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A Statement from the Board of People with Disability Australia

Some recommended guiding principles

PWDA welcomes work to clarify the roles and responsibilities for national disability organisations.

We believe that collaboration is necessary and important. We believe that a more collective voice representing all people with disability is overdue and necessary.

We believe the discussions should be driven by Disabled Peoples Organisations (DPOs) which are completely controlled by people with disability as well as being framed around guiding principles which achieve these objectives.

Like other groups in Australia people with disability are able to take charge of our own affairs and provide our own voice through DPOs.

Just as the NDIS puts power back in the hands of people with disability so any new arrangements for national peaks which are supported by the Australian Government should have this at the centre along with our obligations under The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Representative arrangements for people with disability funded by the Australian Government should be organised along democratic lines. This is the Australian way and people with disability needs to be able to join, vote, nominate for and directly elect the leaders of the national representative body in free and fair polls conducted by secret ballot. The representative body needs to have 100% people with disability on the governing body, which is directly accountable to its membership.

There are different ways to achieve a collective voice and bringing organisations into one federated model is not the sole option.

A national voice for people with disability must have a direct mandate from people with disability. There must be no closed shop and the voice of ordinary people with disability must be heard.

Australians with disability must decide how we are represented at a national level and how the sector is organised.

Representative arrangements should not be imposed by the government or decided amongst existing organisations within or outside of the national peaks secretariat program.

Every impairment is different, every individual’s experience of disability is different and disability occurs in the context of gender, ethnicity and culture, age, sexuality, location and income.

A cross disability lens is necessary and appropriate to bring together a potentially infinite set of perspectives and to develop a coherent understanding of gaps, barriers and solutions. It is based on a social model perspective and underpinned by CRPD.

A national representative body and peak funding arrangements which exclude or fail to resource and value that perspective will not be supported by PWDA.

Therefore we strongly believe:

  • New arrangements need to be organised on democratic lines and the national voice for people with disability must draw and maintain a direct mandate from people with disability. It should be governed by and for people with disability.
  • New arrangements need to strengthen collaboration, unity and effectiveness rather than further fragment the sector.
  • New arrangements need to work from the grassroots rather than being top down.
  • New arrangements need to include cross disability perspectives and recognise that disability is primarily experienced through community barriers as well as in terms of gender, ethnicity and culture, age, indigenous identity as well as the origins of impairment.
  • There is and continues to be an important role for a range of specific disability DPOs representing people with different impairments in Australia.
  • New arrangements need to support Australia's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • New arrangements should be best practice and must capture knowledge about what works well in other sectors, from international DPOs and from our regional partners such as New Zealand.
  • New arrangements must be decided by people with disability after broad and comprehensive consultation. There must be opportunities for ordinary people to have a say on how they are represented.
  • New arrangements must not be imposed by governments

Download this statement as a word document: Achieving a more collective voice representing all people with disability MS Word 70kb

Membership for Individuals

Full Individual Membership 
Associate Individual Membership        
Are you a person with disability? 
you can join PWDA as an
Full Individual Membership
If you don't have disability
and want to show your support of PWDA
please join as an
Associate Individual Member

Membership for Organisations

Full Organisational Membership        
Associate Organisation Membership
If you represent an organisation
with a governing body made up of

at least 75% of people with disability
please join PWDA as a
Full Organisational Member
If you represent an organisation
whose governing body is made up of
less than 75% of people with
disability and your organisation wants to show your support of the disability rights movement and the aims and objectives of PWDA
please join PWDA as an
Associate Organisational Member.

NB: you do not have to be a member to  access
      our free information, advice, referral and advocacy support.

Aims of People with Disability Australia (PWDA)

The Association is an organisation of, and for, all people with disability, and has as its major aims empowerment and promotion of the rights of people with disability and the creation of a society in which people with disability can fully participate.

