Lived Disability Experience vs Disability Sector Experience

Following its election win, the Australian Labor Party has reiterated its commitment “to ensuring that no Australian with a disability is left behind”.

The Hon. Bill Shorten MP’s assigned portfolio as Minister for the NDIS National Disability Insurance Scheme has been widely applauded and appears to be a significant move in the right direction for an Australia working to look after its disabled population.

This overhaul includes review of the NDIA (National Disability Insurance Agency), steps being taken to get the NDIS working properly and ensuring that disability is “no longer an afterthought”. Reassuringly too, steps are seemingly being put in place for policy to be evidence based and those actually reliant on the NDIS being given a place at the co-design table.

However, whilst the NDIA has certainly been a hive of promising activity since our new government took office, there is still a glaringly incongruous demographic in the way that the scheme is being run and managed.

With 1 in 6 Australians living with disability and with rates of disability being shown to be on a rising trajectory, it is crucial that the NDIS addresses the need for representation and inclusion of scheme participants and those with lived disability experience on its Board, Executive and in the role of NDIA CEO.

In the same way that senior roles within indigenous organisations are reserved for applicants of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent, policy must be put in place to ensure that “the NDIS puts people with disability at the centre of the Scheme and includes families, carers, service providers and workers” (wording taken from the ALP’s own website).

But this should just be the beginning of necessary reform in our country.

In an SBS News article, it was highlighted that, of the total 227 parliamentarians today, only one person (or less than half a percent) presents a visible disability – in the form of WA Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John.

Whilst our new parliament embraces the diversity and beauty of our country, this representation of disability is certainly not something to be celebrated.

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