Peak disability support organisations to fight Federal government funding cuts

Welfare Peaks to Fight ‘Devastating’ Funding Cuts

Peak welfare Not for Profits ACOSS and State and Territory Councils of Social Service have issued a collective New Years Resolution for the Federal Government to stop devastating funding cuts to community organisations across Australia.

‘We are determined to convince the Federal Government to reverse its decision to cut funding from community organisations around the country as well as the key national community peak bodies in the housing, homelessness, disability areas, two days before Christmas,” ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said.

“It is clear that the consequences of these cuts have not been considered by the new Minister responsible, and all our early signs from community people around the country tells us the impacts on vulnerable communities will be devastating.

“Defunding national community advocacy organisations decimates the voices of civil society, with highly skilled experts from the community no longer around the tables with Government and business in 2015 to work on solutions to some of the country’s national challenges.

“What happened to this Government’s commitment not to gag the community? You don’t get a bigger gag clause than completely defunding community advocacy.”

Susan Helyar, Director of the ACT Council of Social Services, said: “At a time when we know that up to 80 per cent of services are turning people away it does not make sense to cut services or peak bodies.”

“Demand for services is increasing as unemployment rises and housing costs remain high.  Peak bodies are in a unique position to identify critical community needs and service improvements as well as provide well informed policy advice to government.

“The Australian Council of Social Service has repeatedly raised the concerns of its members about the flawed DSS tender process, and warned this fraught process would create bad outcomes.

“The COSS network has advocated strongly for transparency and improvements to the procurement process as a matter of standard practice: including offering contracts of reasonable length and reasonable notifications on tender outcomes.”

Mark Henley, CEO of QCOSS said: “The Government has not communicated a formal plan or comprehensive social policy agenda informing its decisions about which services continue and those that will shut their doors. Instead, the approach seems random and chaotic.

“This approach makes it impossible to know what the service setting for people needing urgent support in 2015 will look like. Losing peak bodies that can monitor service capacity and gaps makes it even harder to maintain a clear sense of service availability and changing community need.”

Irina Cattalini, CEO, WACOSS said: “Early analysis suggests that the Commonwealth is unilaterally shifting costs to the States and Territories for vital services that they no longer want to support.

“This would be a pre-emptive move at odds with the consultative approach adopted in its ‘Reform of the Federation’ White Paper. If the Commonwealth withdraws from funding services in this way it will throw significant pressure on to the State and Territory Governments; already stretched by the twin pressures of the cuts announced in this year’s Federal Budget.”

Tracy Howe, CEO of NCOSS said: “The community sector has long raised the issue of short-term notifications which are known to be detrimental and has been advocating for six months notice on contract outcomes with six more months for transition to close down services.

“While some organisations have received notice that their funding will not be renewed beyond June others are being notified that their funding will cease in February.”

“For staff the reality of coming back to work after the Christmas holiday period only to discover that services to your vulnerable clients will no longer be there past February 2015 is completely devastating. As the New Year dawns, the effects in communities who will lose services and lose representation through peak bodies is even more distressing,” the leaders of the Councils of Social Service said.

The Australian Greens will move for a Senate Inquiry into the Department of Social Services  grants process when Parliament resumes in February 2015.

Article posted in ProBono News Australia Jan 6, 2014:

Intellectual disability groups believe the NDIS is unfairly geared to the physically disabled’s needs

This article appeared in the Brisbane Times, December 13, 2014

Written by: Julia May

People with intellectual disabilities are being excluded from the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme despite making up more than two-thirds of future users of the service, advocates warn.

Researchers, carers and people with intellectual disabilities fear that without closer engagement, the $22.4-billion scheme will be disproportionately tailored to the needs of the physically disabled, leaving those with cognitive impairments as the sector’s “poor cousins”. They say the NDIS pilot schemes are showing signs of inadequate design.

Bruce Bonyhady, the chairman of the National Disability Insurance Agency that oversees the scheme, acknowledged at a conference last month that people with cognitive impairments had not been properly consulted on the design process and that this needed to be rectified. But advocates say time is running out ahead of the 2016 national roll-out. Mr Bonyhady was not available for comment.

Professor Christine Bigby, leader of the Living with Disability Research Group at La Trobe University, said that although people with an intellectual disability would comprise up to 70 per cent of NDIS users, there had been no formal engagement with the sector and no cognitively impaired representatives appointed to the boards of the disability insurance agency or its advisory council.

Kevin Stone, executive director of Inclusion Australia, said it was “late, but not too late” for improvements.

He said the group had recently been invited to quarterly meetings with the advisory council and to help design the NDIS service charter and outcomes framework.

