Issue 48, November 2008 - ISSN 2202-0705
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New South Wales news
++NSW Parliament Inquiry into PADP
The NSW Legislative Council’s General Purpose Standing Committee No 2 is conducting an Inquiry into the Program of Appliances for Disabled People (PADP). PADP provides subsidised disability-related equipment, aids and appliances to assist people with disability to reduce the impact of impairment and disability and to live-in and participate in the community.
This Parliamentary inquiry follows closely on a major review of PADP commissioned by NSW Health and conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which was released in November 2007 along with the NSW Government’s response to its 30 recommendations. In response to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers review, the NSW Government decided to fold PADP (which was formerly conducted through 23 lodgement centres administered by Area Health Services) into one statewide administration, called EnableNSW. In July 2008, the NSW Minister for Health and the Commonwealth Minister for Ageing announced a one-off $11million funding injection into the program in an effort to eliminate the waiting list for equipment.
In spite of these and other measures, the Parliamentary Committee has heard overwhelming evidence of unmet demand for equipment, aids and appliances. It has also heard evidence of gross mismanagement of the program by NSW Health.
PWD has lodged a submission with the inquiry calling for major reforms to PADP, including a major recurrent funding injection to build funding for the program from $25.6million this year to $100million by 2014. PWD has also called for PADP to operate as an entitlement-based program (like the Disability Support Pension), rather than on a discretionary basis.
For further details please contact Dean Price at PWD.
++Minister directs DADHC to withdraw respite and supported accommodation policies
Incoming Minister for Disability Services, Mr Lynch, recently instructed the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) to withdraw from consultation two draft policies on the management of respite care and supported accommodation vacancies.
The policies had drawn very sharp criticism from advocates of persons with disability, including PWD, for their threatening and coercive approach to dealing with persons with disability and their families in crisis. Under the policies, persons with disability and family members who refused to accept placement options offered by DADHC were threatened with withdrawal of their support services, or with action in the Guardianship Tribunal to remove their decision-making capacity. In spite of repeated assurances provided to PWD and others over many years by various Ministers and officials that there is a ‘no-admissions policy’ in place for the State’s many remaining residential institutions, the policies would also have permitted DADHC to force people with disability and their families to accept placement in these facilities.
PWD thanks Minister Lynch for his intervention on this issue. The Minister has now initiated a new policy development process in relation to the management of respite care and supported accommodation places. This commenced with a DADHC roundtable consultation with representatives of major stakeholder groups, including PWD.
PWD will be carefully monitoring the development of these new policies by DADHC in an effort to ensure that they comply with, rather than violate, basic human rights standards.
For further details please contact Sonya Price-Kelly at PWD.
++DADHC releases new guidelines for State disability action plans
The Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC) has recently released guidelines to assist NSW Government agencies develop disability action plans to fulfil their responsibilities under the NSW Disability Services Act (DSA).
Under the DSA, all NSW public authorities have a responsibility to prepare and implement plans to provide services to persons with disability in accordance with the policy of the DSA. These plans had to be prepared by April 1995 (two years after the DSA came into force). However, most agencies failed to prepare plans, and with a very small number of exceptions those that did produced very limited and poor quality plans that were not maintained over time. The single outstanding exception to this has been the NSW Attorney General’s Department, which has taken disability action planning seriously since its inception, and made major gains in improving the accessibility and responsiveness of its services to persons with disability as a result. The NSW AG’s model has had a significant influence in the development of the new Guidelines.
In conjunction with the Guidelines, DADHC is in the process of developing a consultation and support framework for NSW Government agencies to ensure that people with disability are consulted in the development of disability action plans. PWD, along with a number of other stakeholders participated in a DADHC meeting to discuss the consultation and support framework, and will continue to provide advice to DADHC on this issue as required.
PWD welcomes DADHC’s current leadership and focus on disability action planning after a long period of neglect. Any real improvement to the quality of disability action plans will depend very greatly on DADHC’s capacity to inspire, inform and support other NSW public authorities to meet their responsibilities under the DSA.For further information please contact Therese Sands at PWD.
++Ombudsman extends consultation period on FOI Act
The NSW Ombudsman is conducting a review of the NSW Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act). This is an Ombudsman initiated review that results from the failure of the NSW Government to initiate such a review despite many calls for it to do so over a period of at least 14 years.
The review will examine a broad range of issues including the objects and presumptions of the FOI Act (for example, should there be a presumption that information will be released?), its drafting style (which affects its accessibility) and the role and training of FOI decision-makers. The Ombudsman has selected 18 Government agencies for specific review and well as inviting more general submissions.