Objectives of People with Disability Australia (PWDA)

The Association shall take all measures deemed necessary to achieve its  aims, including:

  1. Advocating on behalf of people with disability, particularly where their rights have been infringed;
  2. Developing education programs and support services for people with disability to ensure they have equality of opportunity within the community;
  3. Promoting access to proper and adequate representation of people with disability on all bodies which make decisions that affect their lives;
  4. Encouraging the development and coordination of self-help groups of people with disability;
  5. Providing information, advice and practical assistance to any person with disability whose personal circumstances require such services.  The services shall not be limited to members of the Association;
  6. Fostering communication and cooperation with other community organisations with similar aims;
  7. All such things as are lawful and conducive to the attainment of the aims of the Association.

DONE 1982 People with disabilities pic

People with Disability 1982

Back Row Left to Right: man with light hair standing (unknown), man with dark hair (unknown), Joe Mannix, Effie Zagorides (Executive Officer of the then Handicapped Person's Alliance), Alisa Coleman, woman with dark hair (unknown), Faye Druett, Chris Walters.

Front Row Left to Right: Robert Wood, Joan Hume, Ross Soutar, John (later known as Jacob) Baldwin, John Roarty

Co-Chief Executive Officers

Systemic Advocacy, Training and Communications Unit

  • Kate Finch - Director Systemic Advocacy | @KateMFinch
  • Dr Jessica Cadwallader - Advocacy Project Manager, Violence Prevention | @JessPWDA (on leave)
  • Samantha French - Senior Policy Officer,  Employment and Accessibility | @SamPWDA
  • Dean Price - Senior Policy Officer, Housing and Social Security | @DeanPWDA
  • Dr Meg Clement-Couzner, Senior Policy Officer, NDIS | @MegPWDA
  • Francis Quan Farrant - Senior Research Policy Officer
  • Meredith Lea - Senior Policy Officer, Domestic Violence & Prevention| @MeredithPWDA
  • Natasha Walker - Policy Officer
  • Sonya Price-Kelly, Engagement Officer
  • Mel Harrison - Training Manager  | @MelPWDA

Individual Advocacy Unit

  • Stephen Kilkeary - Manager, Individual Advocacy
  • Tracey Moffatt - Advocacy Manager and NDIS Appeals, Qld  
  • Jen Ruse - Advocacy Manager and NDIS Appeals, NSW
  • Tanya Jovovic - Disability Rights Information Officer (on leave)
  • David Skidmore - Disability Rights Information Coordinator
  • Gareth Elliott - Advocate, NSW
  • Luke Gale - Advocate, QLD
  • Shane Dillon - Advocate, QLD
  • Paulina Gutierrez - Advocate, NSW
  • Stephin Hargreave - Advocate, NSW
  • Leonie Hazelton - Advocate
  • Shaana Dekker - Advocate, NSW
  • Harriet Rochester  - Advocate, NSW
  • Freya Higgins - Advocate, NSW
  • Allirra Honner - Advocate, NSW
  • Denise Robertson - Advocate, QLD
  • Lindy Rodrigues - Advocate, NSW
  • Natalie Ross - Advocate, NSW
  • Grace Stevenson - Advocate, QLD
  • Ilona Wildauer - Advocate, QLD
  • Garry Oates - Disability Rights Information Officer

Corporate Services and Finance

  • Jerome Conway - Corporate Services & HR Manager
  • Andrew Emmerson - Finance & IT Support Officer
  • Pete Darby - Corporate Governance Officer
  • Sue Strasser - Reception & Administration Officer

PWDA Constitution

The PWDA Constitution can be downloaded below

PWDA Strategic Directions

Membership Prospectus

Our membership prospectus has all the information about becoming a member of PWDA including the Membership Categories and an application form to complete and return to us.

NB: you do not have to be a member to access to our free information, advice, referral and advocacy support.

Membership Discussion Paper

In July 2012, the Board of People with Disability Australia prepared a discussion paper for members

Annual General Meeting - 22 November 2017

Special General Meeting - 3 March 2017

AGM 2016

You can watch the 2016 AGM by clicking on the video below. The video is captioned and has Auslan translation.

AGM 2015

Watch our 2015 Annual General Meeting (with captions and Auslan translation)

If you have difficulty viewing this video it may be because of the internet browser you are using. Please visit the Live Stream Australia website for further advice

Current Annual Report - 2013/14

PWDA publishes an annual report each year.

For earlier Annual Reports please visit the Archives.

