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FPDN CEOs Statement to the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry into Poverty

By October 31, 2023December 15th, 2023No Comments


Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee.

My name is Damian Griffis, I am a descendant of the Worimi people of the Wallamba Valley in NSW and the CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network, a position I have held for the past 20 years.  I am joined by Dr Talia Avrahamzon, Strategic Partnerships, Policy and Impact Manager.

The First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) is the national peak organisation of and for Australia’s First Peoples with disability, their families and communities.  We say at the First Peoples Disability Network it is difficult to think of anymore disadvantage Australians then first nations people with disability because they often face discrimination based upon racism and ableism.

We advocate for a cultural model of inclusion that recognises the diversity of cultures, languages, knowledge systems and beliefs of First Nations people and the importance of valuing and enabling participation in society in ways that are meaningful to First Peoples.[1] A First Nations cultural model of inclusion includes a human rights framework and the social model of disability to ensure that enablers, approaches, services and supports are culturally safe and inclusive, and disability rights informed.

Despite this strength in our cultures, First Nations people with disability are devastatingly and disproportionately impacted by social exclusion and poverty. Since colonisation, our communities have had to operate in multiple worlds, First Nations, disability, and mainstream society.

First Nations people with disability experience greater inequality in their social and health outcomes to other First Nations people, especially those with severe and profound disability. First Peoples with Disability experience ‘Intersectional inequality’, which is the compounding of inequality that affects those people who are members of two marginalised groups, i.e. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people with disability.  First Peoples with disability also experience ‘Intersectional inequality’, which is accentuated by severity of disability.

First Nations peoples with disability especially those living in regional and remote Australia are often poorly serviced by infrastructure and/or are places that have high chances of experiencing extreme climate crisis events such as floods and fires.

In summary we say that:

  • Poverty is a key driver of the social, community and economic exclusion, of First Peples with disability.
  • Ongoing legacies of colonisation, institutionalisation, incarceration, stolen wages, removal of children and institutionalised ableism and racism in policies, programs and services across the life-course, and across all sectors and systems contributes to ongoing poverty – for example, our kids are labeled as the naughty black child from an early age, high expulsion rates in schools, rather than our children acknowledged as having learning or other disabilities which then leads to engagement with the justice system, which then leads to challenges in employment opportunities.
  • These experiences exist across the life-course and sectors – from early childhood, housing, health, education, justice, aged care.
  • Undiagnosed disability in our communities, lack of culturally responsive diagnostic tools and the high cost of diagnosis for families is a major barrier for most First peoples with disability and their families.
  • NDIS supports are not accessible or affordable.
  • Lack of allied health professionals in remote areas, long waiting lists in other areas for families to get appropriate supports exacerbates.
  • Fair and equitable access to the Disability Support Pension
  • Impact of crisis, such as environmental and climate crisis – are having a dispropritionate impact on the lives of First Peples with disability and their families
  • And food insecurity

These are just some of the poverty related factors that continue to have a seriously adverse impact on the lives of most First Nations people with disability.  We are anxious to share with the Committee some of our solutions to addressing poverty amongst First Nations people with disability, which we say needs to be a national social justice priority.

Thank you

Damian Giffis,