Unfortunately, these agencies do not include the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care (DADHC), which in PWD’s direct experience, uses the FOI Act in a manner that frustrates not only the objectives of FOI legislation, but also the objectives of the NSW Disability Services Act (DSA).
PWD believes that the DADHC FOI function ought to be the subject of a rigorous and specific independent inquiry.
++Slow progress towards a Companion Card
In April this year the then Minister for Disability Services, Kristina Keneally announced that the NSW Government would be introducing a Companion Card for persons with disability who require an assistant to participate in activities. Essentially, the Card will allow the companion to participate without charge. The Card is to be free, non-means tested, and initial estimates suggest it is likely to be made available to approximately 25,000 people. It will be available for use on buses and trains, and the Government will also seek its recognition by the private sector, particularly entertainment and sporting venues. In April, the Minister committed to the introduction of the Card by the end of 2008. However, DADHC has recently announced that the Program will now not be launched until 2009.
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++Action on Disability Support Pension
In September this year, PWD along with many other advocates of persons with disability, watched with dismay as the Federal Coalition Opposition campaigned for a $30.00 increase to the Age Pension, while ignoring the need for an at least equivalent increase to the Disability Support Pension (DSP).
While there is no doubt that a substantial increase to the Age Pension is justified, such an increase is also long overdue for the DSP, among other income support payments. In fact, it is strongly arguable that there is a greater need to increase the DSP due to the extra costs of disability, and the greater lifecycle impact of living on income support experienced by persons with disability.
In response to the Coalition’s campaigning, PWD participated vigorously in the public debate, calling on both the Opposition and the Government to focus on the income support needs of persons with disability, as well as older people. In mid October the Commonwealth Government, in response to the public outcry, announced a one-off bonus payment to be paid to all income support recipients.
While PWD welcomes the bonus, it does not amount to structural reform, and PWD will continue to campaign for a significant recurrent increase to the DSP.
At this stage the Government has said that consideration of any recurrent increase to income support payments must await the outcome of the Pension Review, which is being undertaken as part of a major review of Australia’s tax system.
See PWD’s website for our media releases on this issue, www.pwd.org.au
For further details please contact Dean Price at PWD.
++National website for information on Ageless and Universal Design
The Independent Living Centre of NSW, in partnership with the Australian Network of Universal Housing Design (ANUHD), received funding in early 2008 from the Department of Health and Ageing to develop a National website hub for information on Ageless and Universal Design. ANUDH is auspiced by PWD.
Currently, there are a vast number of initiatives happening around Australia and internationally which are promoting life cycle sensitive design, particularly in housing. Many of these initiatives operate in isolation from each other, and the lessons learnt are often not disseminated to the audiences who may benefit from them.
This project has built capacity within the existing ANUHD website to enable the site to become the centralised, ‘one-stop-shop’ for information and resources on lifecycle sensitive housing and community design. The Project also initiated collaborative dialogue between key industry and consumer bodies to enable the collection and effective distribution of information that promotes ageless and universal design.
The ANUHD Ageless and Universal Design website is available at www.anuhd.org
For further details please contact Dean Price at PWD.
++Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
PWD continues to lobby the Commonwealth Government to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Australia ratified the CRPD in July this year. However, the Optional Protocol is a separate international treaty and to date Australia has not become a party to it.
The Optional Protocol incorporates an individual communications (or complaints) procedure that will allow individuals to complain to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the CRPD’s treaty body) about violations of CRPD rights, provided that they have first exhausted all domestic remedies. The Optional Protocol also includes a procedure that will allow the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to conduct inquiries into gross and systemic violations of CRPD rights.
Since being elected to Office in November 2007, the Rudd Government has indicated an intention to accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (OPCEDAW), and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). However, it has not yet unequivocally committed to Australia’s accession to the CRPD Optional Protocol. PWD believes it is urgent that it does so.
For further details please contact Therese Sands at PWD.
++Australian migration laws violate human rights – again!
PWD is outraged at a decision of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to reject the permanent residency application of Dr Bernard Moeller because his son has intellectual disability. This case has been widely reported in the press, and highlights the urgent need for reform of migration law, particularly in light of Australia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In July this year, the Australian Government ratified the CRPD and in doing so lodged an interpretative declaration which claimed that Australia’s migration law was based on objectively justifiable criteria and was not in breach of the Convention’s non-discrimination provisions. This interpretative declaration has been the subject of strong criticism in the course of Commonwealth Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties inquiry into the CRPD.
The Committee recently released its report and recommended that the Migration Act be reviewed in light of Australia’s obligations under the CRPD. Dr Moeller’s case illustrates why such a review, and fundamental reform, is essential in this area of Commonwealth law.