PWDA Board Communiqués

The PWDA Board publishes a Board Communiqué after every Board meeting in the interests of openness and transparency. These will address all major decisions that were taken at each meeting as well as the rationale behind these decisions.

Board Discussion Paper

Board Statements

PWDA Constitution

The PWDA Constitution can be downloaded below

Bonnie Millen - President                                                                                                         

Bonnie M

Bonnie Millen currently lives in the ACT. Prior to entering the advocacy domain, Bonnie worked in public service roles within South Australian Government. Bonnie is hard of hearing and wears a cochlear implant and hearing aid.
Bonnie has been an active member of the PWDA Board since 2014 and also sits on the Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Management Committee. As part of her Board roles, Bonnie actively advocates for equality for women and girls with disability, challenging the justice system and institutionalisation.

She has proudly represented PWDA as a youth delegate at the United Nations Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in New York in 2014. In June 2016, she returned as a delegate as part of the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA).
Bonnie is a currently a Policy Officer at Advocacy for Inclusion based in the ACT and is currently studying a Master of International Law, Governance and Policy via Macquarie University. Her interests lie in social policy, research, and international relations.

In her spare time, Bonnie continues to enjoy being busy, spending time with her 3 young children, is an active Girl Guide Leader and continues to seek the secret of a work/life balance.

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Brendan Pearce - Vice-President

Brendan Pearce was born Hard of Hearing and from an early age, faced discrimination because of the two Hearing Aids he wears. Growing up in regional NSW, Brendan learnt what it was like to participate in mainstream life while navigating certain difficulties Brendan Prelating to his hearing loss.

In 2013 Brendan was appointed Chair of the Inaugural Australian Hearing Paediatric Program Advisory Committee. As Chair of this Committee, Brendan led efforts to provide strong client feedback to Australian Hearing on how it could improve its service delivery. In 2014, Brendan was part of the 2014 Australian Youth NGO Delegation to the 7th Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Brendan pushed heavily at that Conference the need for Youth with Disability to be equipped to lead in both their communities and personally in their own lives. Brendan represented People with Disability Australia (PWDA) at the same conference in 2016 as part of the Disabled People’s Organisation Australia Delegation (formerly Australian Cross Disability Alliance).

Brendan comes to the board of PWDA with experience in governance and management, having been a part of the rebuilding of the Lismore an External Students Association at Southern Cross University into a financially sound and transparent organisation. Brendan also holds a Bachelor of Media majoring in Journalism, Policy and Governance.

Brendan is motivated by the need to reduce the likelihood of others facing the barriers he did while growing up with his hearing loss.

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Vanessa Fanning - Treasurer

Vanessa Fanning has a keen interest in advocating for people with disabilities, in improving communication between government and people with disabilities and in improving the interface between disability support and aged care support. She considers that many people with a disability are not receiving the support for which they are eligible and entitled because of institutional and social barriers and deficiencies in communication channels. She believes that PWDA with its broad base of membership is playing an effective role in these areas and can continue to make a major difference in influencing the quality and availability of services and the way they are delivered.Vanessa F

In her earlier career, Vanessa was Chief Executive of a national health services organization with over 750 staff for a period of 7 years. She has also been a non-executive director on the Boards of a number of Government agencies as well as a non-government, not-for-profit board. She is currently a member of the Multiple Sclerosis ACT and NSW Regional Advisory Board.

Vanessa is a member of the Centre for Strategy and Governance in Canberra (www.csg.org.au), a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. She also has a good understanding of the way government works and is experienced in dealing directly with senior officials and Federal Ministers. 

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Ebru Sumaktas - Secretary

Ebru Sumaktas is a dedicated advocate bringing to the Board over 15 years’ experience in policy and advocacy roles for a variety of social justice and disability peaks, including People With Disability Australia, Vision Australia, NSW Ombudsman’s Office and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. Committed to championing the access and equitable inclusion of people with disability in our community, particularly in employment.Ebru S

She believes that accessible and inclusive employment is more than employer platitudes promoting workplace diversity. An employer of choice for people with disability needs to deliberately and purposefully design internal systems and processes that encourage the attraction, retention, learning and development of its collective workforce, irrespective of disability.

