July 17, 2015

People with Intellectual Disability and the NDIS,  Waterview In Bicentennial Park, Sydney


It is wonderful to be with you here today.


I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting. I pay my respects to their elders past and present. 


It is great to see so many of you here - people with disability; representatives from disability support services; people from disability advocacy services; carers, friends and family.


I would like to thank the New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability for bringing us all together.


Standing before you and seeing so many people gathered for one purpose is inspiring.


We are all here today because we share one key belief – you are worth the investment.


This means we want to make the NDIS work for you.


A few weeks ago I visited the Araluen Centre, an organisation in Melbourne working hard to support housing choices of people with intellectual disability.


At the Centre I spoke with Adam and Michael, two young men with intellectual disability.


Both living with their parents, they were asked where they would like to live.


They were very happy to be asked that question.


Adam said he would like to live by himself, in his own place.


Michael said he would also like to move out of his parent’s house.


He would like to live with some housemates, his friends. 


To be able to live by yourself, or choose to live with housemates is an aspiration shared by so many young people across Australia.   


Yet, too often people with intellectual disability have not been asked.


They have not been given a choice.


And too often we have not responded.


That has got to change.





Labor built the NDIS because we heard your calls for change. 


We heard clearly that we needed to put an end to Australia’s deeply unfair, inefficient and fragmented disability support services. 


We heard that governments over many, many years weren’t making the right investments and they weren’t investing enough.


And that as a consequence, people with disability had been forced to live as second class citizens.


To live lives confined to the margins of our community.


The NDIS is designed to fix this.


To transform the lives of people with disability, their families and their carers.


For the first time, to help make sure people with disability have their needs met in a way that supports them to live with choice and dignity.


And of course, this includes people with intellectual disability.


When fully rolled out, the NDIS will provide support to around 460,000 people with disability, their carers and families.


Of these, more than 60 per cent  will have an intellectual disability.


This means we have to make sure the NDIS works for you, for people with intellectual disability.


I want to talk today about some of the changes we need to make this a reality.


Because the success of the NDIS rests on more than just the establishment of the NDIS.


It requires people with disability to be empowered participants within it.


To have a voice at every level.


And so far the results are encouraging.


The latest figures from the NDIS show continued growth with more than 13,000 people with disability now accessing the scheme.


Earlier this week we had some great news with the Queensland Government announcing $1.9 million to fund a launch site for the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Queensland.


This was another important milestone in the development of the NDIS. 



Choice and Control


Labor built the NDIS on a fundamental principle – ‘choice and control’.


An acknowledgement that for too long people with disability have not had control over their lives.


People with disability have too commonly lived lives of limited choice and of imposed routine.


Decisions – often by well-intentioned people – have been taken for them.


They have been left out of the planning for their own care.


Left out of decisions about their own lives.


The NDIS, over time, will support people with disability and their families to take control over their lives and choose their future.


This is at the very heart of the NDIS. 


It may mean for the first time you will be asked what it is you want from life. 


What your hopes and dreams are.


And then, what are the supports you need to help you get there?


And it will mean for the first time you will be listened too.





A key challenge as we go forward is how to make sure the NDIS lives up to these goals.


We need to consider carefully what we need to do to make choice and control a reality for people with intellectual disability, as with all people with disability.  


Many people with intellectual disability are isolated from community and family support.


People may be suspicious of workers and organisations.


Be reluctant to share their disability and talk about the support they may need.


There can also be great challenges to building positive relationships.


Extended time may be needed to develop the trust so important to planning and considering ones care.


We need to make sure the considerations of people with intellectual disability are built into the fabric of the NDIS.


There needs to be early steps put in place at the individual and systemic level to respond to the needs of people with intellectual disability.


Safeguards to be put in place so the rights of people with intellectual disability are protected.


And mechanisms put in place to provide the support needed to develop the capacity to underpin choice and control.


If we are to make the NDIS all it can be, people with disability must be at the very centre of every discussion.


Every decision.


As you say: nothing about you, without you.


That  means we need to ensure people with disability are given a voice at all levels of decision making.


At a systemic level.


At a policy level.


And at a personal level.


On housing – this means talking with you and listening to what you want.


Like you I am very frustrated that decisions still have not been made by Governments about how to improve housing.


It is urgent.


Labor put additional money in so extra houses could be but more is needed.



The Independent Advisory Council


As I have said, it was your calls for change that made the NDIS a reality.


All of you, getting together at events like this to call on governments to change.


Of course, we responded, but the discussion doesn’t stop there.


We want these voices to continue to be loud and strong, so that governments can never ignore them.


And so, in the design of the scheme, we wanted a permanent place for those voices.


One way that we have built the voices of people with disability into the design of the NDIS is through the Independent Advisory Council.


We built this into the Act to ensure that there would always be an independent voice – external to the board – to ensure that people with disability are firmly in the driver’s seat.


And we know that people like Rhonda Galbally, the Chair of the IAC, will never shy from providing that advice. 


Peak and organisational advocacy


Peak advocacy organisations also play a critical role. 


To make sure, at the policy and design level, the voices of people with intellectual disability are at the centre of decision making.  


So we can continue to have discussions like we are having today.


To make sure that you have strong, collective voices when issues arise or needs are not being met.


To make sure there is a focus on developing self-advocacy skills of individuals and groups.


To build and maintain a strong network of supportive and trusted friends in the lives of people with intellectual disability.


And to develop the capacity of disability support services to better respond to the needs of people with intellectual disability.


Organisations like the New South Wales Council for Intellectual Disability which has spent nearly sixty years representing the rights and interests of people with intellectual disability.


Organisations like yours here today need to be seen as integral to the success of the NDIS.


And as the NDIS rolls out, these peak organisations will play an even more important role.


That is why I was so distressed by the cuts that were announced late last year.


Which would have meant not only the closure of some quality organisations, but also a significant reduction in the breadth of voices for people with disability.


We need these voices to be strong.


We need them to be firmly built into the consultation and policy design processes.


And not as an optional addition to the NDIS.


But an integral part of ensuring people with disability can exercise choice and take control.


Personal advocacy


We also need to consider advocacy at the personal level.


So people with intellectual disability always have a trusted friend.


Someone who is always on their side.


To help people to build their own capacity and understanding.


To make them empowered participants in the NDIS.


Experience from current NDIS trial sites tells us that participants have better outcomes when pre-planning is undertaken before meeting an NDIS planner.


We also know that, especially in the early stages, there are varying skills and capacity of NDIS planners, with many time pressures.


Making independent personal advocates available early will also assist build the trust necessary to underpin the relationship between the planner and the person with disability.


For people with disability, and particularly for people with intellectual disability, individual support and capacity building may be required many months prior to their first planning discussions.


We need to consider how we make personal advocacy part of a pre-planning package.


This will be a big part of making the NDIS a success and this personal advocacy together with the supports offered by the NDIS will see people’s horizons lifted.


The conversations and plans will continue to expand. Advocacy to take advantage of these opportunities is critical.


I know that for many of you, change is hard.


It can be daunting. Perhaps even a little scary.


And that if you are to get the best out of the scheme you might need help to navigate it.


To ensure you have a voice.


And that voice is properly heard.


To ensure that choice and control is not just a slogan.


But a reality for each and every one of you.



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