PWD issued a joint press statement with the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) suggesting that Dr Moeller’s case highlights that Australian migration law and policy views people with disability as burdens on society and as lacking inherent value. We argue that this is in clear breach of Australia’s international human rights obligations under the CRPD, and that it is a specific violation of Dr Moeller’s son’s human rights.
PWD has also joined with a number of disability and refugee organisations to write to the Federal Attorney-General, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services calling for reform of migration laws and processes to prevent discrimination against refugees and
PWD and NEDA’s press statement can be viewed online at www.pwd.org.au
For further details please contact Therese Sands at PWD.
++National Disability Strategy consultation launched
The current Australian Government committed to the development of a National Disability Strategy in the context of its pre-election disability policy. Since being elected to Office, it has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
The CRPD requires parties to ensure that the rights set out in the Convention are effectively incorporated into national law and policy. The Government has indicated that its National Disability Strategy will be a key means by which it will fulfil this obligation. In mid October, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) released a discussion paper to seek the views of Australians with disability and their associates to inform the development of the Strategy. Face to face consultations are also being conducted around Australia, both by FaHCSIA and the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).
PWD is disappointed that at this stage the proposed Strategy lacks structure and substance, and we are working with a number of organisations to identify strategies to assist in ensuring a strong and comprehensive Strategy that will carry forward the transformation envisaged by the CPPD.
For further details please contact Therese Sands at PWD.
++New leaders on disability and development
In October, PWD played a significant role in hosting and delivering a professional development program on disability and development for 21 representatives of Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) from 13 Asian and Pacific countries.
The 21 Fellows visited Australia under AusAID’s Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) Fellowship Program. PWD worked in partnership with the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and members of the Australian Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC) to develop and deliver the four week leadership development program.
The program commenced with Fellows attending the first Australian Disability and Development conference, Disability, Disadvantage and Development in the Pacific & Asia, which was held in Canberra. This conference was organised by the ADDC and the Australian National University. Following the conference, Fellows had the opportunity to participate in a consultation session on the draft National Disability Strategy for the International Aid Program.
Fellows then travelled to Mt Macedon and Melbourne to undertake further training in leadership, networking and proposal writing led by Australian Pacific Islands Disability Support (APIDS), Vision Australia and CBM Australia.
The four week program concluded with a luncheon hosted by the National People with Disability and Carers Council and the presentation of certificates to Fellows by the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten.
The Program provided an excellent opportunity not only for knowledge and skill development but also for networking among disabled peoples organisations and development sector agencies across the region.
PWD would like to thank all our partners for making this an extremely successful program, and express our gratitude to the Fellows who shared their knowledge and expertise and participated enthusiastically in all activities.
Information on the ADDC Conference can be found on ADDC’s website at www.addc.org.au
Information about the Australian Leadership Awards (ALA) Fellowship Program can be found on AusAID’s website at www.ausaid.gov.au/scholar/alafellow.cfm
For further details please contact Sonya Price-Kelly or Maria Attard at PWD.
++CRPD First Conference of State Parties & election of treaty body
In early November, the United Nations conducted the first Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The Conference was held at UN headquarters in New York. As at early November there were 41 Parties to the CRPD, including Australia. The Conference is now to be an annual event and will focus on efforts to implement the CRPD.
The inaugural treaty body – which is known as the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – was also elected at the Conference. At this stage the treaty body consists of 12 independent experts, but it will increase to 18 members once the number of ratifications of the CRPD reaches 60 nations.
The Australian Government nominee to the Committee Professor Ronald McCallum AO was elected to the Committee for an initial period of 2 years. PWD warmly congratulates Professor McCallum on his election, and looks forward to his address at our Annual General Meeting on 22 November 2008 (see Inside Story).
++High Commissioner for Human Rights focuses on detention of persons with disability
In early October, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights hosted a program of events focused on dignity and justice for detainees as part of her observance of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Program included a particular focus on the detention of persons with disability, focusing on the following key elements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
The High Commissioner observed that the CRPD states clearly that deprivation of liberty based on the existence of disability is contrary to international human rights law, is intrinsically discriminatory, and is therefore unlawful. She noted that such unlawfulness extends to situations where additional grounds – such as the need for care, treatment and the safety of the person or the community – are used to justify the deprivation of liberty.
These comments are clearly applicable to NSW disability services and policy, which deprive thousands of people with intellectual disability of their liberty in large residential institutions, in clear violation of international human rights law.
