PDA’s answers to the Royal Commission Terms of Reference Survey

People with disability, the families friends and supporters have been calling for the Federal Government to establish a Royal Commission into the Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability for a long time. Thanks to the work of Senator Jordan Steele-John and a broad range of disability rights advocates this enquiry will soon be up and running.

To help define the scope of the Royal Commission’s inquiries, the Department of Social Services has posted on online survey on its Engage website ( This survey asks questions about which themes and settings the Royal Commission should prioritise during its investigations and what its recommendations to government should address. The survey also asks if the Royal Commission should also look into mistreatment that may be related to people with disability’s age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and indigeneity and also if there were particular focus areas and settings that should be explicitly avoided by the Royal Commission.

Although we are sometimes weary of government surveys, This one seems to be a genuine attempt to get the views of stakeholders. PDA recommends that all people with disability, their family members, friends and supporters submit responses to the survey by its closing date: midnight 28 March 2019.

Would you like to see the questions and think about you answers before you start the survey?

Here they are with PDA’s answers with comments about why we answered the questions this way:

Prioritise themes

1.   We [the people who will finalise the Terms of Reference] are interested in which themes you think are the most important for this Royal Commission. Please rank the following themes from 1 (most important) to 7 (least important). Place numbers 1-7 in the boxes alongside each theme or drag items to place in priority order.

  • – The safety of people with disability in care (PDA ranked this theme 2nd most important)
  • – The quality of services delivered to people with disability (4th)
  • – Preventing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability across the community (3rd)
  • – The way governments, institutions and providers respond to allegations and incidents of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation (1st)
  • – Setting better standards and guidelines for providers, institutions and people who care for people with disability (5th)
  • – Promoting a more respectful and inclusive society and the rights of people with disability in our community (7th)
  • – Fixing inconsistencies across governments in regards to quality and safety (6th)

Just as the NDIS is becoming the most significant program to provide supports to people with disability, this Royal Commission has the potential to be the report that gets governments to put in place legislation that adequately protects people with disability across Australia. This is why PDA prioritises the responses of those who know mistreatment is happening, the safety of people with disability and what can be done to prevent mistreatment going forwards.

Suggested Focus Areas

2.   On the scale provided, please rate how much of a priority you think each of the following areas should be for this Royal Commission. [The scale gives the following priority options for each possible area of inquiry: Essential; High Priority; Medium Priority; Low Priority; Not a Priority].

  • – What governments, institutions and the community should do to prevent and better protect people with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. – Essential
  • – What governments, institutions and the community should do to encourage reporting and effective responses to incidents of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability. – High Priority
  • – What should be done to promote a more respectful and inclusive society for people with disability – Medium Priority

If you have any additional comments about any of the areas of focus, please write them in the space provided here:

PDA believes that all Australians need to know how widespread and ubiquitous the mistreatment of people with disability in Australia is. This will result in a lot of pressure on the government to commit to implementing all the recommendations the Commissioners will ensure the Australian public holds them to this commitment.

As such PDA would like to see another focus area added to the above list: Gaining a thorough understanding of the extent of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability

3.   Should the Royal Commission cover all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation? [The options here are: Yes; No; I’m not sure]


Although having an all-inclusive view of the mistreatment of people with disability has the potential to make the workload of the Commissioners very large, it is very important that the Government and the Australian people understand how widespread the mistreatment is.

Are there any forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation that you think the Royal Commission should not cover? Please write them in the space below:


All forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation should be covered. No perpetrators’ misdeeds should escape scrutiny. No victim’s mistreatment should be dismissed or deemed unworthy of investigation.

4.   Should the Royal Commission look into violence and abuse in all settings (places where abuse might happen)? [Again, the options here are: Yes; No; I’m not sure]


If the Royal Commission does not look into all the settings in which the mistreatment of people with disability occurs then the Government are tacitly condoning mistreatment in those settings and the behaviour of those in authority. People with disability should be safe in all settings.

5.   Thinking about the different settings where violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation may take place, please rate how much of a priority you think each of the following settings should be in this Royal Commission [Again, the scale gives the following priority options for each suggested setting in which mistreatment of people with disability may have occurred: Essential; High Priority; Medium Priority; Low Priority; Not a Priority]

  • – Prisons and corrective services – High Priority
  • – Educational settings – High Priority
  • – Workplaces – Essential
  • – Disability services – Essential
  • – Health and hospital settings – High Priority
  • – Shared living (group homes, rooming houses, hostels) – Essential
  • – Private homes – Medium Priority
  • – Transport – Medium Priority
  • – Religious and cultural settings – Medium Priority
  • – Sporting and recreational settings – Medium Priority
  • – Other (please specify)

Are there any settings (places where abuse might happen) that you think the Royal Commission should not cover? Please write them in the space below:


All settings in which violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability should be covered. No setting administrator’s negligence should escape scrutiny. No victim’s mistreatment should be dismissed or deemed unworthy of investigation.

6.   Should the Royal Commission look at all aspects of quality and safety of services to people with disability? For example, this would include supports and services provided by government and institutions, as well as informal supports provided by institutions, carers or others in the community. [Again, the options here are: Yes; No; I’m not sure]


As has been stated above, PDA believes that all Australians need to know how widespread and ubiquitous the mistreatment of people with disability in Australia is. This will result in a lot of pressure on the government to commit to implementing all the recommendations the Commissioners will ensure the Australian public holds them to this commitment.

Is there anything about the quality and safety of services provided to people with disability that you think the Royal Commission should not cover? Please write them in the space below:


All service providers who allowed violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability should be covered. No service provider’s negligence should escape scrutiny. No victim’s mistreatment should be dismissed or deemed unworthy of investigation.

