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Advocacy for Inclusion Blog

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Everyone’s vote is equal no matter who you are

The title of this blog is a quote from one of our self-advocates from our self-advocacy plus group held on Monday. 

With the ACT Election now less than a week away, we had Marie from the Elections ACT office come in and join us as a guest speaker.

There were numerous questions from where and how to vote, pre-voting and voting by mail.

Our self-advocates posed questions about the new electorates in Canberra and how and why the electorates were changed.

There was lots of discussion about why we vote and members shared points that are of importance to them and how to see what the parties are representing for this election.

Following this, some members stated they would be interested in the possibility of running for Parliament themselves in the future. Again the group became a great platform for members to share their experiences and educate others.


The next Self-advocacy Plus group is on 14 November 

B2ap3 Medium IMG 0064

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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 -

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Mother's Self-advocacy Group

          “Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean I can’t be a good mother’’      

This statement was made by a mother at this month’s Mothers Group.   This comment was a thought that the entire group did identify with. The mothers group is a place where you can come and talk in safe and friendly atmosphere about child protection issues. Your children maybe in care or living with you.

We finally had our first session in our new training room. Everyone was excited at having our own space, in a familiar accessible location. It was a great group with two new members joining us this week.

The Group has been running for six months, with numbers steadily increasing despite the barriers faced by some of the mothers around childcare, transport and organisation of support workers. The group gives mothers a forum to discuss matters that are important to them.

One mother commented that “having a disability makes people not believe me”. This group has provided an opportunity for her to meet with like-minded mothers going through similar situations, to support each other.

Members of the group have said that they are finding the group to be supportive, informative and a place to be heard. The group have asked for the session to be extended with the view to increase the frequency of the sessions. 

With the ACT Election fast approaching we had discussions about the matters affecting the members. The mothers took the opportunity to voice what they would like to see changed. These views were filmed and will be taken to the Party Leaders before the Election. 

Next group: Tuesday 18 October 2016 at 11am.

More information 

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Final Guardianship Report has arrived!

Followers of Advocacy for Inclusion would remember that in 2015, Advocacy for Inclusion had submitted a submission to the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council to urge that people with disabilities remained in control of how they wish to engage in support for their decision making.


It has finally arrived! Advocacy for Inclusion have been eagerly awaiting the completion of the report for ACT Guardianship arrangements for adult people with disabilities since 2014.


The report is not disappointing, yet it will prove interesting in how law reform will support the Supported Decision Making Act. The recommendations that have been highlighted by the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council have demonstrated that enough is known to commence a legislative reform process. The process will see changes of legislation apply to all relevant civil legislation in the ACT as well as changing other legislation.


It has been a long road since Advocacy for Inclusion has argued for major changes in both the laws of guardianship, how it works in our society and in practice. The importance for individuals with disabilities to make their own decisions is paramount and is stepping closer to being fully in line with international human rights law, and specifically the standards contained in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).



Follow us on Twitter:@Adv4Inclusion  and  @Adv4I_Policy

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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

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Disability Rights Law Centre Networking Night with Special guest Graeme Innes

Our first event for the Disability Rights Law Centre was held on Monday 27 June. 

Patron of the Law Centre and former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes, spoke to a full house at Smith's Alternative about his experiences of inclusion, advocating for himself and his new book "Finding a Way"


"Inclusion isn't going to come to us: we have to go out and get it"

Graeme spoke passionately about inclusion being everybody's responsibility, and that we would not have an inclusive society until people with disabilities are included and attitudes change. 


“The broader community works consciously and unconsciously to exclude us. Barriers are constantly erected to keep us out… and the attitude barrier, where you exclude us with the soft bigotry of low expectations.” 

 Graeme kindly took questions from the crowd which ranged from the approach to language, the use of quotas and his thoughts on accessible working environments. 


We would like to thank everyone who supported Advocacy for Inclusion on the night. We would also like to give a special mention to our Board, Nigel and his staff at Smith’s Alternative, Mel our Self-advocate, and especially Graeme Innes for his time and insight. 

You can view the entire event on youtube - 

Subscibe to our mailing list to find out about forthcoming events

Graeme Innes at Smiths Alternative


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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

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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.

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Forced cohabitation is not "companionship" or "inclusion"

It seems bizarre to have to spell this out, but it is apparently necessary: forcing a person with disability to live with another person with disability is not “inclusion” or a form of “companionship”.


