Joint media release: Change needed now to achieve access and inclusion for people with disability

3 December 2020

ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS),Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) and People with Disabilities ACT Inc (PWDACT) joint media release.

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has today joined with Women with Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) and People with Disabilities ACT Inc (PWDACT) to mark the 2020 UN International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD).

ACTCOSS, PWDACT and WWDACT called on the federal and ACT governments to step up their efforts towards the achievement of an inclusive and accessible Canberra. The three organisations also highlighted areas of the new ACT Parliamentary Agreement relevant to people with disability and urged swift implementation.

ACTCOSS Policy Manager Craig Wallace said: “As we approach the end of a difficult year for people with disability, the focus of IDPWD for 2020 should be a clarion call to banish complacency. We need rights-based policy and meaningful access and inclusion for all Canberrans.

“The evidence from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, and our experiences through bushfires and COVID-19, expose shortcomings in planning and implementation of policy. It also highlights the paucity of critical investments in services and infrastructure aimed at access and inclusion.”

Mr Wallace said: “Things must change. As highlighted in our recent feedback to the Federal Government, all governments need to resuscitate the lacklustre National Disability Strategy (NDS). In Canberra, we need actions and investments which address the causes of exclusion and discrimination, as highlighted in our disability issues election brief. The Territory also needs to push ahead to deliver promises and aspirations made in the new Parliamentary Agreement.

“To this end, we attach a summary of commitments relevant to people with disability. We call on the ACT Government to prioritise them and ensure their timely implementation,” Mr Wallace concluded.

Kat Reed, CEO of WWDACT, said: “ACT women with disabilities experience violence at approximately twice the rate of non-disabled women. We need to ensure women can access appropriate services that provide protection and support. Priorities include improving accessibility of crisis shelters in the ACT, full implementation of the Disability Justice Strategy including a gendered approach to justice issues, strengthening the role of the Family Safety Hub, continuing funding for Official Visitors and streamlining complaints processes at the ACT Human Rights Commission.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the need to develop and implement a Disability Health Strategy, co-designed with people with disabilities focusing on better services, infrastructure and workforce improvements,” Kat Reed concluded.

Robert Altamore, Office Manager for PWDACT, said: “Today is a reminder of the need to plan for better city infrastructure, planning, development and transport provision for people with disability as well as more universal design housing. This is vital as the city’s population ages. We need a dedicated access committee on transport and the built environment and concrete action through regulation and incentives to increase the availability of universal design housing.

“Today should also highlight mounting problems with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) implementation. Government needs to abandon the flawed NDIS independent assessment process, address issues with pricing and delays in receiving assistance and return real co-design and representation by disabled people into the scheme’s management,” Mr Altamore concluded.

Extracts of commitments and aspirations relevant to people with disability in the new Parliamentary Agreement is at Attachment A below.

For more information or comment, please contact:

Craig Wallace, Policy Manager, ACTCOSS, on 0477 200 755 or 02 6202 7208

Kat Reed, Chief Executive Officer, Women with Disabilities ACT, on 0468 324 695

Robert Altamore, Office Manager, People with Disabilities ACT, on 0423 931 753.

Attachment A

Extracts of policy commitments relevant to people with disability from the 10th Parliamentary Agreement for the ACT Legislative Assembly

The ACT Labor and Greens have acknowledged that continued growth and renewal of social housing and increased affordable housing supply is required to meet housing need in the ACT.

They committed to amend building legislation to set a proportion of new residential properties in the ACT built to meet Universal Design standards to make them able to be adapted and accessible to all people regardless of age, disability or other factors

The Government has also committed to work with the ACT’s traditional custodians and our diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, to support the development of sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations in areas such as child and family services, justice, housing and disability

In the area of city services, active travel and roads the Agreement commits government to undertake urban realm upgrades including widening the Lake Ginninderra path, age-friendly suburbs … and replacing and repairing suburban footpaths

Disability and Carers

The Government will strive to ensure Canberra continues to be an inclusive community where all people feel they belong, are valued and supported. As part of this effort, we will:

17.1 Continue delivering grants programs that support disability inclusion

17.2 Support participants in the NDIS through the Integrated Service Response Program

17.3 Develop and implement a disability employment strategy, to promote employment opportunities

17.4 Progress actions under the ACT Carers Strategy

17.5 Introduce legislation to formally recognise the essential role carers play in our community

17.6 Develop a mentoring program and respite handbook and supports for carers

17.7 Continue to implement the Disability Justice Strategy Action Plan and develop and implement a Disability Health Strategy


12.1 Improve services for walk-in centres including offering sexual health screening, reduce Elective Surgery Waitlists, build a hydrotherapy pool, expand Hospital in the Home, invest in preventative health measures including physical activity, obesity reduction, social prescribing, and scope a Northside Hospital

12.2 Improve Emergency Department responses with geriatric streaming and a Psychiatric Alcohol and non-prescription Drugs Assessment (PANDA) Unit

12.3 Introduce more end-of-life treatment and care options, including a palliative care ward at the Canberra Hospital, enhanced after hours palliative care, palliative care respite facility for carers and a scoping study for a secular hospice

Justice and Community Safety

13.1 Implement the Disability Justice Strategy Action Plan

Human Services and Access

14.1 Fund the Older Persons Abuse Line

14.2 Support The Neighbourhood to secure land for Canberra’s first Dementia Care Village

14.3 Review concession assistance measures and tax reforms to make these fair and equitable


15.4 Increase investment in Perinatal Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental Health and Youth Mental Health

16.1 Expand PACER to two teams to service the North and South of Canberra 7 days a week

16.2 Build 5 additional supported accommodation houses over the next 4 years

16.3 Refurbish 10 beds at the Brian Hennessy Rehabilitation Centre for transitional and rehabilitation accommodation for consumers with enduring mental illness ($10 Million Capital expenditure plus $3.25 Million over 4 years)

16.4 Boost community counselling, mentoring, home visits, advocacy and case management for 10-25 year olds

16.5 Establish a psychologist subsidy scheme for young people and people on low incomes ($2M over 4 years)

16.6 Improve programs that target and support youth mental health, eating disorders, alcohol/drug use/mental health, First Nations mental health, First Nations suicide prevention & postvention and respite for mental health carers

Social Inclusion

21.1 Fully fund the ACT Carers Strategy

21.2 Establish a dedicated Access Committee for people with disabilities to guide government on active travel, urban planning and transport design proposal issues

21.3 Scope on-demand and flexibus services to make it easier for people with mobility issues and enable night buses to drop off closer to home where there are safety concerns

21.6 Establish the Children and Youth Services Council, and provide access to supported decision making for parents with disability and in particular for families where the CYPS system is involved. This includes support in hospital especially for mothers who are at risk of having their baby taken into care

21.7 Establish an Official Visitor for aged care.

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