Ebru mentors young adults who are blind or have low vision through education, employment and community participation. Her passion to promote and uphold the rights of people with disability, their families and carers is underpinned by her strong community involvement in social justice and community service initiatives. Ebru also brings lived experience of disability, Retinitis Pigmentosa a degenerative eye condition.

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Jarad McLoughlin - Board Director

Jarad McLoughlin lives in Adelaide. He is on the high-functioning scale of the Autism Spectrum, as well as beendiagnosed with various vision and hearing impairments since birth. This clearly indicates his vast expertise and skills as a disability and LGBTIQA+ activist when challenging and engaging with Australia's political, social, economic and cultural climates.Jarad M

McLoughlin began his involvement in disability self-advocacy and leadership in 2003 through Guide Dogs SA and NT's Successful Adults in Life (SAIL) program. Then in 2005 he joined the City of Marion Youth Advisory Committee, where local governance, youth advocacy and fundraising initiatives strengthened his political ideals and knowledge.

Since then Jarad has worked within a magnitude of diverse roles as an activist, mentor, consultant and campaigner with Gay Men's Health SA, JuIia Farr Association (Purple Orange), Disability SA, Youth Affairs Council of South Australia, U.N. Youth Association, Cando4Kids (Townsend House Inc.), the YMCA of SA and The I Can Network. He has also worked efficiently as an autistic self-advocate, executive committee member and elected Treasurer of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) Incorporated (Australia and New Zealand).

In gaining confidence in public speaking, eloquence, determination, humility, accountability, knowledge on national and international human rights statutes and treaties (i.e. United Nations), wit, honesty, academic/political intellect and open mindedness, McLoughlin is hopeful on using his term as board director:

  • To support local, national disability groups, agencies and organisations;

  • Eliminate ableist/queerphobic language and rhetoric and;

  • Creating new opportunities in the media industry.

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Kevin Boyce -  Board Director                                                                                                                       

Kevin is an experienced Board member having served with PWDA, disability Media and 4 Public hospitals in Melbourne working on their disability Access Action Plans. Kevin has a genuine commitment to the delivery of safe and high-quality user-centric advocacy. Kevin B

Over the last 4 years Kevin has been working in the health areas of the Public health System in Victoria and his experience as a client with disability has benefited these committees, working in the area of developing implementing and promoting effective communication techniques, leading and developing others and working within organisational and Government structures to enable development outcomes and as well as his ability to analyse sociological factors for clients in the community and work areas.

Kevin continues to provide both advocacy and representation for those who are unable to advocate for and represent themselves and believes that being a Board member of PWDA will give his advocacy a more systemic weight to the work he does in Victoria in the public health domain.

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Adam Hewber - Board Director

Adam H

As a Director Adam is concerned about all aspects of inclusion of people with a disability into a meaningful community life. For this reason, Adam seeks to motivate the three tiers of Government to dismantle the discriminative, oppressive and abusive behaviour that is often described as “Disablism”. This behaviour stems from a medical model of incapacity and a belief that disabled people are inferior to others. In general terms disablism describes the treatment of people who for various reasons are judged less able to perform tasks according to perceived standards. Often, it is used as an excuse for not employing a person with a disability.As a Director Adam is concerned about all aspects of inclusion of people with a disability into a meaningful community life. For this reason, Adam seeks to motivate the three tiers of Government to dismantle the discriminative, oppressive and abusive behaviour that is often described as “Disablism”. This behaviour stems from a medical model of incapacity and a belief that disabled people are inferior to others. In general terms disablism describes the treatment of people who for various reasons are judged less able to perform tasks according to perceived standards. Often, it is used as an excuse for not employing a person with a disability.

A truly inclusive society would ensure that a percentage of people with a disability can find meaningful employment with career opportunities.  This is of a special concern to Adam when considering that many organisations are staffed by people who do not know what it is like to be disabled. A lifelong experience of living with a disability has taught Adam that relying on sympathy is a hindrance whilst encouragement can help. From a society and a Government budgeting perspective, Adam feels our country is missing out on a valuable labour resource and the contribution this could make to our economy.  