Advocacy for Inclusion is currently working on a number of cases where NDIS participants who are going through the planning process are being pressured by the NDIA planner to cohabit with another person with disability. Both participants are currently living alone and are very happy living alone. However, the NDIA planner is insisting that the person with disability should live with another person with disability as this is more “inclusive”.


What if they get lonely? Who will be their friend? – these are the sorts of questions the NDIA is asking. The NDIA staff referred our advocate to Operational Guidelines; specifically to the principle of supporting people with disabilities “to be included in the community as fully participating citizens” to back their approach.


Inclusion means genuine access to and participation in the community on an equal basis with non-disabled people. It means having access to accommodation options on an equal basis to the non-disabled community, which is a fundamental human right. Companionship involves freely given relationships with family, friends and other community members, and perhaps mutually chosen housemates. Real companionship cannot be forced onto people – it is something that evolves organically.


It should go without saying that inclusion and companionship does not mean being pressured into a permanent living arrangement with a stranger with disability against your will, based on an extremely outdated and oppressive assumption that if you’re a person with disability, you are better off being grouped together with other disabled people to live, work and be educated.  With the control and choice principles underpinning the NDIS, how is this being misunderstood by NDIA staff?


The issue is quite clearly not about “inclusion” or “companionship” but about the functional purpose of pooling funds; that is, cost cutting. When two or more people with disabilities are accommodated together and share their supports, they generally require a smaller funding package each as it can be pooled and the support workers shared. The pre-NDIS block funding model forced people into these arrangements, because the funding was attached to service providers rather than to individuals, and there was significantly less funding available in general for disability supports. The NDIS is meant to revolutionise this not pour funding into holding up the old broken system, which left people with disabilities excluded, marginalised and at risk of harm.


Forced cohabitation promotes unhealthy and at times violent relationships. When people have no control over their living arrangements they can become trapped and exposed to violence for extended periods. It is misleading and unethical to pressure disabled people into cohabitation and call it “inclusion”, because it is very much the opposite. It is a human rights breach and a form of small scale institutionalisation, which is exactly what the NDIS is meant to move away from.


This is a hugely concerning issue, which from what we hear from our colleagues interstate may be emerging as a pattern across the trial sites for people with high disability support needs. Our advocate continues to negotiate with the NDIA alongside our consumers to secure support for them to live in the arrangement of their choosing.


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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.


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National Forum for Women and Girls with Disability

Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) hosted a National Forum to hear from women and girls with disabilities to identify our priorities and shape WWDA’s future direction.


As cliché as it sounds, it was genuinely an empowering feeling being in a room with more than 40 other women with disabilities who are at the forefront of promoting disabled women’s rights at the grass roots and structural level. If you think disabled women are passive service recipients rather than change-makers, you need to look more closely! As several speakers at the forum put it, the vibe in the room was brilliant. It is not very often we all get to come together to share our work and views.


The day started – after a last minute change of agenda – with an overview by government representatives of disability related policies, followed by a speech by the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash. They each noted that they weren’t telling us anything we didn’t already know… and they were right. There is a lot of work to be done to address the exclusion and disadvantage faced by disabled women in the fields of economic participation, violence prevention, access to disability supports and the list goes on. Just ask us and we will tell you all about it.


We later broke off into groups each facilitated by a government representative to hear our views on various topics. The topic at my table, posed by NDIA representative Vicki Rundle, was “how can government do better at consulting women with disabilities?”. The group raised the following issues and suggestions:


·         Service providers and carers are powerful groups, which can drown out the voices of people with disabilities. We want more disabled women leading the way in decision making roles such as in the NDIA and in other policy areas.


When Ms Rundle told us of the carers with “lived experience” in the NDIA the group quickly pointed out that while carers have important views, these views come from a different position to those of women with disabilities. People with disabilities – although not homogenous – are a distinct group and the views of carers should never be seen as a substitute. By conflating carer views with those of disabled people, we are rendered invisible. Unless a carer is also is a person with disability, they do not have “lived experience” of disability. CEO of Advocacy for Inclusion has written about this on LinkedIn. And we need more women with disabilities represented in these positions, not just men with disabilities.


·         Women with disabilities need to be resourced to participate in non-disability specific projects as well as disability matters! For example, the development and implementation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.


