Monday, February 19, 2018
Text Size

The COAG summit on violence against women

On 28 October I attended the COAG summit on violence against women in Brisbane. This ground breaking summit brought together Australia’s heads of government with experts across a range of disciplines addressing violence against women. I was invited to attend by the ACT government to represent women with disabilities. 


Each state and territory invited key non-government experts in their jurisdiction to attend. The Federal, ACT and Queensland governments invited 1 woman with disability each, so there were 3 women with disabilities present within the 190 delegates to the summit. 


Women with disabilities experience half of the reported cases of violence against women in the ACT (ABS) and this level is similar across all jurisdictions. Yet only 3 women with disabilities were invited to attend the summit, and disability was buried within a discussion group looking at diverse experiences of violence which included violence against men. Despite feeling marginalised and silenced I worked closely with long-time colleague Carolyn Frohmader of Women with Disabilities Australia to put the many concerns of women with disabilities on the table and to have them considered as solutions were proposed.


The summit commenced with each first minister outlining what measures had been undertaken in their state/territory to address violence against women. Most governments focus exclusively on domestic violence rather than the broader issue of violence as outlined in CEDAW obligations. Violence against women with disabilities combines both gender based violence with disability violence and discrimination, what is known as multiple disadvantage or intersectionality, and is often outside legal definitions of domestic violence so women with disabilities are often forgotten or marginalised by government policies. This unfortunately happened again at the COAG summit although we succeeded in having some key conversations with influencers, including some state premiers, about what needs to be done to address this. 


During the summit the third action plan to address violence against women was launched. These action plans are the implementation strategies for the National Action Plan which is now in its sixth year. Women with disabilities are one of four key priority areas for the National Plan, but once again little has been outlined to meaningfully address the levels of violence experienced by them. There is stronger language in the third action plan, but there is still no real commitment by the federal government to back this with action.


Until violence against women with disabilities is considered a high priority issue and is addressed specifically by government policies, the levels of violence will remain high. No government in Australia has yet made this commitment or outlined strategies, except Victoria which held a royal commission into the violence experienced by people with disabilities and is now implementing its recommendations.


Christina Ryan attended the COAG violence against women summit with funding support from the ACT government.

Continue reading
1901 Hits

Disability Rights analysis for ACT Election

Advocacy for Inclusion works on the frontline with Canberra’s most marginalised and isolated people with disabilities. People seek our assistance with advocacy when they are in crisis or facing insurmountable barriers to achieving an outcome. Often they experience violence, abuse, interactions with legal processes, or have had their children taken into care. Many are living in arrangements not of their choosing.


There are very few specialist disability services to respond to the people we work with. In most cases there are none. There are no disability led initiatives across most of the areas that we work, which means people with disabilities facing severe discrimination and marginalisation are forced to rely on generic mainstream services, usually with no staff who are people with disabilities. In the future this lack of specialist, disability led, responses must change so that people with disabilities can begin to address our own disadvantage and marginalisation.


The work of Advocacy for Inclusion centres on the issues that we see every day as part of our frontline advocacy work. The issues we raised with the major parties are not isolated, rather they are the most common issues raised by our consumers. Many of these issues are longstanding as they have never received specific attention by policy makers or government.


This ACT election we had hoped to see this lack of response change. We sought commitments from the major parties on disability rights that the ACT has committed to implement through the ACT Human Rights Act and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

To understand what the major parties intended we interviewed their disability spokespeople, Veronica WensingAndrew Wall and Chris Bourke. The videos of those interviews are available on our YouTube channel.


The responses to the commitments we have sought have been varied. All parties spoke of the need to consult directly with people with disabilities, and all have outlined consultative mechanisms in one form or another. It is disappointing that none would commit to those mechanisms being solely made up of people with disabilities. The continuing insistence on diluting our voices is not something any other minority group is expected to withstand, yet people with disabilities must expect that others are considered to be more expert in matters that concern us.


Advocacy for Inclusion has worked for over 6 years to achieve guardianship law reform in the ACT and is very pleased that all parties have committed to taking the current review process forward beyond the election. This issue is far too important to be subject to parliamentary terms and must continue. The Review Report was released during the caretaker period but carries significant progressive reform recommendations. We look forward to working with the new government to continue the process of implementing CRPD Article 12 in the ACT.


We were also pleased to gain a commitment from the Greens and Canberra Liberals to inquire into current child protection systems. Although neither committed to an independent inquiry focussing solely on the removal of children from parents with disabilities, both parties have committed to inquiries where this issue will be examined – for the first time in Canberra. It is disappointing that ACT Labor still fails to recognise the severity or scale of this issue for parents with disabilities.


Advocacy for Inclusion has high exposure to the justice system and legal frameworks given that over half of the ACT prison population is people with disabilities, mainly with cognitive disabilities. We welcome the commitment of both ACT Labor and the ACT Greens to develop a Disability Justice Strategy. We look forward to progressing this with the new government, and we continue to work with the Canberra Liberals to improve understanding of the urgent need to address this area of policy.


Finally, we failed to gain commitments in 2 key areas of disability rights policy: no major party is currently prepared to commit to amending the domestic violence law so that people with disabilities have equal access to using the law, and the supports available through it, when they experience domestic violence. Additionally, no major party was prepared to commit to ending the reliance on congregate living for people with disabilities in the ACT despite the recommendations of the United Nations, strong evidence of the lack of safety, and the continuing lack of choice such environments present.