But he feared this was not enough, and told the council: “The abuse at [disability support centre] Yooralla is on everyone’s lips… But the most pernicious form of abuse is systemic abuse, which occurs in organisations that don’t value and respect the voices of the people who are using them, and treat them like helpless beings.

“My greatest fear has been that the NDIA was turning into just such a creature, with an aloof management structure without processes to hear them. That’s still a very real possibility.”

Michael Sullivan has an intellectual disability and is vice-chair of the New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability. He said that despite making detailed submissions to the 2011 Productivity Commission on disability and the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS, his members had been ignored by the NDIA

He said quarterly meetings were not enough and their views could only be included via formal roles on the NDIA board and advisory council.

He said cognitively impaired people were chronically underestimated, and he criticised the emphasis on involving family members rather than disabled people themselves.

“People have an attitude that if you’ve got that label of an intellectual disability it means you can’t do anything, which is clearly not true. But people have a very narrow view, which is absolutely [what’s happening] within the NDIA… I think there’s a real lack of exposure to what’s possible.”

An NDIA spokeswoman said people with intellectual disabilities, their families, carers and peak groups were “extensively involved at every level of engagement” in the design of the NDIS.

She conceded that though neither the NDIA board nor the advisory council had intellectually disabled representatives, they did include family members. “It is their lived experience and direct input which helps to guide the agency in its design and development of the NDIS.”

Mr Sullivan said early indications were that NDIS pilot sites were not meeting the needs of cognitively impaired people, that the information provided was too complex, and that without more inclusive design the scheme’s much trumpeted focus on “choice and control” would become redundant..

Six things you should know about the co-payment scheme

The Federal government’s attempt to impose a $5 co-payment on GP services by regulation raises the same issues as its previous failed attempt to impose a $7 co-payment through legislation.

The consequences of the new policy for patients are self-evident. But some additional points that are less well-known yet nevertheless important need to be highlighted.

First, the “savings” will be largely illusory. A reduction in the rebate will save the government money, but unless this reduces service use, it only means that patients will pay more, or doctors will be paid less for the same amount of work. In other words, it will shift the cost to patients or doctors, not reduce the use of real resources.

Second, no real reduction in the cost of Medicare will be achieved unless some patients reduce their use of doctor services. Almost all of these patients will be relatively less well off because the co-payment will not deter the wealthy. In other words, whatever savings are made will be at the expense of the poor.

Third, if there’s an overall net reduction in the use of doctor services, it will mean that the fixed stock of doctors will have less work (not that there will be fewer doctors). The economic (opportunity) cost of medical care – the skilled workforce that is not available to work elsewhere in the economy – will remain unchanged.

Fourth, an unknown proportion of general practitioners may continue to bulk bill patients and accept the lower rebate. But, in 2011, the income of Australian general practitioners relative to average wages was the lowest in the 16 countries compared by the OECD after Estonia and Hungary.

A more equitable target for government policy would be specialist incomes, which were the fourth highest in the same comparison.

Fifth, the “unsustainability” of Medicare – the ostensible reason for change – is false. While health spending is rising (at this point in time more slowly than at any time since records were available), spending is rising more in many other areas. People now spend more of their income on electronic goods, for instance, and travel or entertainment. This means they are spending a smaller percentage of their income elsewhere.

The point here is that the economy is flexible. There is no obstacle to spending more on health, if this is what we want. Of course, we want value for money. But the barrier to access created by co-payments does not achieve this.

Economic growth also allows increased expenditure in one area without reductions elsewhere. As GDP grows the pie of total income also grows. This means that we could increase the amount of money spent on health without decreasing expenditure elsewhere. Even if GDP grows more slowly than health spending, the absolute (not percentage) increase in GDP will most likely still be greater than the absolute increase in health expenditures.

Finally, the claim that government expenditure on Medicare is unsustainable is also untrue. Because of Australia’s substantial private health sector, public spending on health as a percentage of GDP is among the lowest in the OECD. Only Chile, Estonia, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Poland and the Slovak Republic channel less of their GDP into health via the government.

The government’s budgetary problems are primarily a result of low taxes in Australia, which, as a percentage of GDP, are the fourth lowest of the 34 countries in the OECD database. The alternative to penalising low-income patients and (relatively) low-income general practitioners is to repair the tax base and raise total revenues to a level more comparable with the amounts collected by most western countries.

This article appeared in the Conversation on December 11, 2014 

AUTHOR Jeff Richardson: Professor and Foundation Director, Centre for Health Economics at Monash University.