++Special Rapporteur on Torture focuses on persons with disability
In his recent report to the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has focused on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment perpetrated on persons with disability. The Special Rapporteur called for violence and abuse experienced by persons with disability to be reconceptualised as torture or as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. He particularly referred to neglect, severe forms of restraint and seclusion, as well as physical, mental and sexual violence. He expressed concern that such practices, perpetrated in public institutions as well as in the private sphere, remain invisible and are not recognised as torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. He noted that the recent entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol provides a timely opportunity to review the anti-torture framework in relation to persons with disability. He observed that the reframing of violence and abuse perpetrated against persons with disabilities as torture or a form of ill-treatment will afford victims and advocates stronger legal protection and redress for violations of their human rights.
++International Disability Rights Fund makes first grants
The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) – a ground breaking collaboration to support the human rights of persons with disability around the world – has recently announced funding decisions from its first request for proposals. A total of $US800,000 will be gifted to 33 organisations in seven countries. Grantees include a Ugandan organisation of lawyers with disability, an emergent Peruvian group of persons with psycho-social disability, and a grassroots network of women led disabled peoples organisations in Bangladesh. The grants will support work to raise awareness about the rights of persons with disability, build coalitions and networks, and develop advocacy and monitoring activities in connection with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. DRF’s donors include an anonymous founding donor, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Open Society Institute, the UK’s Department for International Development and the American World Jewish Service. More information about DRF can be found at www.disabilityrightsfund.org
The inside story
During 2008, PWD conducted an independent review of PWD’s organisational structure in order to enhance our capacity and efficiency in achieving outcomes in our strategic plan. The review was concluded in June, and provided the PWD Board with a number of recommendations that will establish more efficient organisational and team structures. A key recommendation is the establishment of a cooperative and collaborative model of leadership for PWD operations - a Leadership Team, made up of three Executive Directors. PWD has already begun the process of recruitment for these positions and will report on the outcome in our next E-Bulletin. During the conduct of the review, PWD continued to fulfil its crucial advocacy and consumer protection roles, although there was some difficulty in maintaining regular and consistent E-Bulletins for members and other key stakeholders. Through implementation of review recommendations, PWD looks forward to reinstating the monthly E-bulletin.
++PWD Annual General MeetingPWD’s 2008 Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held at 3pm on Saturday 22 November 2008. Our annual end of year celebration cocktail party will follow the AGM at 5:30pm-7:30pm.
Members are warmly encouraged to attend both the AGM and end of year celebration cocktail party.
We are extremely pleased to welcome Professor Ronald McCallum, AO as our guest speaker for the AGM. Professor McCallum has recently been elected to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the treaty body for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Annual General Meeting and celebration cocktail party will be held at the Mercure Sydney Hotel, 818 – 820 George Street, Sydney, which is next to Central Railway station.
If you require any adjustments in order to participate in the meeting please ensure you notify Rebecca Simmonds at PWD.
++PWD Board Election Outcome
This year, there were a number of nominations for the PWD Board and an election was required. The following nominees were elected: President: Robert Farley Directors: Hazel Freed, Joana D’Orey Novo, Patricia Kendall, Dr Robert Zoa Manga, Timothy Hart The current Board Directors who remain Directors for a further term are Jan Daisley, Samantha French, Sheila King, Jo Mannix, Irene McMinn.
++PWD Members in the Spotlight
PWD warmly congratulates PWD member, James Condren for winning the 2008 Law and Justice Volunteer Award in recognition of his work in improving knowledge of how people with intellectual disability interact with the criminal justice system. The annual Law and Justice Awards celebrate the fantastic work of all those people who seek to improve access, and people’s experiences within, the legal system. PWD Board member, Jan Daisley is a finalist for the 2008 National Disability Awards. The National Disability Awards ceremony will be held on International Day of People with Disability on 3 December 2008 in Canberra, and winners will be announced in five award categories. Jan is a finalist for the Personal Achievement Award, which is given to a person who has overcome adversity to achieve personal goals. Well done and good luck.
People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWD) is a national disability rights and advocacy organisation. Its primary membership is people with disability and organisations primarily made up of people with disability. PWD also has a large associate membership of other individuals and organisations committed to the disability rights movement. PWD was founded in 1981, the International Year of Disabled People, to provide people with disability with a voice of our own. We have a cross-disability focus; we represent the interest of people with all kinds of disability. PWD is a non-profit, non-government organisation.
For information about membership, contact Danny Thorpe by email or on one of numbers below.
++PWD’s training services
PWD has extensive experience in the development and delivery of professional training across a wide range of disability areas, including:
Training packages developed are flexible and tailor-made to meet the needs of the particular organisation. To find out more about PWD's training services or to discuss your specific training needs, contact the Senior Education Officer, Fiona Godfrey.
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People with Disability Australia Incorporated