Thank you to the major party spokespeople for participating in our interview process. Advocacy for Inclusion looks forward to continuing our work with all of you following the 15 October 2016 election. 


Christina Ryan


Chief Executive Officer


Interview with Greens spokesperson for disability Veronica Wensing -


Interview with Liberal Shadow Minister for Disability Andrew Wall MLA -


Interview with Labor Minister for Disability Chris Bourke MLA -

Continue reading
1896 Hits

Catching up with the AFI team

After three months long service leave its been wonderful to spend time catching up with the Advocacy for Inclusion team at the weekly team meeting.

Today we’ve focussed on our purpose and our continuing work to collect the stories of our consumers, self-advocates and members.

As we move to a more justice based focus in our work the team has been building stronger relationships in the legal community and at the ACT Prison.

We are very stretched but making a big difference to highly marginalised people who need advocacy assistance. Advocacy for Inclusion is heavily into ACT Election mode.

Our policy team is ensuring that all parties are aware of our Election Priorities. We are currently interviewing the major parties to understand what commitments they will make on disability rights, and how they plan to ensure equality of access to justice and the law for people with disabilities.

Watch for the interviews on our YouTube channel, and keep an eye on the election page of this website.

The Self-advocacy Team have made major gains in the confidence of the self-advocates to be able to tell their stories. I’m really looking forward to hearing some of them for the very first time.

Many of our self-advocates have never had the opportunity to tell their story or be heard with respect. It’s very powerful to hear and I thank them for their trust and confidence in us.


Christina Ryan Chief Executive Officer

Continue reading
1874 Hits

Sabotaging the NDIS

Until recently Australia Post held the trophy for the most outstanding example of corporate self-sabotage in Australia when it increased its costs while reducing its postal service outcomes. Australians have been turning away in droves, a not surprising response to such a business model.


Now, however, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has made a play for the outstanding self-sabotage trophy by making access to the Scheme so unwieldy that recipients are unable to use it. Particularly those who want to self-manage their NDIS package so that it can be more flexible in meeting their needs.


The NDIS is built on the principle of control and choice. Recipients are intended to have a level of control over their disability supports – choice of who they engage, freedom to design innovative combinations of supports, when and how they use supports – within the context of their approved plan. For many it will be the first time they have had any opportunity to choose their provider, or their support person, or the level and mix of support to achieve their goals. For many more it will be the first time they have accessed the level of support they need to achieve dignity and independence as a person with relatively high support needs. A 2009 AIHW report identified that more than half of people with high disability support needs had access to less than half the supports they needed.


Three years in some systemic failings are becoming clear. Most notable of these is that the central tenet of control and choice is seriously under threat. Some would argue that it is being deliberately undermined by vested interests and by government interference. Others would cynically suggest that the Scheme was always designed to act as it now is, and that control and choice was simply rhetoric used to silence the disability movement.


The most concerning threat is to self-management as a concept. Recently, when asking numerous self-managing NDIS recipients about their experience some disturbing information emerged: without exception every single person was considering abandoning their self-management as it is overly bureaucratic to the point of being overbearing. Additionally, most had not implemented the majority of their plan, rather they had focussed on one or two key supports and the rest had sat there unused because it was too complex and bureaucratic to get it all underway.


Read the full article Sabotaging the NDIS

Continue reading
3199 Hits

Everyone has the right to feel safe at home, except people with disabilities

“Everyone has the right to feel safe at home” … except people with disabilities.


The places where people with disabilities live are simply not covered by domestic violence legislation, including group housing, kinship care arrangements, and women who live with ex in laws so they can keep getting disability supports.


Recent plaudits for the Homeshare scheme also fail to mention that these arrangements are not covered by domestic violence legislation in the ACT. So, while it’s a great model when it works well, it also restricts the ability of police and community services to respond when something goes wrong and to provide safe alternatives for victims.


Just over the border in NSW these living arrangements are covered by domestic violence legislation. If something goes wrong the police, victim services, and community and domestic violence responses can all be used to assist the victim to be safe. In the ACT victims must use common assault laws, but usually nobody bothers to involve the police anyway. People with disabilities are expected to just accept violence as part of their lives.


When a person with disability is unsafe in their home there is no alternative. Advocacy for Inclusion has worked with numerous people who want to be safe, but there are no other housing or safety options and no law to back up the need to act swiftly. If it’s categorised as domestic violence most of the responses like refuges or funds for hotels become unavailable.


Suitable accessible housing for people with disabilities doesn’t exist, and with no ACT government long term disability housing construction plan many wait up to five years for purpose built properties. Even then they are told to move into another group arrangement as this provides a cheaper alternative for the disability support system.


For most people with disabilities their experiences aren’t even recognised as violence, much less domestic violence. Rather: “they must learn to get on with each other”, or “must learn to modify their behaviour”. A couple of decades ago women were also being told “don’t upset him”, or “keep him happy” as a way of avoiding violence and abuse. The community has moved on and now recognises how inappropriate it is to blame women who are victims of violence. If you have a disability, however, you are told that the violence is your fault and you must learn to adjust your behaviour to avoid it.


This dismissal by government and community of violence perpetrated against a person with disability, by someone who lives with them in a long term domestic relationship, disregards the impact of that violence. It normalises it and denies access to systemic domestic violence responses including moving to a place of safety and trauma counselling. It also tells people with disabilities that they don’t matter.