·         Information needs to be accessible. That is, easy to find, available in a range of alternative formats, in Easy English as standard, and issues with having written materials regarding the NDIS properly translated to various languages need to be ironed out.


·         We have been telling government how to get better at consultation for many, many years but we are not being listened to – we are tired!



The best part of the Forum was of course the panel of women with disabilities. Key points raised by panellists:


·         The rights of disabled women lack recognition in the mainstream feminist movement – our work continues to fly under the radar or be pushed aside.


·         The economic situation for disabled women is dismal, yet there are no gender specific measures to address the exclusion of women with disabilities from the workforce.


·         Women with disabilities are overprotected and prevented from living our own lives, especially in institutional settings where control over our lives can extend to what we wear and when we will eat.


·         Violence in institutional settings against women with disabilities is often dealt with as a “service issue” and kept out of the justice system.


·         Disabled people are not granted the same freedoms as non-disabled people to sexual expression and family planning. Disabled people are subject to discriminatory child protection interventions and unnecessary removal of their children. We need to remember LGBTIQ people with disabilities in our work to advance the sexual and reproductive rights of disabled people.


·         Aboriginal women with disabilities lack access to culturally appropriate disability services, especially in rural and remote areas. The legacy of colonisation continues, and parents are afraid of having their children assessed for the NDIS because they fear that their children will be taken from them.


It was a HUGE day and there was so much more covered, which I think could have been spread over two days rather than one – we need more time to get into the nitty gritty; the issues facing women and girls with disabilities are so vast and varied. WWDA will produce a report on the proceedings, which will be provided to government and disseminated to members and stakeholder networks.


It was a privilege to be there and WWDA did an outstanding job of pulling it all together. If you want to see more about what was discussed at the Forum you can check out coverage by participants on the day by searching #WWDAforum on Twitter.



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Position Paper: Adult Protection and Mandatory Reporting

Advocacy for Inclusion has released a position paper in response to recent community conversations about mandatory reporting for adults with disabilities.


Despite good intentions, overprotection of people with disabilities can make them more vulnerable to violence by denying their agency and control over their own lives and bodies. Mandatory reporting is a form of overprotection, which infantilises people with disabilities and denies them the right to decide for themselves how they wish to respond to victimisation. Advocacy for Inclusion is concerned with four aspects of adult protection schemes such as mandatory reporting:


1.    The assumption that risk of violence is inherent in a person’s impairment;

2.    Little evidence that mandatory reporting results in improved safety outcomes;

3.    False appearance of “doing something”;

4.    Mandatory reporting may deter victims from seeking help.


A more appropriate response is one which involves supporting a person to feel safe to disclose and to be in control over any resulting process. Victims with disabilities should be supported to report to the police if they choose, and to access the justice system on an equal basis with the general community. Importantly, disability and violence sectors are under-resourced; services must be adequately resourced to respond when someone with disability raises a concern about violence.


Mandatory reporting is another tool in overprotection of people with disabilities, which offers little substance in terms of prompting safety and ultimately disempowers rather than protects.


See the full paper at

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Guest Blog: Tom Kesina - Towards World Class Inclusion

As February comes to an end, we are pleased to present a Guest blog from Tom Kesina who is the 2016 Disabilities Officer at the ANU Student Association, running Disabilities Student Association.  His story was recently featured on Faces of ANU.  

In keeping with February’s theme of education for #disabilitydisrupt, we asked Tom to shed some light on the barriers faced by university students with disabilities:  


Towards World Class Inclusion

 After coming to terms with my own disability, I started to think more deeply about the ways that my disability affected the way I studied, and the way I interacted with the entity known as the ANU.

Looking back, I’ve had the privilege of dealing with the ANU’s fantastic Access & Inclusion unit, which draws up plans detailing reasonable adjustments for students registered with it.

I’ve also interacted with the ANU Counselling Centre, which has been an excellent resource for me when I needed to go and have a chat with someone. I’ve also made use of the Academic Skills & Learning Centre, which has been invaluable in learning how to navigate the maze of assessment and gaining the time management skills that being a student requires.

Below I will talk about three things the ANU could work towards to ensure that the experience of students with disability at ANU is world class. These include; implementing a Disability Action Plan, properly resourcing the Counselling Centre, and improving campus accessibility.