Disability Sector Mourns Stella Young

The Australian disability sector, and the wider community, is mourning the loss of disability advocate Stella Young writes Xavier Smerdon. Article first published in Pro Bono Australia News

The comedian and journalist died on Sunday from a what is believed to be an aneurysm, with her family saying she passed away unexpectedly but in no pain at the age of 32.

President of People With Disability Australia (PWDA) Craig Wallace, said he was shocked by Young’s passing.

“Like everyone I am heartbroken and devastated at the passing of my dear friend, colleague and disability advocate Stella Young,” Wallace said.

“I was looking forward to catching up with her later this week and I can’t believe that she has left us at just 32 years old.”

Wallace said Young had dedicated her life to tackling big issues faced by people with disability.

“Stella was a brilliant commentator, conversationalist, friend and above all a damn fine writer and comedian,” he said.

“I don’t know that Stella realised how good she was. She could take an issue and turn it inside out and come up with a witty turn of phrase that changed the way we thought about things.

“The high point of this was her use of the term ‘inspiration porn’ as a way of describing the way that people with disability have been used as objects of pity and faux inspiration for decades. Taking on this culture of pity was tricky territory to negotiate and Stella knew it, but she forged ahead anyway.

“Stella applied critical thinking to so many issues that had been hidden away for so long but above all she was the right person when disability needed a dynamic public spokesperson who was gutsy, sharp as a tack and unafraid in the campaign for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.”

Both sides of politics honoured Young, with assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield, saying she would be sorely missed.

“I am extremely sad to hear of the passing of Stella Young,” Fifield said.

“She was a role model for Australians with disability on how to seize opportunity and never take no for an answer.

“Stella was a ceaseless advocate for a better deal for people with disability.

“She used a combination of charm and humour to highlight patronising and negative attitudes that people with disability have put up with for too long.

“Stella had a generosity of spirit and taught many Members of Parliament, including myself, a great deal.”

Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said Young was a “wonderful Australian”.

“She was an outstanding writer, comedian, activist and came to prominence as a passionate disability advocate,” Milne said.

“She provided advocacy, support and insight that has greatly helped people with disability, their families, friends and the community.

“Stella’s work is a credit to her strength and intelligence. The Ramp Up website remains an unmatched resource in Australian media.

“Stella’s recent writing on issues such as abuse of people with disability, dying with dignity and employment discrimination shows her resolve to deal with the most important issues facing our society.

“The Australian Greens offer our deepest sympathy to Stella’s family and friends.”

A private funeral will be held for Young, followed by a public memorial service.



Celebrating International Day of People With Disability at IDS

Wednesday December 3rd was International Day of People With Disability.

We joined together with a BBQ lunch to celebrate IDPWD and to continue to raise awareness for the incredible contribution and achievements of all people with a disability.  We were really pleased to have Tricia Malowney in attendance to welcome our guests.

There are events running throughout the month, so take some time to have a look at the International Day of People With Disability calendar for more activities and locations.


Abuse Bigger Than Yooralla. Inquiry – NOW

The Federal Government is shirking its responsibilities to Australians with disability by denying them a national independent inquiry into abuse in institutions, writes systemic advocate for inclusive practices, systemic advocate for inclusive practices,Tricia Malowney. – 

The Four Corners program, which aired on the ABC on Monday 24 November, brought to public attention an issue which has been an open secret in the disability community for quite some time.  That is the systemic and systematic abuse of people with disabilities.

Without going into detail it is clear that vulnerable people have not only been abused by those who are supposed to provide services to them, but they have also not been supported when the abuse has been reported, nor protected from ongoing abuse.

However, we also need to acknowledge that abuse is a “nice” term.  Let’s call it what it is, it is rape and sustained violence against women and men with disabilities and it is also neglect, leading to death.  While there are many who are critical of Yooralla, advocates know that the issues are not limited to that organisation, and neither is it limited to Victoria.

Tuesday 25 November, 2014 was White Ribbon Day, a day when people across Australia reaffirm their pledge to end all forms of violence against women and their children. This is a cause which has captured the attention if the nation,  but which sometimes  misses the opportunity to advocate for the most vulnerable – Australians with disabilities and their children.

I got involved in trying to reduce all forms of violence against Australians with disabilities  because of the number who disclosed the violence perpetrated against them by partners, family members and disability service  sector employees all of  whom are more commonly called “carers”.  I had no idea.  The reason that they disclosed the violence to me is because I have a disability, and because I asked how they were going, as I do with everyone.

In another setting, the answer would be fine…in these circumstances, they thought I was also being abused.  Apparently, this is how information on abused is shared.  Don’t tell the powerful, you may lose access to your services, or worse, the perpetrators will find out and the abuse would get worse.