The ACT government has aligned a great deal of ACT legislation with NSW, but for some reason it has failed to provide people with disabilities the right to be safe in their own homes. Instead it continues to actively support and promote models of living which stand outside domestic violence law and which are proven, despite the best intentions of everyone involved, to result in high levels of violence and abuse.


Extra resources announced by the Chief Minister to address domestic violence and to support victims of domestic violence are welcome, but they are cold comfort for people with disabilities who remain outside the scope of such measures because they continue to be outside of the scope of domestic violence law.


Everyone has the right to feel safe at home including people with disabilities.

Continue reading
3016 Hits

A taboo topic - #disabilitydisrupt

Disability – a taboo topic


Is there any other group in the community who are commonly referred to by euphemism? You know that soft art of using another word to avoid using the actual word, in order to be delicate about what it is you are trying to say.


Wikipedia defines “euphemism” as:

A euphemism /ˈjufəˌmɪzəm/ is a generally innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant.[1] Some euphemisms are intended to amuse; while others use bland, inoffensive terms for things the user wishes to downplay. Euphemisms are used to refer to taboo topics (such as disability, sex, excretion, and death) in a polite way, or to mask profanity.[2]

Note, right at the end of the above definition “taboo topics such as disability”. So, talking about disability is supposedly so taboo or offensive that we must use euphemisms instead.


Problem is disability isn’t just a topic it’s also a whole community of human beings. In fact the largest minority of human beings on planet Earth. So, every time people with disabilities are referred to by euphemisms we are seen as taboo or offensive, and the stereotype is perpetuated that we must be avoided or shied away from.


The most common euphemism is “special needs”, but there are plenty of others:


-        Differently abled

-        Handicapped

-        (Mentally or physically) challenged

-        Touched or slightly touched


These are just a few. A personal favourite is “courageous” as if simply existing with disability is an almighty brave act deserving of some kind of medal.


Think about it – every time one of these terms is used instead of the word “disability” it makes us invisible. It reminds everyone that disability is offensive and that you need to be delicate about discussing it. It categorises a whole community of people as outsiders.


Euphemisms infantilise people with disabilities. When referring to a “special needs person” or a “very special young man”, or someone who is a “bit touched” you are reducing that person to a childlike state. Regardless of their actual age you are refusing to see them as equal to you and as contributors to the community. Somehow their disability is their sole characteristic and it’s just too awkward to talk about.


Often euphemisms travel alongside inspiration porn to perpetuate the stereotype that people with disabilities are “other” and must be treated as outsiders. We become some kind of circus freak sideshow.


Don’t be afraid - if you are referring to a person with disability then do that. You will be part of the growing community that sees us as real people and which includes us because we are friends, partners, colleagues and experts. You don’t have to be delicate about calling us what we are, after all we are just people and are comfortable being called “people”, same as everyone else. 


Our disability is our identity; by naming it you recognise us and call us your equal.


Continue reading
3570 Hits

ACT election arrangements

Advocacy for Inclusion is a disability rights organisation based in the ACT. We are not party political and work across the spectrum of political activity to advance disability rights.


In an ACT election year Advocacy for Inclusion recognises that we will be in demand for candidate briefings and information, and key policy development support. We are happy to do this, but must point out that we are a small community charity with scarce resources. We cannot restrict our other work and focus solely on the ACT election.


1.      Party spokespersons will be given unrestricted access to our CEO, however we will endeavour to keep the time given equal between the various parties. Party spokespersons will also be invited to speak at our Election Forum later in the year.


2.      Candidates from all parties are welcome to email 3 questions to our CEO. We will also make time for 3 candidates from each party to have a short meeting with our CEO on a first come first served basis, please prepare your 3 questions prior to the meeting. We will ensure that each party has equal access.


3.      All candidates are invited to read the materials on our website which provide extensive background on the work of Advocacy for Inclusion and our position on various current issues. It is worth checking our ACT Budget submissions in particular. Additionally, we suggest you check the following websites for leading disability rights work:










Continue reading
4173 Hits



Disability Disarupt logo

It’s time to change the way disability is talked about and stereotyped.


Let’s disrupt the assumptions about what disability is and isn’t, what people with disabilities can and can’t do, how it should be spoken about, and who should do the talking.


It’s time to set our own rules!


Let’s disrupt the systems that oppress us, and the current thinking about how our world should be structured. Let’s disrupt who makes policy and how governments plan for disability.


We want to disrupt the way disability is talked about, who does the talking and what the disability community gets to speak about.


Join in.


Each month #disabilitydisrupt will focus on a different topic, but it’s up to you to after that. You can email, tweet, blog, post, or whatever works for you. Share an article, quote someone, have an opinion, paint a picture to share, send a photo. Just use #disabilitydisrupt to be part of the conversation.


We’ll start by talking education, and focus on desegregation.


Join in the conversation by using #Disabilitydisrupt 


Join our mailing list to get regular updates and the monthly roundup. Make sure you don’t miss out -


Do you want to DISRUPT the disability conversation?


Email or tweet us with your suggested topic, or just start your own thread.


Have a lot to say on a #DisabilityDISRUPT topic?


Contact or email Email us if you are:

·        An organisation – talk about your work

·        An expert/professional in the area – would you like to contribute a guest article?