Adam’s goal is to encourage people with a disability to try harder, aim higher, and speak in a unified voice. Adam believes that a disability is not a life sentence and that PWDA’s challenge is to attract new members, grow the organisation and create a vision of future potential. Adam’s goal is to encourage people with a disability to try harder, aim higher, and speak in a unified voice. Adam believes that a disability is not a life sentence and that PWDA’s challenge is to attract new members, grow the organisation and create a vision of future potential.

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James Condren - Board Director

James Condren is a person with intellectual and mental health disability. James has been on the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability (NSWCID) Board since 2001. James has also been on the NSWCID Accommodation Subcommittee, Governance Subcommittee, Employment Subcommittee and Our Voices Subcommittee.

James C

James is passionate about his work around criminal justice and people with intellectual disability and has advocated for services to support people through the Criminal Justice Project. In 2008 James got the Volunteers Justice Award for his work in training volunteers for the Intellectual Disability Rights Service to do police and court support for people with intellectual disability.

James sat on the NSW Disability Council for a 4 year term. James made a Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Violence and told them about the way he was treated at the Hall for Children in the 1980s.

James has sat on the Self-Advocacy Sydney Board as President. In 2013 James’s job was to set up the issues meetings, run board meetings and email members. Currently James is on the Speak out Reach out Committee for NSWCID. The NSWCID Conference was in September 2016.

James is on the Mental Health Consumer Sub Committee at Ministry of Health Job Description as a person with a mental health condition and an intellectual disability. James has been on that committee for the last 2 years. James advises the committee on policy issues that affect people with an intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis. James delivers presentations for different organizations like the Criminal Justice Project and Being.

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Q.  What is PWDA?

People with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA)

  • is a national disability rights and advocacy organisation;
  • is made up of people with disability and organisations primarily constituted by people with disability;
  • has a large associate membership of other individuals and organisations committed to the disability rights movement;
  • has a cross-disability focus; and
  • is a non-profit, non-government organisation

Q. How do I join PWDA?

You can join PWDA by filling out a membership application. You can learn more about membership by clicking here.

Q. What do your services include and what do they cover?

All our services are listed here.

Currently, we are funded to provide these services to NSW and QLD in Australia only.

Q. Does PWDA offer a newsletter? If so, I would like to be on your mailing list. 

PWDA publishes a regular EBulletin and a members' Newsletter - 'LinkUp'. 

Q. I am a student doing an assignment on a disability related topic. Can you help me with my assignment?

We encourage students to make full use of our website - publications, submissions, newsletters, Ebulletins and other documents online - to address assignments relating to disability. We have a Students' Section here on our website.

If you send us a postal address we can send you printed information and brochures on PWDA and our services - email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone (02) 9370-3100.

Q. I have a legal matter relating to a disability related issue. Can PWDA provide any advice on how to approach this matter? Can you support an individual in this situation?

PWDA cannot provide any legal advice or information. You can get free legal advice by calling the Australian Centre for Disability Law on (02) 9370 3135 or 1800 800 708 between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday or view their contact details.

PWDA might be able to provide some advocacy support and you can call to speak to an Intake Officer on (02) 9370-3100 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Q. I need Home Care but all the services in my area are at capacity and cannot provide me with a service.

You have the right to access disability support services that you require. You will need to contact the National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline 1800 880 052 so they can report this matter as Systemic Abuse.

Q. What do I do about my child's school which is discriminating against my child with a disability?

You can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Discrimination Board or Equal Opportunity Commission of your state or territory as every child has the right to be educated in mainstream education.

Q. How I could get a job at PWDA? I feel passionate about your service and have lots of experience of disability.

Our latest employment opportunities are always advertised from the front page of our website www.pwd.org.au and also on the Employment Opportunities page.

Q.  What is the best way to contact PWDA?

You can contact us by:

Phone 02 9370 3100 or Toll Free 1800 422 015  
TTY: 02 9318 2138 or TTY Toll Free: 1800 422 016  
Email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
In person by visiting Level 10, 1 Lawson Square, Redfern NSW or  
Post PO Box 666, Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

Full Membership

Individual Full MembershipA. Individual Full Membership

To be an individual full member, you must be a person with disability and you must live in Australia.