1. Implementing a Disability Action Plan

A Disability Action Plan (DAP) is a document produced by an institution that outlines how it plans to eliminate discrimination against people with disability in terms of the services it provides. DAPs from other universities include measures such as disability awareness training targets for staff. Unfortunately, none of this is happening at the ANU, and that’s got to change. It is deeply disappointing that the ANU is one of the only Group of Eight universities not to have a current DAP or equivalent, particularly given the last ANU DAP expired four years ago.


2. Properly resourcing the Counselling Centre

Tertiary students have higher rates of mental ill health than the average population, and so it’s essential to have a properly resourced Counselling Centre. At the ANU, it is not uncommon for waiting times for appointments to be three to four weeks. I can’t repeat this enough - this is not the fault of the Counselling Centre. This is a direct result of the lack of resourcing provided by the university. Until recently, the Centre did not even have an accessible entrance for students who are wheelchair users. Renovations were conducted, but only because the Students’ Association stepped in and arranged the funding.


3. Improving campus accessibility

The last campus-wide access audit was carried out over fourteen years ago. This means that we don’t have an accurate picture of how accessible the campus is overall, and unfortunately certain ANU resources reflect this. Take ANU’s list of teaching and learning equipment. At the moment, it has a checkbox for ‘fully accessible’ but there’s no definition of what this means. Although the Union Court redevelopment might obviate the need for an audit of that area, that does not mean the rest of campus because as accessible as it could be.

These are just some of the issues facing students with disability at ANU today. The ANU provides great support services for students with disability, but it has the capacity to do better.


Tom Kesina

ANUSA Disabilities Officer

ANU Students' Association

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5 Things I have learnt

My name is Rachel and I have officially been a Training Officer at Advocacy for Inclusion for six weeks today! Although nobody bought me a cake, the last six

weeks have been some of the most rewarding work I have done in my career and I am grateful to join such a strong team of women.  

The training team had a huge month. We ran a group for women with disabilities, supporting them while they navigate the difficult landscape of rights and their children.

We had a self-advocacy plus public speaking group for adults with disabilities who are learning how to speak up for themselves, their rights and to share the things they enjoy in life.

We visited a local mental health facility, holding weekly groups supporting adults with disabilities to make informed choices and decisions. This of course includes manoeuvring the NDIS and all that trickiness.

Finally, we had a few individual group home visits with remarkable men and women with disabilities that include everything from dancing to punk music and learning the difference between assertiveness and aggression. 

This month at Advocacy for Inclusion we have focused on education for our #DisabilityDisrupt campaign and I have certainly learnt a giant amount about education and disability thus far. I know I am just on the edge of this topic and there is so much more to learn.


 Here are a few things I have learnt in the last month -

1)    Respect and honesty should always go hand in hand

2)    Every person with a disability has the right to education - how that looks should be individual

3)    Never underestimate the power of music and dance - learning can be fun

4)    Just because someone is having a bad day, never give up on them

5)    To not leave my bags on the floor and my chair 3M from my desk



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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:










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Students with disabilities - disrupting the barriers to education

This month our newly launched #DisabilityDisrupt campaign is focused on education.   

Under Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Australia has obligations to ensure inclusive education is available to all children.

In January, the Senate Education and Employment References Committee released its Report on Access to real learning: the impact of policy, funding and culture on students with disability. The Committee examined the huge barriers and difficulties that students with disabilities face in accessing education in Australia. During the Inquiry, hundreds of people and organisations from across Australia contributed evidence and shared their stories through submissions and public hearings.

Access to education can vary greatly depending on 

-          the financial means of individuals and their families;

-          geographical location;

-          cultural background (with particular challenges facing students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds); and

-          the culture of the school.

The practice of schools find ways of unofficially excluding students (dubbed “gatekeeping”) serves to further discriminate against and isolate children with disabilities and their families. The Committee found that far more needs to be done to enforce the law prohibiting the prevention of enrolment of students. (See this short article on The Conversation)

Another problem identified was the “systemic culture of low expectations” that often results in children with disabilities receiving “babysitting” rather than meaningful education that prepares them for a valued and productive adult life. (See this article in the Courier Mail and this column in the Sydney Morning Herald)

Further, it was established that there is widespread ignorance of the Disability Standards for Education 2005, formulated under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. These standards set out the legal obligations of education and training providers in relation to providing access and making reasonable adjustments to assist students with disabilities to participate.