·        A Self-advocate – tell us what you think




Continue reading
4000 Hits

New position statement: ACT permanent placement measures discriminate against people with disabilities

Advocacy for Inclusion has just released a position statement on the new Out of Home Care arrangements being introduced by the ACT Government. One of a new suite of measures is to change placement mechanisms to enable permanent placement to be arranged for children after 12 months in out of home care.


The new Out of Home Care Strategy includes some changes we have been advocating for, particularly funding for new services focused on supporting families and preventing children from being removed into out of home care. However, changes in timeframes for permanent out of home placement for infants will allow less time for parents to achieve change in their lives and to be reunited with their children. Similar concerns have been raised by other members of the community concerned for the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.


Parents with disabilities will be disproportionately and adversely affected by this new measure. Parents with cognitive impairment (such as intellectual or psychosocial disability), are particularly at risk as they are already subject to high rates of child protection interventions and child removal.


Some parents with disabilities face specific barriers to learning and performing parenting skills and require support on a long-term or ongoing basis. Given the discrimination and access issues faced by parents with disabilities in the child protection system, such difficulties are often misunderstood as dysfunction or noncompliance rather than unmet need. There is a very real risk that the recent legislative changes will exacerbate misunderstanding and malpractice in the child protection system in response to parents with disabilities, resulting in further inappropriate removal of children from their families.


Parents with disabilities and their children should be given a chance to stay together, just like all other families. This can be achieved by allowing adequate time and offering appropriate resources to these families in a supportive way. A coordinated and targeted response to disability access barriers and discrimination via a disability strategy for the child protection system is essential to achieve this.


Robust annual monitoring of the newly introduced permanent placement mechanism needs to be instituted by the ACT Legislative Assembly through its committee system. Regular monitoring should illustrate a reduction in the children of parents with disabilities being placed in permanent placement arrangements as better supports become available through both the Out of Home Care Strategy and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


The full positon statement is available on our website.




Continue reading
3880 Hits

Annual General Meeting - a new board

The 2015 Advocacy for Inclusion Annual General Meeting was held on Tuesday 17 November at the Griffin Centre.


The meeting elected a new board, launched some wonderful videos of our Self-advocates made by Erindale College students, and farewelled some longstanding board members. It was also a great opportunity for an end of year catch up.


The AGM also received the Annual Report for 2014-15.


The new Board is:


Jenni Vincent – Chair

John Koulouris – Treasurer

Ian Tunstall – Committee member

Sue Carbone – Committee Member

Jane Flanagan – Committee Member

Karen Connaughton – Committee member


The board will nominate a deputy chair at its first meeting.


Thanks so much to Dwayne Cranfield, Vincent McCormick, Melissa Guilfoyle, Dougie Herd and Kathryn Rodwell who have all stepped down from the board after many years of outstanding commitment. We shall miss you.



 I can look after myself better than anybody elseAFI team


Dwayne Cranfield chairSelf-advocate




Continue reading
4294 Hits

Implementing the National Disability Strategy

Recently Advocacy for Inclusion was asked to comment on the next draft implementation plan for the National Disability Strategy. We can’t give you details here because the draft was confidential and our comments must also be in confidence.


We were surprised that the draft plan had no performance indicators or outcomes. Rather it had vague statements of intention. We are looking forward to seeing more flesh on the bones and some real outcomes that we can all work towards over the next 3 years to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).


One suggestion that we made was to ensure that the CRPD Concluding Observations, and the critical issues raised at the Australian Universal Periodic Review overnight in Geneva, form the basis of the new implementation plan.


As the Strategy is the key high level policy document designed to implement the CRPD these 2 recent United Nations process will provide valuable insight into where Australia should be targeting its resources to ensure the rights of people with disabilities are progressed towards equality.


We look forward to the next draft implementation plan and also to a strong Federal government commitment to implementing the CRPD and the National Disability Strategy.


The Advocacy for Inclusion submission to the consultation on the draft implementation plan will be released as soon as we are given clearance to do so.


Continue reading
3938 Hits

first clinic for the Disability Rights Law Centre

The Disability Rights Law Centre has just held its first legal clinic for people with disabilities. Legal Aid ACT provided a lawyer and a paralegal, and Advocacy for Inclusion provided an advocate. The clinic happened at the Advocacy for Inclusion office.


There was a full appointment list for the 3 hour clinic, and some people also dropped in during the afternoon. The team looked at a range of issues including responding to an assault, child custody, health system matters, Public Trustee, and compensation.


It was a very busy afternoon with back to back appointments, but our advocate and the Legal Aid lawyer worked well together and made sure that the clients were able to say what they wanted to say and understand what they could do next. A few people have made applications for Legal Aid as a result. There were also some intakes for Advocacy for Inclusion to follow up.


We weren’t sure about the demand for the DRLC legal clinics, but it looks like people with disabilities do want this service. The next clinic will be on Thursday 26 November. You can make an appointment by contacting our office, or drop in on the day after 3.15 pm.


Thanks to Legal Aid ACT for partnering with the Disability Rights Law Centre to make this happen.

Continue reading
3963 Hits

Appearance before the Senate Inquiry into abuse of people with disabilities

On Friday this week Advocacy for Inclusion will be appearing before the Senate Inquiry into violence and abuse against people with disabilities in institutional settings. We made a submission to the Inquiry earlier this year and raised many key points. Our blog on the submission is also available for details of recommendations.


The key points we wish to raise at the hearing are:


1.      The need for a Royal Commission. If this Inquiry does nothing else it must recommend a Royal Commission so that a full investigation into the national picture for people with disabilities in institutional and segregated environments can be undertaken. This is a major national issue across all jurisdictions, and the only way to safely investigate the manner, issues, key perpetrators, and potential solutions is to have a full inquiry over a suitable length of time, with the capacity to subpoena and protect witnesses. The nature of this Senate Inquiry has meant it has had limited capacity to hear directly from people in institutional and segregated environments and limited time and resources to respond to matters raised.


2.      The continuing use of segregated and institutional environments. The NDIS provides a significant opportunity to address this, yet it is not being used for this purpose, and for housing it is prevented, so that people are still being forced into arrangements not of their choosing. Urgent attention must be paid to resolving this barrier to community participation and the fulfilment of the rights of people with disabilities to live with whom they choose, where they choose, and to participate in the community on an equal basis as everyone else.


3.      Violence and abuse is a difficult issue that most members of the community remain unaware of. The instinctive response of most people is to disbelieve how severe and widespread violence and abuse against some of our most isolated and vulnerable citizens is simply because it is just too awful to think about. As a community there must be some way of increasing awareness and understanding of what violence and abuse of people with disabilities looks like, who perpetrates it, and what is needed to support people with disabilities to be safe and to feel safe.



Continue reading
4672 Hits

Submission to the Senate Inquiry into abuse of people with disabilities

Advocacy for Inclusion has made a submission to the Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.


This submission centres on our direct practice experience with people with disabilities, including individual advocacy support, self-advocacy support, and consultations undertaken during previous projects, as well as draws from peer reviewed research literature.  We highlight consumer insights into institutional settings, and their direct experiences of violence, including two in-depth personal stories of people with disabilities, shared with their permission. These are perspectives rarely heard by the broader community.


The term ‘violence’ is used as a broad term in this submission to encompass abuse, neglect, and restrictive practices, because they all stem from misuse of power against people with disabilities, whether deliberate acts or otherwise. Violence against people with disabilities can manifest in unique ways compared to violence against non-disabled people, and for this reason it often goes unrecognised. This submission explores a wide range of violence against people with disabilities, from the use of generic institutional practices that deny real choice and control, to overt acts of violence that are recognised in criminal law.


Our key message is that institutional models for disability support are inherently flawed, violent by design, and must be phased out, particularly with the opportunities brought by the National Disability Insurance Scheme.


Hearing people with disabilities


The structure of this Inquiry unfortunately will have excluded many people with disabilities in institutional settings. The timeframe for submissions was very short, and the main format for submission was in writing, which excludes people who have low literacy or are physically unable to make a written submission. After contacting the Committee Secretariat, Advocacy for Inclusion was advised on 10 April 2015 that the Committee had begun a number of processes to make the Inquiry more accessible, including Easy English documents, taking submissions via telephone, and extending the closing date. We are pleased to see these measures in place. However, the repeated changes to the Inquiry highlights the level of complexity and the challenges involved in reaching the target group, which the Committee was apparently not aware of or prepared for at the outset. Consequently, the Inquiry has had very poor accessibility for much of its duration.


Even with improved accessibility, many people with disabilities in institutional settings do not have access to independent means of communication. Many do not have internet, or the capacity to privately make a phone call or write a letter without support or at least without fear of intrusion by support staff. People with disabilities also fear repercussions for speaking out, and this acts as a major barrier to hearing their views. This means that they need targeted measures to enable them to communicate with the Committee in a way that’s safe, private, and supportive of their access needs. It is highly likely that the vast majority of people living in institutional settings have been unable to air their views to this Inquiry, and are altogether unaware that there has been an Inquiry. Outsiders try to reach out and contact people in institutional settings, as Advocacy for Inclusion did for this Inquiry ; however, it is generally at the discretion of institutional staff as to whether the message gets through, as well as whether support will be offered to the person with disability to participate if they need it.


Violence in institutional settings is a hidden issue, and the fact that such an Inquiry has been unable to reach out to the people it seeks to inquire about highlights this very problem. A Royal Commission is necessary to allow the time and resources to hear the views of people with disabilities, explore the extent and complexity of the issue, and hold support providers and individual perpetrators accountable.


The Advocacy for Inclusion submission makes 20 recommendations for action:


Recommendation 1: Hold a Royal Commission into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disabilities in institutional settings.


Recommendation 2: As per international obligations and recommendations by UN treaty monitoring bodies, the Commonwealth should fund an ongoing comprehensive assessment of the situation of children and adults with disabilities to establish a baseline of disaggregated data against which compliance with UN treaties data collection on people with disabilities can be measured across the full range of UN treaty obligations.


Recommendation 3: Institutional models of support for people with disabilities are inherently flawed and must be defunded and phased out. The Commonwealth should establish a national plan for the full deinstitutionalisation of people with disabilities.


Recommendation 4: Commit to a properly resourced National Disability Strategy and through that support the genuine inclusion and deinstitutionalisation of people with disabilities, and implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Recommendation 5: Commonwealth to fund support for people with disabilities to have real jobs for real pay. Sheltered workshops must be phased out with funds diverted toward creating access and support in mainstream workplaces.


Recommendation 6: Establish a national mandatory reporting mechanism for restrictive practices, modelled from the Restrictive Intervention Data System (RIDS) in Victoria. This must be done with a view to facilitate the elimination of restrictive practices in disability supports via robust collection of data and information, critical analysis and guidance.


Recommendation 7: A nationally consistent screening process for working with people with disabilities should be established for any NDIS registered services, and other services receiving direct funding to deliver disability or related supports.


Recommendation 8: To maximise control and choice, no restrictions should be placed on who self-managing NDIS participants can employ to provide supports. The NDIA must distribute information and facilitate access to police checks, working with vulnerable people checks, and NDIA registration of the provider if the person with disability wishes, at no cost to the participant.


Recommendation 9: Commonwealth to establish a plan targeted at increasing accessible, affordable housing for people with disabilities in the community, including public housing and crisis accommodation.


Recommendation 10: Commonwealth to fund a national audit of accessibility of crisis shelters/accommodation, including analysis of age, gender, racial, cultural and linguistic status, for people with disabilities, followed by proactive response to address the findings.


Recommendation 11: A National Disability Justice Plan should be established, with genuine funding and legislative initiatives attached, aimed at improving the accessibility of the criminal justice system for victims as well as offenders with disabilities. This must take into account intersecting factors such as age, gender, racial, cultural and linguistic status.


Recommendation 12: Commit extra ongoing funds to expand the capacity of the National Disability Advocacy Program at least equivalent to the funds provided to service providers and carer groups, ensuring that the full range of independent, community based disability advocacy is properly funded and made widely available.


Recommendation 13: Remove the onerous compliance burdens on the NDAP advocacy sector and redirect that money back into frontline advocacy.


Recommendation 14: A national independent statutory body for complaints, oversight and monitoring should be established and co-designed by people with disabilities. It should apply to all disability services, including all supports funded by NDIS, plus all other disability services regardless of funding source. It must also be available to people with disabilities in informal unpaid care arrangements as they choose. It must be independent from the NDIA and other services.


Recommendation 15: The statutory body should complement and work in collaboration with the existing legal structures, such as the police, in recognition of the extreme powerlessness faced by people with disabilities due to societal inequalities, and their subsequent increased risk of victimisation and exploitation. It must NOT operate as a disability specific alternative to the existing justice systems.


Recommendation 16: The statutory body must be fundamentally focused on protecting the rights, will and preferences of people with disabilities. It must be imposed on providers of support, NOT on people with disabilities.


Recommendation 17: The statutory body should have broad and authentic powers to investigate and enforce findings in regards to information and complaints received by people with disabilities, community members, and other statutory systems.


Recommendation 18: The statutory body should be funded in order to meet the demand and access needs of people with disabilities. It should be allocated a fixed percentage of all other disability related spending


Recommendation 19: The statutory body should include a national community visitor scheme as part of its function.


Recommendation 20: The statutory body must address the intersecting nature of disadvantage among people with disabilities, including factors such as age, gender, racial, cultural and linguistic status. This includes collection of data disaggregated by age, gender, racial, cultural and linguistic status, and living arrangement to understand the issues and monitor improvements in accordance with the UN CRPD.

Continue reading
5017 Hits

Announcing the Disability Rights Law Centre

Today Advocacy for Inclusion is launching the Disability Rights Law Centre. We are very excited about this new area of our work which is focussed on improving the justice experience for people with disabilities.


The Disability Rights Law Centre is a natural addition to our disability rights work advocating for individual people with disabilities, running a self-advocacy program, and the extensive body of policy work we have undertaken over many years. Now we are responding to the significant over representation of people with disabilities in the criminal and civil justice system.


National figures indicate at least half of the Australian prisoner population is people with disabilities, and that the number of prisoners with disabilities entering or leaving Australian prisons throughout a year is in the tens of thousands. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.


We are proud to announce Graeme Innes AM as the patron of the Disability Rights Law Centre. Graeme has been a significant contributor to justice equality for people with disabilities and is a keen supporter of the Centre's establishment.


We also thank our many friends in the law community who have enthusiastically embraced the idea of the Disability Rights Law Centre and supported us in its development.


Advocacy for Inclusion looks forward to working with you all on this new venture to make a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities.


Christina Ryan

General Manager

Advocacy for Inclusion



The Disability Rights Law Centre will:


Legal Services

Connect people with disabilities with legal practitioners – using our existing relationships and building new ones with community and private legal sectors.


Exploring the law

Test how the law should be interpreted, and how it needs to be changed


Establish legal precedents in understanding how the law affects people with disabilities


Interpret the law through a disability rights filter


Law Research

Accept student and volunteer placements on specific research



Our specialist training can meet your needs.

Support for law and justice practitioners to work more effectively with people with disabilities



Do you want to support the Disability Rights Law Centre? We’d love to have you on board.


What you can do:


Pro Bono Support or Externships

Provide pro bono legal hours to assist individual people with disabilities. 


Collaborate with us

Help tackle the big issues through developing case law. Help us raise systemic cases and change the way the law is interpreted.


Become a corporate partner

Make annual or regular contributions or consider a workplace giving scheme.


Join our network

Become part of a network of legal practitioners sharing experiences on leading practice in disability rights law. Sign up to receive bulletins and keep up to date on activities.



Make an individual donation to the Disability Rights Law Centre.










Continue reading
4541 Hits

Designing a model for the effective protection of human rights

Advocacy for Inclusion has made a submission to the process of Designing a model for the effective protection of human rights, recently undertaken by the ACT Government.


The discussion paper put forward a proposed model including appointing a President to oversee the new Human Rights Commission, and the appointment of three commissioners. While we broadly support this model we would like to see the new ACT Human Rights Commission focus on leadership and rights investigations as its primary activity, rather than on complaints handling.


All Human Rights Commissions handle complaints, for most disability discrimination complaints are their single largest area of concern, but without leadership on rights in the community this will never change. So, we would prefer to see the President and other commissioners put substantial time and commitment into leading the conversation, investigating systemic barriers to rights protection and realisation, and through this increase awareness and understanding of what a rights based community looks like.


We are particularly pleased to see that our campaign to have the Public Advocate position separated from the Human Rights Commissioner positon has been recommended in the discussion paper. It is critical that this potential cause for conflict is removed as soon as possible. Moving the Public Guardian function across to the Public Trustee was a recommendation in our ACT Budget 2015-16 submission that has been accepted in the proposed model outlined.


We also suggest having names for the three commissioners which reflect the critical groups in the community who experience most oppression, including people with disabilities, rather than naming functions like complaints handling.


Advocacy for Inclusion made 7 recommendations to the consultation:


RECOMMENDATION 1: establish a Public Guardian for the ACT and base that position within the Office of the Public Trustee.


RECOMMEDNATION 2: ensure awareness raising, community education and systemic change is seen as the primary role of the Human Rights Commission through allocating them to the President as a responsibility.


RECOMMENDATION 3: Align the commissioner roles and titles with key populations groups within the community – specifically those groups who most experience rights abuses such as people with disabilities.


RECOMMENDATION 4: focus on systemic human rights leadership through a proactive model of community engagement and investigation.


RECOMMENDATION 5: name the commissioners to align with specific population groups experiencing the most serious rights abuses including a Disability Rights Commissioner.


RECOMMENDATION 6: recognise and embrace experiential expertise as a high level qualification for Commissioner positions.


RECOMMENDATION 7: avoid focussing the work of the ACT Human Rights Commission on complaints handling.


Continue reading
4135 Hits

Advocacy for Inclusion welcomes Guardianship review in the ACT

Guardianship Review in the ACT


Advocacy for Inclusion is pleased that the ACT government has asked the ACT Law Reform Advisory Committee (LRAC) to inquire into the practice of guardianship in the ACT. We have advocated for many years for such an inquiry and have been particularly concerned that Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities changes how we should view the use of substitute decision making (article 12 CRPD).


The inquiry has been asked to:


The Law Reform Advisory Council is asked to inquire into the terms and operation of the Guardianship and Management of Property Act 1991, to ensure that the Act reflects best practice in guardianship law relating to adults.


The review does not include consideration of guardianship of children which is primarily a parental responsibility.


In making any recommendations, the Council should have regard to the General Principles established in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities focusing on the principle of respect for individual autonomy and dignity of persons, which is reflected in supported decision making frameworks.


The review will include consideration of:

1. The impact of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and other international human rights instruments, on principles for guardianship and management of property in the ACT;

2. The Act’s consistency with other relevant ACT legislation, in particular the Human Rights Act 2004, the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994; the Powers of Attorney Act 2006 and the Disability Services Act 1991; and

3. Current policy trends in the area of guardianship and substitute decision-making in the ACT.


The Council will report to the Attorney General on its findings by 30 September 2015.



Advocacy for Inclusion was proud to participate in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) Inquiry into equality before the law, by sitting on the Inquiry Advisory Body, and welcomes the references to its outcomes in the discussion paper by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Committee. It is particularly pleasing to note that the LRAC has referenced the ALRC’s proposed National Decision Making Framework which was developed in consultation with numerous stakeholders including the ALRC Inquiry Advisory Body.


We look forward to the forthcoming consultation process and encourage all stakeholders to participate, particularly people who have guardianship or financial management orders over them. Advocacy for Inclusion will be participating in this inquiry, and will be supporting our consumers and self-advocates to express their views.


This is a rare and welcome opportunity to reframe the rights of people with disabilities in the ACT and to contribute to greater independence of some of the most marginalised and isolated Canberrans.



References of interest:


1. Advocacy for Inclusion’s submission to the ALRC Inquiry into equality before the law


2. Advocacy for Inclusion’s report “Ask Me, I make my own decisions


3. Advocacy for Inclusion’s opening statement to the ACAT test case on a matter of law


4. Advocacy for Inclusion’s report on Supported Decision Making, Legal Capacity and Guardianship - Implementing Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Australian Capital Territory




Continue reading
4835 Hits

More independent NDIS support needed up front

Today Advocacy for Inclusion has written to all former individual advocacy consumers offering our support for their NDIS preparations.


Several cases have come to our attention that we found quite disturbing:


-        A support service not notifying our advocate that an NDIS planning meeting was taking place and accompanying the consumer themselves to protect the service’s interests during the planning conversation

-        People with significant communication barriers being spoken for by service providers or carers and not being given the chance to outline their own choices

-        Highly isolated or marginalised people not being aware of the NDIS and being coerced to cede their planning process to others

-        People being asked to agree to commit to a service provider before their NDIS plan is finalised

-        Service providers making arrangements that ensure they will accompany a person to their NDIS planning, rather than another less conflicted third party

-        Service providers giving consumers a printed list of the services they currently use so that they can “tell the NDIS this is what you will need” before a planning process has even commenced

-        Service providers applying for guardianship orders for a person so that their inconvenient choices weren’t actioned

-        Service providers applying for guardianship orders for a person so that the process was faster, once again to support the business needs of the service rather than the person’s needs


These are just some of the situations we have become aware of in the first 9 months of the NDIS in Canberra. Every day we hear new stories. We are increasingly concerned that people with disabilities do not have the level of independent support, free from conflicting interests, that they have a right to. Many are unaware that this support is available.


So, we have written to all our former consumers to offer them independent advocacy to understand the NDIS, to pre-plan their NDIS, and to sit alongside them through their NDIS planning process. We have already been asked to assist in recovering a number of situations for people and we realised that this demand will grow if we don’t act now.


Through our Self-advocacy Program we also offer ongoing support so that people are able to speak up and make the NDIS work for them in the way that they want it to work.


We are not receiving any funding to undertake the work, but we consider it to be of such importance that we are going ahead regardless.



Continue reading
5141 Hits

If it’s not Self-advocacy call it something else

If it’s not Self-advocacy call it something else


The global self-advocacy movement is about people with cognitive disabilities speaking for themselves. It’s an important part of the disability rights movement and must be recognised as owned and designed by the people involved – people with cognitive disabilities.


Recently Australian governments at all levels have developed greater awareness of the language of the disability rights movement. This is positive and well overdue. It’s particularly pertinent in the context of the development and design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and many of the buzz words recently adopted are as a result of bureaucrats engaging in NDIS work.


What is less well respected and understood is that this language belongs to the disability rights movement, not to governments, and it is not open to being reinterpreted by anyone other than the disability rights movement.


For the self-advocacy movement this is really important. People with cognitive disabilities are one of the most marginalised and isolated groups in our community. They are often the ones living in residential care / institutions, who require support to engage in the community or to undertake work, and are often subject to guardianship orders (substitute decision making). They are usually the most unheard in government consultation processes, and are sidelined or invisible at the representative level. They will be a large cohort of NDIS participants yet they have had little or no role in designing the Scheme.


The self-advocacy movement is their movement. This is a fundamental principle of the work and operational style of self-advocacy organisations. To take self-advocates’ language, reshape it and take ownership of it is to undermine the self-determination of the very people that governments claim to be supporting. It perpetuates the sidelining and invisibility.


A popular euphemism at present is “capacity building”. Sure, building self-advocacy skills does build capacity, but building capacity isn’t necessarily “self-advocacy”. In fact, it’s patronising and overlooks the disability rights aspect of self-advocacy. The aim isn’t self-determination or equality it’s just more training. It’s also the governments’ agenda not the self-advocates’ agenda.


Another popular euphemism is supported decision making. Sure supporting people to make decisions is a critical part of disability rights, but it is not self-advocacy. Rather it is a facet of the overall self-determination that is underpinned by self-advocacy.


There have also been “self-advocacy kits” which are simply information kits about something (pick your subject) dressed up with the term “self-advocacy”, but which provide absolutely no self-advocacy training or ongoing support, and no recognition that they are part of the self-determination of people with cognitive disabilities.


So, when using the term self-advocacy use it correctly. Use it proudly to indicate the global movement of some of the most marginalised people in our community who are taking control of their own voice and building their self-determination. Use the term self-advocacy to recognise that all people with disabilities have a right to be part of the community and a right to speak about and make decisions about their communities.


If people with cognitive disabilities don’t own the process, haven’t designed the process, and aren’t part of the outcome and what it does, then it’s not self-advocacy and should be called something else.


Advocacy for Inclusion provides self-advocacy training and ongoing support for people with cognitive disabilities and significant communication barriers. Our Self-advocacy Group is co-facilitated by self-advocates.

Continue reading
4829 Hits

Support independence & decision making for people with #disability

Dear friends


People with disabilities need your support. We need your support.


Advocacy for Inclusion has launched our first ever crowdfunding campaign. We are making an App to support people with disabilities to make decisions. This will be a big help in many people becoming more independent. There is no other App anywhere that does this, particularly in plain or easy English format.


Everyone can make their own decisions – it’s just that some people need some support to do so.


How can you help?


1.            You can donate to the campaign! Go to you have until 22 October 2014 to do this, and because we are a charity your donation is tax deductible.


2.            Set up a workplace giving station and encourage your colleagues to make a contribution.


3.            Use social media to spread the word. However it works for you: twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn – get the word out there that you support this campaign.


a.            You can embed our campaign into any website you might have, by cutting and pasting this code onto your website where you’d like the campaign to appear:

<iframe width="100%" height="415" src="" frameborder="0" style="max-width:310px;border:0px solid #fff;" allowfullscreen></iframe>


b.            If you’ve got a Facebook page, you can add a ‘Donate’ button for your campaign in 5-clicks by heading to  


c.            Use the Hashtag #SDMApp


4.            Tag some friends to contribute. After you have made your own contribution you can tag 3 friends to do the same. Send them the link and let them know you’ve nominated them to be next to support this great innovation.


5.            Forward this email to everyone you know and encourage them to support the campaign.


It’s that easy.


Thanks for your support. We look forward to achieving our fundraising target of $25,000. Better still, we are looking forward to greater independence for people with disabilities by building this App.


Christina Ryan

Continue reading
5363 Hits