Individual full members are entitled to:

  • Receive notice of, attend and vote at general meetings
  • Nominate for election or appointment to the Board
  • Nominate (or second or endorse) eligible people for election to the Board
  • Receive information about PWDA’s activities and disability issues

PWDA Individual Full Membership Form

 

blue-orgB. Organisational Full Membership

To be an Organisational Full Member, the organisation must be incorporated in Australia and have a governing body made up of at least 75% of people with disability. Organisational members must appoint up to two delegates to exercise its membership rights.

Delegates of full organisational members are able to:

  • Receive notice of, attend and participate at general meetings
  • Exercise one vote on each motion at general meetings
  • Nominate (or second or endorse) eligible people for election to the Board
  • Nominate for election or appointment to the Board (provided the nominee is an Individual Full Member)
  • Receive information about PWDA’s activities and disability issues

PWDA Organisational Full Membership Form

 

Individual Associate MembershipAssociate Membership

A. Individual Associate Membership

Open to any person or organisation interested in supporting the disability rights movement and the aims and objectives of PWDA.

Individual associate members are entitled to:

  • Receive notice of and attend general meetings
  • Address general meetings with the agreement of the person chairing the meeting
  • Receive information about PWDA’s activities and disability issues

PWDA Individual Associate Membership Form

 

red-orgB. Organisational Associate Membership

Open to any person or organisation interested in supporting the disability rights movement and the aims and objectives of PWDA.

Delegates of full organisational members are entitled to:

  • Receive notice of and attend general meetings
  • Address general meetings with the agreement of the person chairing the meeting
  • Receive information about PWDA’s activities and disability issues

PWDA Organisational Associate Membership Form

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Join us in promoting the human rights, equality and dignity of all people with disability! 

Become a member  and be part of our disability rights community!

As a PWDA member -

  • you receive our newsletter and Media Releases as they are published;
  • you can participate in membership events, activities and PWDA Advisory Groups;
  • you fight for the human rights of people with disability;
  • you have a voice as a member on our social media forums, consultations and feedback;
  • you are kept up-to-date on policy and government programs which directly affect people with disability.

Stand up for what you believe in, join this movement of equality and dignity of all people with disability and support PWDA to continue this vital work!

 

Find your membership category

blue-org      blue-individual    blue-org     red-org.gif

 

If you need any help or would prefer these documents to be posted to you, please contact the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange for a Membership Prospectus to be sent to you in your preferred format.

Audience at a PWDA annual general meetingPeople with Disability Australia Incorporated (PWDA) is a national disability rights and advocacy organisation. Our primary membership is made up of people with disability and organisations primarily constituted by people with disability. We also have a large associate membership of other individuals and organisations committed to the disability rights movement.

Founded in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons, People with Disability Australia seeks to provide people with disability with a voice of our own. We have a cross-disability focus representing the interests of people with all kinds of disability. We are a non-profit, non-government organisation.

Our Vision

We have a vision of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community, in which the human rights, belonging, contribution, potential and diversity of all people with disability are recognised, respected and celebrated with pride.

Our Purpose

Our purpose as a leading disability rights, advocacy and representative organisation of and for all people with disability, is to strive for the realisation of our vision of a socially just, accessible and inclusive community.

Among the most debated topics in PWDA’s membership is when and how the organisation began! There are a number of events which can be taken to be our starting point as we evolved over time from a series of events and trends built on each other. We welcome new information and insights about our past and hope one day all of this will be incorporated into a social history of our organisation.

One version of our beginning …

PWDA was founded in 1980, in the lead up to the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981), to provide people with disability with a voice of our own.

International Year of Disabled Persons 1981

The United Nations declared 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP). The celebration of IYDP across Australia in literally hundreds of events organised by Local, State and the Federal Government and by civil society organisations which brought people with disability together on a scale and with a focus which had not previously occurred.  IYDP particularly emphasised the rights of persons with disability and our participation within society.  At the  time, this represented a major shift in personal and social consciousness of disability away from understanding it in terms of individual pathology (the  medical model) to an understanding based in human rights and a focus on the elimination of barriers created by society. Our place in the community, in terms of our physical presence, social inclusion and civic participation, were also central to this new consciousness.