The use of restrictive practices (such as physical restraint or isolation in separate rooms) was strongly condemned by the Committee. The lived experience of violence, abuse and neglect in schools was explored in another recent Senate Inquiry.  

There are huge costs to students and families, and ultimately to the broader Australian community in failing to educate students with disabilities in their school years.  The Senate Committee recommends that the government make funding commitments on the basis of need, according to the Gonski Review, and work cooperatively to establish a national strategy to improve the education of students with disability.

All students need access to real learning  - and Australia is currently failing in its human rights obligations to ensure inclusive education is available to all.

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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




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Towards equality: Recommendations from the Discrimination Act Review

In 2014, the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council conducted an Inquiry into the scope and operation of the Discrimination Act 1991 (ACT). Advocacy for Inclusion made a short submission responding to questions posed in the community consultation paper and highlighting human rights principles, the social model of disability and the nature of intersectional discrimination.

As we submitted, LRAC has recommended that:

-          the definition of discrimination be amended to encompass direct and indirect discrimination, and discrimination on the basis of more than one attribute;

-          the duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of a person with disability (or with other protected attributes) be made explicit;

-          reasonable adjustments should be assessed having regard to an inclusive list of considerations ;*

-          one Part of the Act be amended to include disability-based harassment, offensive conduct and vilification (and also such conduct in relation to other attributes);

-          the vilification provisions be expanded; 

For details, refer to LRAC’s Final Report – the Government is now considering its 68 recommendations (across 25 particular areas for reform).   

The current ACT legislation, its interaction with federal laws and its application in the courts and case law, are often highly technical – and the various potential outcomes of this reform process are similarly complicated.  Advocacy for Inclusion hopes this Review will result in more accessible and equitable protections for people with disabilities, and brings us closer to the “equal and effective legal protection against discrimination” described in Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. 


*= LRAC’s analysis favoured an assessment of reasonableness modelled on the approach taken by the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act, subject to refinements suggested by the ACT Human Rights Commission  (to take into account the ACT’s status as a human rights jurisdiction) and People with Disabilities ACT (to move away from the medical model of disability). As PWD ACT submitted: “assessment should focus on the access barriers and the required adjustments and not on the person’s disability” and “include the consequences of not making the adjustment or accommodation as well as the consequences of doing so”. )


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Access to advocacy for victims of violence, abuse and neglect

In a column in The Age on Tuesday, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass stated:

We must support the independence and decision making of people with disability, and never more steadfastly than when they make allegations of abuse. For those who require assistance, the role of advocates is of paramount importance. Yet we do not even have an accurate picture of how many people need advocates, let alone the resources to provide them.

The column summarises some of the findings of the recent investigation into disability abuse reporting conducted by the Ombudsman. (See their website for Easy English versions or a 10 minute YouTube presentation).

The Phase 2 report (released in early December) reiterated that there is a critical role for advocate to assist people with disabilities to report abuse, and a “pressing need for a comprehensive assessment of the need for advocacy services in Victoria”. 

Although this Report focuses on the situation in one state, the violence and abuse experienced by people with disabilities is clearly not confined to one jurisdiction but an urgent nationwide issue. This was reaffirmed in late November with the release of the Federal Senate Committee Report from the recent Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect against people with disability in institutional and residential settings.

This report included a chapter focused on advocacy and demonstrated a strong appreciation of the crucial role that advocates play in assisting people with disabilities to identify and report violence, abuse and neglect. Our Submission to the Inquiry was referenced several times and our CEO’s appearance before the Committee was quoted throughout the Report. This input contributed to strong evidence of the stretched and uncertain resourcing of the disability advocacy sector across all jurisdictions, and the other barriers to accessing independent advocacy for people with disabilities:

“…about half of the people we have worked with over time do not have natural support networks, so the expectation that some nice family member who is handy will step in is wrong. The expectation that there is access to an advocate is clearly wrong… We know that.” – Christina Ryan of Advocacy for Inclusion


“people do not complain—for many reasons. In the first place, they do not know their rights. They do not know they have a right to complain, and one of the few groups who educate people with disability about what their rights are is advocacy organisations...That really important arm of advocacy, which is self-advocacy by and for people with disability

themselves, almost does not exist. It is done off the side of the desk mainly.” – Mary Mallett of DANA