At first I didn’t know what to do, or who to turn to for help.  I began to look at accessible services available  – then few and far between – but a couple of good outreach services and centres against sexual assault who I knew would be able provide support.

After that, I began looking at the issue from a systemic perspective, to try and influence change in how mainstream services were ensuring that people with disabilities could be supported. More and more decent disability support workers would also raise issues with me and I would encourage and support them to take a stand.  But it’s difficult when you are amongst the lowest paid workers in Australia, and you need a job.

I was in Canberra at the National Disability Awards on Tuesday, where I was a finalist in the Lesley Hall Lifetime Achievement Award for my work in trying to reduce family violence against women with disabilities and their children.  I congratulate Bill Bradley for his well deserved win, but I am also sorry that I didn’t get the chance to raise the issue of the abuse which is systemically and systematically perpetrated against Australians with disabilities.

And I can’t help wondering what Lesley Hall would make of the response to the ABC program. I hope that she would be pleased to see that we are prepared to take on those who hope the issue will disappear.

As soon as we finished with the formal award presentations, and had congratulated the winners, I spent most of the evening speaking to other advocates about the need for a response that recognises that the abuse that is perpetrated against Australians with disabilities:

•   Is systematic

•   Is systemic

•   Is under reported

•   Is without appropriate response

•   Is without  appropriate legal recourse due to systemic barriers in the legal system

•   Is considered relatively unimportant  because  of negative attitudes towards Australians with disabilities

•   Is not limited to one organisation

•   Is Australia wide and

•   Needs a national enquiry – preferably a Royal Commission

So we have had some response from the major political parties. Bill Shorten, the Opposition Leader, has said that Labor supports calls for an independent investigation  into “these serious allegations”.  Hmm, a bit weak, given how we think this is a matter not limited to a single institution.

In Parliament on Tuesday, the Greens Rachel Siewert asked  the Government to launch an enquiry into the neglect, violence – including gender-based violence – and abuse of people with disabilities in residential and  institutional settings.  Senator Siewert also pointed out recommendations from the United Nations for Australia to investigate and address as an urgent priority, violence against people with disabilities! Particularly women with disabilities in institutonal settings.  Wow, that’s a step in the right direction.

So what was the response from the Coalition Government.  Well basically the message to my ears was this is a matter for the States and Territories until the full roll out of the NDIS…. So apparently if you are being abused, raped or experiencing any KWD form of violence, and you have a disability, stiff bickies,  the Australian Government couldn’t give a stuff.  Senator Fifield did mention the Victorian  enquiry into institutional sexual abuse, as though that will solve the issues.

Well as the person who is supposed to have our backs in Canberra, I must inform Senator Fifield that Australians with disabilities are not children, and to suggest that our needs are being addressed by an enquiry in one State, which is not even looking at the abuse and rape of adults, just goes to show how out of touch he is.

Without actually saying this directly, Senator Fifield has in effect said that this is a Victorian  issue, that the learnings from the NDIS  launch sites will determine future actions and that until around 2019, Australians with disabilities will just have to put up with abuse, rape, torture and neglect. Talk about the ratbag right!

In the meantime, I know that the majority of service providers have the best interests of us at heart, but be advised that you will be called to account for the actions of your staff, and your failure to take the actions that ensure the safety of your clients.

If you have not already done so, I have some suggestions for actions you can take now. You need to show how  you are ensuring that Australians with disabilities are:

•   Protected from predatory behaviour

•   Involved in the selection process when employing staff who will provide them with services

•   Provided with information that enables them to recognise violence, abuse and inappropriate behaviour

•   Provided with appropriate complaint mechanisms to enable them to report violence and abuse

•   Empowered to live the lives they want to live

•   Free to live in the community

•   Not forced to live with people they don’t  want to live with

•   Not segregated from the rest of the community in congregate care (as is now happening again in South Australia where people can now live with “their own kind”)

In addition, organisations must  have:

•   Policies and procedures in place to encourage whistleblowers to safely come forward.

•   Induction programs which clearly outline rights and responsibilities of clients and employees

•   A culture which respects all clients and employees

•   Bystander action which makes it quite clear that everyone should be intolerant of anything that  belittles women, whether it is a joke or a derogatory comment or questionable depictions of women.

There has recently been a Defence Taskforce  which has called  for a National Inquiry into abuse in the Military.  I am calling for a similar response to abuse against  Australians with disabilities. Or are we less deserving because we are considered to be leaners, not lifters, bludgers who are users, non tax paying drains on the public purse.