The First Handicapped Persons Conference

To bring focus to the celebration of IYDP in NSW, the NSW Government through the (then) Department of  Youth and Community Services established the IYDP Secretariat within its Handicapped Persons Bureau. A budget allocation of approximately $30,000 was provided for the IYDP Secretariat’s operation.  As IYDP events unfolded, one of the criticisms to emerge from people with disability was many of the events focused on or involved non-disabled people in identifying public policy priorities for people with disability. This included disability service providers, professionals working in the area of disability and family members of persons with disability.

To address this concern, the IYDP Secretariat decided to fund an event specifically for people with disability to identify priorities for public policy development. This event – which was called the First Handicapped Persons Conference – was actually held in early 1982, after IYDP had ended, so it was also an opportunity for reflection on the Year itself and what it had achieved.

A key issue discussed throughout the conference was the importance of people with disability having a direct voice in public policy development, rather than this voice being  filtered through other stakeholder groups. In the final plenary session of the conference, a motion was moved from the floor and carried unanimously, that a Handicapped Persons Union be established to create this voice. The organisation established as a result of  this resolution has eventually evolved into what is now called People with Disability Australia Inc.

The Handicapped Persons Alliance

The original concept for the organisation was that of a trade union – an organisation of people with disability providing a voice for people with disability.  Although this basic concept remained, in the months immediately following the First Handicapped Person’s Conference, the working title for the organisation was changed to the Handicapped Persons Alliance (apparently due to objections having been raised within the Trade Union movement about the use of the word 'Union'). To assist in the formation of this new  organisation, the NSW Government transferred to it the funds which had been used to operate the IYDP Secretariat.

In the late 1970’s the NSW Government funded an information and referral service for people with disability, known as Consumer Information for the Disabled. This Centre  operated with a similar ethos to the Handicapped Persons Alliance – being based in the self-help, independence model.  Key personnel at the level of both the  staff and Board were involved in both organisations. In 1982 the Handicapped Persons Alliance and Consumer Information for the Disabled merged and the original body was wound up towards the end of 1982. The information and referral  function was carried on under the new title of Disabled Peoples Resource Centre  which was operated by the Handicapped Persons Alliance.

Disabled Peoples International

International Year of Disabled Persons also stimulated disability activism at the international  level.  Up until the late 1970’s the views of persons with disability were largely filtered, nationally and internationally, through the voices of  service providers, professionals and family members. At the time the key international disability organisation was Rehabilitation International – the  international equivalent of ACROD in Australia Rehabilitation International. Rehabilitation International had a policy which meant, while people with disability were welcome to attend its periodic international conference  as observers, they were not permitted to speak.  At the 1980 Conference of Rehabilitation International, held in Winnipeg, Canada, this policy prompted a walkout by people with disability and a decision to  establish a new international organisation of and for people with disability.  A number of Australians with disability were present at this meeting and participated in the walkout and in the formation of the new organisation. The organisation founded was Disabled Peoples International (DPI), which now has members in over 160 countries throughout the  world.

As a result of the efforts of  Australian activists who had been involved in the formation of the DPI, a NSW branch of Disabled Peoples International was established in 1982. Branches were also established in other States and Territories in the early 1980s along with a national assembly - Disabled Peoples International (Australia).

In 1984, the World Congress of Disabled Peoples International was held in Singapore. A number of activists involved in both the NSW branch of Disabled Peoples International and the Handicapped Persons Alliance attended this conference.  When  they returned from Singapore,  they created momentum to merge the Handicapped Persons Alliance and the NSW Branch of Disabled Peoples International.  This occurred in 1984 under the organisation name of Disabled Peoples International (NSW Branch), which reflected the very strong sense of connection felt with the emerging international social movement of people with disability.  This name was registered with the Department of Fair Trading in 1985.

In 1985, Disabled Peoples International (NSW Branch) adopted a Constitution based on a regional council structure and became incorporated under the NSW Associations Incorporation  Act, 1984. Each regional council  nominated delegates to the central Board of the organisation. There were four metropolitan regions –  Eastern, Southern, North East and North West - and five country regions Western, Riverina,  Illawarra, North Coast and Hunter. This regional structure operated until 1991,  when a new constitution was adopted based on a Board directly elected by the membership.