“A complaints process… is not going to be something that a person who is intimidated and living in fear is able to reach out for unless there is a way that they can seek assistance from someone is trusted and removed from that setting. … Who will speak up for them and who can they turn to? We think that one of the things that can help those people is access to advocacy. But where do they get that?...”  Michelle O’Flynn of Queensland Advocacy Incorporated

“The benefits of advocacy within residential and institutional settings require advocates to have access to, and a presence within, these settings. This depends upon receiving sufficient funding to employ visible and effective advocates, who are able to act and respond promptly to abuse and neglect”  - Advocacy Tasmania Submission

“Severe underfunding of independent advocacy can lead to cases of abuse and neglect going unaddressed as advocacy organisations build waiting lists” – David Craig of VALID

The Senate Committee supported the previous recommendation of the Victorian Ombudsman for greater funding for advocacy services, at a National level, informed by an assessment of the need across jurisdictions. It also specifically recommended that funding for self-advocacy programs be increased. For details, see  Recommendations 15 and 16, and 17 on the NDIS. 

We trust that future funding allocations and the ongoing development of National Frameworks (concerning Disability Advocacy and NDIS Quality and Safeguarding) will be influenced by these findings and reflect the paramount importance of independent disability advocacy in safeguarding freedom from violence and abuse.

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“Someone in my corner” – Independent advocacy saf

As the National Disability Insurance Scheme is being rolled out in Trial Site around the country,  Australian governments are currently working together to develop a National Framework for Quality and Safeguarding. 

The existing arrangements are a complex combination of National and State and Territory mechanisms. ACT working arrangements include:

-          the ACT Disability and Community Services Commissioner’s jurisdiction to deal with complaints about disability services ;

-          Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking);

-          the Official Visitor for Disability Services .

Last year, the Department of Social Services held a consultation on quality and safeguarding issues. The lengthy Consultation Paper and website outlined various proposed options, and encouraged people to state preferences and make comments or submissions.  Public meetings, workshops and surveys were also conducted.

Along with many other advocacy organisations across Australia, Advocacy for Inclusion made a submission.  We recommended extra funds be committed to independent community based disability advocacy, and that advocacy be recognised in the framework as a crucial preventative and corrective mechanism, at individual and systemic levels.  We strongly recommended establishing an independent statutory body for complaints, oversight and monitoring of all NDIS and disability services, and that people with disabilities be meaningfully engaged as co-designers of this new system. 

The resulting Consultation Report (released in November) has found overwhelming support among stakeholders for the independent complaints body option, and also a high level of support for an independent oversight body.

We are pleased the Report reflects recognition of the important functions of independent advocacy services - particularly, the important role of advocacy in

-          helping people to access and understand information;

-          supporting individuals to navigate the system;

-          helping people to understand their rights and raise issues if something goes wrong;

-          supporting people to communicate their concerns and through all stages of a complaints process;

-          helping people to “assess the pros and cons of different options and make informed choices” in planning;

-          strengthening people’s decision-making skills;

-          empowering people to advocate for themselves (through Self-advocacy);

-          identifying trends and issues at the systems level (through systemic advocacy);

-          monitoring the use of restrictive practices. 

Along with peer support networks, independent advocacy services were identified as particularly important to people with few natural supports. People with disabilities emphasised “the need for ‘someone in my corner’ who is independent of the NDIA and of providers.”

The inclusion of direct quotes from Self-Advocates and parents underlined these themes:

You know getting taught about my rights is the best powerful thing I’ve done. Getting taught by an advocate who knows about rights is the best. They give you confidence, it makes you feel good, like I can do anything in the world. They’re always on your side …. Always. [Person with disability, Tasmania, advocacy service submission]

People with disability can learn new skills – it may take longer, and they may learn in a different way, but they can learn – with the right support. Skills around keeping safe, like decision-making and speaking up when things aren’t going well are important safeguards for people… (It is) important that independent advocates are there to keep an eye on things and support people to speak up when they need to. Advocates can also help people to learn new skills by showing them a way to approach something and supporting them to do it themselves... [Parent, online discussion forum]

It is not yet clear how independent advocacy will be incorporated into the Framework. The Report stated: “What advocacy supports look like in the NDIS environment will be informed by the current review of the National Disability Advocacy Framework.” 

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