I am happy to discuss this issue with Mitch Fifield..  I tried to catch him at the National Disability Awards, but for some reason he kept avoiding me. Or is it just that I wasn’t fast enough to catch him on my callipers and crutches. Funny how I managed to catch up with Jenny Macklin and Chris Milne and Rachel Siewert.

What do we want? A national enquiry into the systemic abuse of Australians with disabilities

When do we want it?  Now

About the author: Tricia Malowney is a regular contributor to Pro Bono Australia News and a former President of the Victorian Disability Services Board. In November 2013, Malowney was awarded the inaugural Brenda Gabe Leadership Award for her outstanding contribution to women with disabilities in Victoria. She was the inaugural Chair of the Royal Women’s Hospital Disability Reference Group and was able to influence policy and planning on key issues including the Family Violence Protection Act 2006. She has successfully lobbied for women with disabilities to be included in the United Nations Population Health Research.

This article appears in the Pro Bono Australia News Nov 27, 2014:

National Disability Awards Winners Announced!

The National Disability Awards were announced last night.

Congratulations to the following winners:

Bill Bradley, winner of the Lesley Hall Award for Lifetime Achievement in Disability.

Jordanna Smith, winner of the Emerging Leaders Award in Disability.

Rebecca Ho / Touched by Olivia, winner of Improving Inclusive and Accessible Communities Award.

First Peoples Disability Network, winner of the Improving Advocacy and Rights Promotion Award.

Joint winners John McDonald and Saronbell, who took out the Improving Employment Opportunities Award.

Technology Assisting Disability WA (TADWA) who won the Improving Personal and Community Support Award.

The Everyone Everyday Disability Awareness Program, Disability ACT, Community Services Directorate, ACT Government and Stirling Community Early Learning Centre who jointly won the Improving Education Outcomes Award.

And finally, Vicdeaf/ Emergency Management Victoria who won the Improving Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Award.

Don’t forget International Day of People With Disability is happening in Australia on December 3rd, 2014


NDIS: Now and In the Future

Some facts:

Australians with disabilities have the same rights as other Australians.

Disability means an impairment which impacts on a persons capacity to live a full life. It can include:

  • Sensory, like vision or hearing
  • Physical, like paraplegic or quadriplegic, or other musculoskeletal Condition
  • Cognitive, like acquired brain injury or intellectual disability
  • Mental health, like schizophrenia or depression

20% of Australians have a disability

13% of Australians are primary carers

People with disabilities are the most disadvantaged group in Australia, women with disabilities less likely to be in paid employment than men with disabilities, experiencing more violence than other women, with indigenous and women from other cultures more highly affected because of compounding disadvantage.

What is the National Disability Insurance Scheme?

It is the greatest social change in Australia since the introduction of Medicare

A scheme to ensure that all Australians have the supports they need to enable them to participate as equal citizens

It is to provide funding for supports forall those who have a disability now, between the ages of 0 to 65. (After 65 the Funding will come from the age sector, but the services must be the same.)

It is an insurance scheme for those who acquire a disability through accident or illness which is not covered by other insurance like TAC or WorkCover. A child with cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, an adult who contracts MS or Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease, or who falls off the ladder while cleaning the guttering.

It is not for health provision, like hospitals or doctors which will continue to be covered by Medicare.

Individualised to suit each participant, it will include everything that a person needs, subject to a reasonableness test.

Services funded

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agency implemented

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the scheme will assist

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Current status of NDIS – Australia wide:

current status

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Tricia Malowney – October, 2014

Tricia Malowney is the NDIS Strategy Consultant at Outlook Employment and provides strategic advice regarding National Disability Insurance Scheme to ensure better outcomes for Australians with disabilities.    She is a systemic advocate in the area of political activism, access to health and justice for people with disabilities and has had experience in governance and policy development in the not for profit and government sector.


Congratulations Bobby!


Congratulations to our very own Bobby Bajram, just back from Nepal where he successfully completed Kala Patthar ascent, an amazing 5,550 metre climb.  The climb is part of Bobby’s preparation to take on Mt Everest that Bobby intends to undertake next year.

Bobby follows in the footsteps of trekkers to Everest Base Camp, who summit Kala Pattar. The climb provides the most accessible point to view Mt. Everest from base camp and all the way to its summit. Bobby was “blown away by the views from almost anywhere on Kala Pattar of Everest and the surrounding mountains.”

The trip was not without its moments with several large avalanches in the area, fortunately these were not too close to Bobby. “But the noise that they generated gave a real perspective to the size of the region” said Bobby.

Kala Pattar is a small peak literally meaning “black rock”. The mountain is located right at the foot of Pumori (7161m) and above Gorakshep on the way to Everest Base Camp.