People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc

In 1991, along with a new organisational structure, the organisation also assumed a new name – People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc. The new  name was adopted to capture a changed perception of people with disability as  ‘person first, disabled second’.

Liquidation of Disabled Peoples International (Australia)

In 1996, Disabled Peoples International (Australia) hosted the Fourth World Congress of Disabled Peoples International in Sydney.  Although the event was a great success from a number of perspectives, it was financially disastrous.  Left with debts exceeding $100,000, Disabled Peoples International (Australia) went into liquidation and was wound up as a result. As a consequence, Australia ceased to have a national assembly member of Disabled Peoples International.

Disability Australia Ltd

In 1998 People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc supported a proposal to establish a new national assembly of Australians with disability capable of reinstating Australian membership of Disabled Peoples International. The organisation established was called Disability Australia Ltd. This new organisation was provided with provisional membership of Disabled Peoples International as a national assembly on condition it would develop a national representative structure. This has never eventuated and PWDA withdrew support for Disability Australia Ltd.

People with Disability Australia

In 2002, PWDA’s membership approved a repositioning of PWDA as a national disability rights and advocacy organisation. The organisation’s name was changed to reflect this new positioning on the second of May 2003.  The principal reasons for the change were to position PWDA to undertake work on national policy issues.

As a state-based organisation, People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc was always at a disadvantage in attempting to engage with Federal politicians, Commonwealth agencies and other national entities. We had also increasingly come to fill the role once performed by Disabled Peoples International (Australia) on a regional and international level and the name change and repositioning reflected this reality. However, in approving our repositioning at the national level, members also insisted that our work at the NSW level be maintained and continuously developed. Leading on from this expansion, PWDA went on to open eight regional offices over the 2010-2012.

Between 2003-2006 PWDA played a valuable role in the development of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), organising national consultations and consultations with members, making submissions, hosting seminars, and supporting delegates to attend sessions of the UN Ad Hoc Committee. Through this work PWDA gained Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

From 2009 onwards, PWDA continues to play an ongoing role in monitoring the implementation of the CRPD in Australia, and is part of the NGO CRPD Shadow Report Project Group.

Along with our national work, PWDA has been undertaking international development work in the Pacific since 2004. We are a signatory to the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Code of Conduct and committed to ethical practice and public accountability in all of our international development work.

PWDA celebrated its 30th Anniversary on Saturday 16 July 2011

Our Core Values

We believe that people with disability, irrespective of age, gender, cultural or linguistic background, religious beliefs, geographic location, sexuality, or the nature, origin, or degree of disability:

  • have a right to life and to bodily integrity;
  • are entitled to a decent standard of living, an adequate income and to lead active and satisfying lives;
  • are people first, with human, legal, and service user rights that must be recognised and respected;
  • are entitled to the full enjoyment of our citizenship rights and responsibilities;
  • are entitled to live free from prejudice, discrimination and vilification;
  • are entitled to social support and adjustments as a right and not as the result of pity, charity or the exercise of social control;
  • contribute substantially to the intellectual, cultural, economic and social diversity and well-being of our community;
  • possess many skills and abilities, and have enormous potential for life-long growth and development;
  • are entitled to live in, and be a part of, the diversity of the community;
  • have the right to participate in the formulation of those policies and programs that affect our lives; and
  • must be empowered to exercise our rights and  responsibilities, without fear of retribution.

Our Principles

In realising our vision, purpose and core values, we are guided by the following principles:

  • We are passionate, innovative and fearless in the promotion and defence of the rights and interests of people with disability
  • We are accessible and responsive to our community, and inclusive of its diversity
  • We encourage, empower and support the civic participation of people with disability
  • We are collaborative and supportive in our relationships within the disability rights movement as a whole
  • We are accountable for our activities to our members, to people with disability generally and to the public
  • We always act with honesty and integrity
  • We are resourceful and efficient in the marshlaling and management of the resources needed to undertake our work.