up entirely of Aboriginal people with disability.

Damian has been a central figure in the establishment of both the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW and FPDN. Damian continues to represent Aboriginal people with disability and their families in a range of forums at a regional, national and international level.

In 2014, Damian won the Tony Fitzgerald (Community Individual) Memorial Award at the Australian Human Rights Awards.

Media Contacts FPDN:

Sara Irvine 0402 982 002

Yabun Festival:

Jake Keane 0407 530 619

Education funding for students with disability delayed again

Tuesday 15 December 2015
Media reports reveal that promised additional funding to support students with disability has been delayed again and will not begin in 2016.
Last week Education Ministers discussed disability funding at the Council of Australian Governments education council meeting, but did not refer to it in the communiqu? [COAG Meeting, 11 December 2015].
Data collection on prevalence of disability in Australian schools has been a long-winded process first initiated several years ago. The final data was presented at last weekÕs meeting.ÊThe AustralianÊreports that PricewaterhouseCoopers is reviewing the Òquality of the dataÓ and will provide a report in March.
A report inÊThe AustralianÊtoday states:
A confidential agenda item from FridayÕs meeting, obtained by The Australian, shows É about 18 per cent of all students, 673,693, have a disabilityÉ although most of these Ñ 12.5 per cent of all students Ñ would need Òsupplementary, substantial or extensiveÓ support, ?requiring more teacher support and money É At present, about 5 per cent of students have funded support at school [Delay on student disability funding 'just cruel'].
The prevalence of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is not known. We do know that the prevalence of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is twice that of the general population, often undiagnosed and not appropriately supported.
FPDN calls for a coordinated approach which focuses on the unmet educational needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander with disability to support Closing the Gap strategies. Closing the Gap in education is at risk because of ongoing delays to school disability funding. Doing something to address the impact of disability on educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students is a vital step in meeting this target. Failing to act now will have life-long impacts for individuals and the wider community. Denying students with disability appropriate support now will lead to poor employment prospects and an increased likelihood of contact with the justice system.
Last month, FPDN presented to the Senate Committee on education of students with disability, as part of its senate inquiry. FPDN made the following recommendations as part of its submission.

1. Establish schemes that support learning disabilities across a spectrum, in according to a childÕs learning needs.

2. Ensure that the implementation phase of the recently released National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy contains specific objectives and outcomes relating to disability.

3. Include awareness raising on the prevalence and impact of disability as a national education strategy, building on the successes shown by pilot programs, which are an established starting point for an awareness raising strategy.

4. Support awareness raising initiatives through the development of practical guidelines which educators can use to detect disability as factor in a childÕs education, and respond accordingly. This should be based on assessment as a first report, rather than defaulting to a disciplinary model.

5. Recognise Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) as a disability and ensure there are equitable learning supports for children and their families who are affected. In other words, support the need, not the label.

6. Ensure coordinated effort and links between various government initiatives and action plans, including the National Disability Strategy, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Action Plan National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy and Indigenous Advancement Strategies.

United Nations: serious concerns about human rights violations against Indigenous people with disability

Tuesday 10 November 2015

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) has raised serious concerns about human rights violations against Aboriginal people with disability during its review of Australia’s human rights record overnight in Geneva.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) allowed member States of the HRC to assess how Australia is tracking against its human rights obligations.

The UPR provides a platform for Australian NGOs to update the international community on the human rights situation in Australia.

First Peoples Disability Network CEO, Damian Griffis is in Geneva representing the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA), as part of the UPR Disability Coordination Group.

A number of countries asked questions of Australia relating to the high incarceration rates of Indigenous people, and the alarming fact that a number of Indigenous people with disability are incarcerated without conviction. In reply, the Australian Government made a voluntary commitment to address indefinite detention.

Damian Griffis, CEO First Peoples Disability Network said: “We welcome Australia’s commitment to address the indefinite detention of people with disability in the criminal justice system who are deemed unfit to plead.”

“The over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a national shame. More and more data is now to coming to light that confirms the anecdotal evidence we receive relating to the high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people with disability. The indefinite detention of Indigenous people with disability, without conviction, is a clear example of this.”

Scott Avery, Research and Policy Director, FPDN said: “The Government’s commitment to address the indefinite detention of people with disability in prison needs to backed up by meaningful reform of the justice system to make sure that changes happen soon. The consequence of inaction is that people with disability will continue to languish in prison when they should not be there.”

The UPR Disability Coordination Group has been working as part of the 200 strong UPR NGO Coalition to raise priority human rights issues for people with disability, including forced sterilisation, indefinite detention, involuntary treatment, restrictive practices, legal capacity and violence in institutions.

The review report will be handed down on Thursday 12 November and the Australian Government will then have an opportunity to respond. Media contact:

Sara Irvine,,

+61 402982002

Note to editors:

* Disability Fact Sheets * UPR info * UN Human Rights

Violence against people with disability is a national shame

27 August 2015

Today, the Australian Cross Disability Alliance will appear before the Senate Committee inquiring into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.

The Senate Inquiry process has already revealed many hundreds of horrific stories that testify to the significantly high levels and myriad forms of violence experienced by people with disability in institutional and residential settings. The ‘closed’ nature of these settings, away from public scrutiny, means that this violence is very difficult to detect, investigate and prosecute.

“The Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA) knows that these stories are just the tip of the iceberg and are indicative of a widespread and far-reaching problem. It is not limited to a few rogue individuals, it is not confined to disability support settings, and it is not confined by state or territory borders. It is a national epidemic”, said Ms Carolyn Frohmader, CEO of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and ACDA member.

The ACDA welcomes the opportunity to present today in support of its comprehensive submission to the Inquiry. The submission details wide ranging systemic failures in legislation, policies and service systems in Australia that underpin the conditions that give rise to violence abuse and neglect.

The ACDA will also table testimonials and stories from hundreds of people with disability who do not have the necessary supports, the relevant information or the extensive process required to facilitate and support them coming forward to provide evidence directly to the Senate Committee.

ACDA makes 30 recommendations in its submission, but will highlight 3 key recommendations in a Call to Action:

1. We call for a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in Australia.

2. We call for an overhaul of the criminal justice system so that, at every step of the process people with disability are supported in accessing the same legal protections and redress as the rest of the community.

3. We call for the establishment of an independent national statutory watchdog to protect, investigate and enforce findings regarding violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability.

Damian Griffis, CEO of First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) and ACDA member said: “The Australian Cross Disability Alliance stands united in our Call to Action. Enough is enough. We must show those that have been failed by the system that they deserve justice. The significant level of violence perpetrated against people with disability in institutional and residential settings warrants urgent national leadership to establish a Royal Commission”.

Media: Ryan Young, or 0408 682 867

Public Hearing details When: Thursday 27 August, 8:30am-5:15pm (ACDA will appear at 2:15pm) Where: Mascot A Room at the Stamford Plaza Hotel, Sydney Airport, O’Riordan St & Robey Streets, Mascot

For further information

* End the Violence campaign website

* National Disability Abuse Inquiry website

About the Australian Cross Disability Alliance The ACDA is a national representative body, made up of four disabled people’s organisations(organisa tions made up of and led by people with disability):

* First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN)

* National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)

* People with Disability Australia (PWDA)

* Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA).