Monday, October 23, 2017
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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee Inquiry to address outcomes of National Disability Strategy 2010-2020



This week we had completed a new submission to address the outcomes of the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (NDS). In this submission, we emphasised our concern with the implementation of the NDS and the actions that have been implemented through Outcome 2 ‘Rights protection, justice and legislation’. in the areas of people with disabilities in the justice process, including prisons, child protection and guardianship. The National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (NDS) is the foundation of Australia’s work to advance disability rights and recognises the experiences and needs of people with disabilities and their families are central to the Strategy, its vision and its principles’.

The Strategy is the national policy framework for guiding Australian governments to meet their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and to implement the CRPD across a range of key outcome areas. Bluntly, very little has been done to implement Outcome 2, and few outcomes have been recorded as achievements either Australia-wide or in the ACT. There has been more focus on the National Disability Strategy outcome areas around employment, personal and community support, economic security and health and wellbeing, particularly with the implementation and rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The National Disability Strategy 2010-2010 is in year seven of a ten year strategy and three years remaining. The section of Outcome 2 ‘Rights protection, justice and legislation’ has seen no real action at either the ACT or national level.

The number of people with disabilities in the prison system Australia-wide, including the ACT, is significant and acknowledged, yet there is no consistent national data collected on people with disabilities in the criminal justice system.  Collecting national data will enable policy development in eliminating overrepresentation of people with disabilities entering and exiting the justice system.

Parents with cognitive disabilities continue to be over-represented in the child protection system and face significant barriers to reasonable participation in our justice system in child protection.  The number of parents with disabilities that face child removal by child protective services is very high, yet data about disability remains uncollected.

Despite the impact on self-determination and civil rights of guardianship orders, there is no presumption of legal representation for those facing the imposition of substitute decision making orders. The rights of people with disabilities who are subject to guardianship proceedings and have not been offered legal representation are not engaging in a fair and equitable justice process.

There are no current comprehensive policies in place to address Outcome 2 of the National Disability Strategy. While this continues the over representation of people with disabilities across all areas of the criminal and civil justice system will continue. Without systematic data collection, Australia will struggle to understand the scale and nature of what it is facing and continue to disadvantage and marginalise people with disabilities in the justice process.

It is highly critical that we get this right and there is little time left.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format: Access to Justice

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Release of the Final Report: Review of the Domestic Adoption Process in the ACT

We have had a small loss with our recent submission to Review the ACT Adoption Process to the Domestic Adoptions Taskforce back in November.

The Community Directorate’s Final Report: Review of the Domestic Adoption Process in the ACT has been released.

Overall it is a disappointing report – disability is barely mentioned, but it was clear that we were not the only organisation arguing the concern of how consent is gathered from birth parents with disabilities when their child is removed and placed into the child protective system.

The only positive outcome is that the Adoption Taskforce acknowledged one of Advocacy for Inclusion’s recommendation to explore dispensation of consent provisions in the Adoption Act 1993 to allow the ACT to better respond to the complexity of out of home care circumstances – that is pretty much the only plus but they did argue back at it nonetheless.

One of the disappointing sections is on open adoption (p.11) where they state, “Contemporary adoption practices reflect a shift away from secrecy to open adoptions. All adoptions in the ACT are ‘open’, where the identities of birth parents are made known to children who are adopted and adoptive families. An open exchange of information and/or contact between the child and their birth parents/family is acknowledged as best practice”.

We argued in our submission that this is not actually happening and the birth parents with disability are often left out, particularly in the CYPS processes.

The Directorate has openly defended its consent-process when a child is being considered for adoption, but placed it under on their ‘to look at’ list no less. They argue that dispensation is a legal process by which a court may declare that the consent of a parent is not required for an adoption order to be granted.  This is hugely concerning as it basically saying that consent is not needed at all by the birth parent.

Disability is mentioned only p. 19 and Advocacy for Inclusion is quoted:

6.32. A common concern among respondents who commented on the consent process was the perceived lack of focus on support for birth parents. This view was put forward by community advocacy groups, for example:

“We do not see ‘capacity’ as being taken into account when the general consensus of CYPS and the ACT Government is a presumption that a parent with disability is unable to understand or exercise capacity at all.”

6.33. Furthermore, the needs of parents with disability should be supported to enable family restoration, but also with regard to adoption:

“women with disabilities who are parents, or who are seeking to become parents, report difficulty in accessing appropriate information, services and support.”


According the ACT Domestic Adoptions Taskforce, legal grounds for dispensation applications (no consent required) is set out under Section 35 of the Adoption Act 1993. It depends on individual cases, and where disability is court may, by order, nullify consent with reason that the. physical and mental condition of the person is such that he or she is not capable of considering properly the question of whether consent should be given.

A huge concern as we have continuously argue that parents with a disability facing the Child Protection System and have their children removed, should be required an advocate to enable them to make these decisions.

Out of all this, they did acknowledge that a review of the dispensation process is needed as a ‘possible area of reform’ in evaluating how birth parents, including those with disability, received support-focused mechanisms. It should not be considered a possible area of reform, but simply an area of reform alone.

Our submission was acknowledged and quoted on p.24:

6.60. Supporting birth parents to enable informed consent is a message put forward by many respondents. This includes providing education and resources, which are demonstrably effective, to enable a frank and emotionally adept conversation. One respondent commented that, unfortunately:

“there is a lack of suitable information available in Australia, including the ACT, on child-rearing as well as adoption measures for parents making a consenting choice.”

6.61. An element of continuing support includes informing the birth family of progress in the adoption process and confirming with the adoptive family that this has occurred, prior to further contact.

6.62. One respondent reported potential confusion with legislative frameworks in relation to the decision making capacity of parents with a disability. Specifically, the respondent reported disparities between:

“the Adoption Act 1993, the Children and Young Peoples Act 2014 [sic] and the Guardianship and Management of Property Act 1991 where the guidelines between decision-making capacity for a parent with disability, and the role of their guardian are ill-considered and confusing”. This was ours.


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Submission to ACT Budget Consultation 2017–18

Submission to ACT Budget Consultation 2017–18

It is that time of the year again and the policy team have put together our submission to the ACT Budget Consultation 2017-18. We have gone slightly off the track of our usual budget model and have chosen to take this submission into an economic perspective. Our focus is:


Recognising Marginalisation - addressing systemic discrimination and inequality for people with disabilities in the ACT engaging with justice processes


This year, Advocacy for Inclusion have focussed our organisation to justice matters in the ACT and addressing the barriers to reasonable access to justice faced by people with disabilities.

The submission also designed and built an entirely new, and innovative, model of independent specialist disability advocacy. We have taken a strong position on reminding the government how much money it costs to imprison an individual, including a person with a disability. It is expensive and budgetary savings measures can be well-spent if advocacy is introduced at the beginning of the justice process as a base of early intervention, with the possibility to avoiding imprisonment altogether.

Our key areas of concerns throughout the paper are:

  1. Marginalisation and inequality
  2. Implementing the National Disability Strategy
  3. Recognising marginalisation in the justice system including as:
    1. An offender
    2. A parent
    3. A victim
  4. Equal participation in justice processes
  5. Budget savings through independent specialist disability advocacy

The core recommendation (on top of healthy 15 recommendations) that we are asking the government to take note of is to recognise that specialist disability responses to justice processes will reduce marginalisation and inequality for people with disabilities in the ACT, and immediately fund them appropriately.

The full submission is now available on our website.

Check out our submission here in Word or PDF format

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