We are interested to know if there are additional considerations the Royal Commission should look into or consider.

8.   Are there particular considerations the Commission should look into in regard to the specific needs, priorities and perspectives of people with disability, with respect to:

  • – age
  • – gender
  • – sexual orientation
  • – intersex status, or
  • – race acknowledging the particular situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability.

Please write any particular things you think need to be considered in the space below.

PDA believes the inquiry should be given the broadest possible remit, however the Commissioners should be mindful that a person’s other attributes (age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and indigeneity) can factor into the nature of their mistreatment.

In particular, we would like to the Commissioners to pay particular attention to people with a disability over 65 (because they are excluded from participation in the NDIS and will not be able to make complaints to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission) and women and girls with disability (because are frequently targeted by sexual predators).

9.   Are there any particular considerations the Royal Commission should look into or consider with regard to the role families, carers, advocates, the workforce and others play in providing care and support to people with disability?

PDA would like the Royal Commission to evaluate the propensity of particular care and support paradigms to facilitate mistreatment of people with a disability. One of PDA’s concerns with the role out of the NDIS is that some archaic care and support practices such as group homes and shared supports that are known to have higher levels of abuse neglect and exploitation of people with disability are being re branded (as Specialist Disability Accommodation and Supported Independent Living respectively) and re-legitimised on the basis that they are cheaper for the NDIA and more profitable for traditional service providers.

10. Are there any other additional areas that you think should be included in the Terms of Reference for this Royal Commission?

As noted in our answer to Question 2, PDA believes that all Australians need to know how widespread and ubiquitous the mistreatment of people with disability in Australia is. This will result in a lot of pressure on the government to commit to implementing all the recommendations the Commissioners will make and ensure the Australian public holds them to this commitment.

As such PDA would like to it explicitly stated in the Terms of Reference that one of the purposes of the inquiry is to gain a thorough understanding of the extent of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability in Australia.

Support during the Royal Commission

It’s important we understand the types of support people might need to be able to participate in the Royal Commission.

11. Which of the following supports do you think are most needed to support people with disability, their families, carers and advocates during this Royal Commission? Please select any that apply.

  • – Support to help people make a submission in the Royal Commission
  • – Counselling or other psychological support
  • – Legal advice or support
  • – Call centre to answer questions about the Royal Commission
  • – Support to attend hearings or community forums
  • – Accessible technology or equipment
  • – Translation and interpreting, including Auslan, captioning and other communication technology or support
  • – Other support to make the Commission accessible (personal support)
  • – Other (please specify) – Whatever support a person with a disability requests

All of the above!

A refusal or reluctance to provide any of these supports potentially disenfranchises people with disability and might make it impossible for them to provide evidence or hear it being presented.

The remainder of the questions ask you about your demographic details (gender, age group, etc.) and place in the disability community.

Who are Peer Workers and what do they do?

Peer workers are people with a lived experience of issues such as mental illness, and who draw on these experiences to help and support others in similar circumstances.

The lived experience of such support workers enables them to connect in a meaningful way with their clients and provide a greater level of understanding and support.

What Is a Peer Worker?

A peer worker is someone who provides social, emotional and practical support to clients in need. This is enhanced by their personal experience, enabling them to make a strong connection with those who are going through similar experiences.

Workers may have personal experiences in recovering from an issue (consumer peer worker) or may have assisted in the care of family and friends with the same issues (carer peer worker).

The goal of an interpersonal approach is to encourage a lasting change in individuals who are struggling with personal issues, such as substance abuse or mental illness. A person with valuable lived experiences can complement the skills of mental health professionals and add to the care options available to patients.

What Does a Peer Worker Do?

Peer workers help to support, inspire and educate their clients. They assist in building confidence and resilience in those who are struggling, inspiring them with examples from their life and showing them that their personal challenges can be overcome.

Importantly, unlike other professional supportive relationships, peer workers are not solely at a distance, but perform the role of both mentor and carer.

This personal connection can help to break down a client’s barriers and is an essential component in building trust. This trusted relationship is often a challenge to achieve for more removed and impersonal support services but is an important aspect of encouraging a client’s recovery.

Who Do They Help?

Peer worker’s draw on a variety of different personal and community experiences, including:

– Mental health
– Indigenous services
– Drug and alcohol abuse
– Youth work
– Immigration
– Refugee services

They play an important part in assisting and supporting communities, while maintaining a people-first approach.

Peer support workers can be pivotal in assisting patients with mental health issues to recover and eventually re-enter the workforce. They are often the beneficiaries of such support systems themselves, having been helped and then going on to help others.

Why Are They Important?

Peer workers perform a needed role in the healthcare community. As they have dealt with hard times in their lives, they can share this experience in terms that are easily understood by those going through the same struggle. These personal stories can be a powerful source of inspiration and help establish a shared connection.

Peer workers are especially important in overcoming cultural barriers. Refugees for example, can have trouble adjusting to a new homeland. A peer support worker may be able to share their heritage to help overcome language and cultural barriers and provide effective support.

Reports show that up to 45% of Australians are expected to experience a common mental health disorder as a result of  depression, anxiety or substance abuse in their lifetime, forecasting a greater need for carers and support workers.

Where Do They Work?

Peer support workers can be found in a variety of roles and institutions, including:

– Community centres
– Hospitals
– Aged and disability support services
– Not-for-profit foundations (NFP)
– Non-government organisation (NGO)
– Mental health services
– Government healthcare services

However, they are most commonly found in public health services and the NGO sector.

Future of Peer Work

The peer workforce in Australia is currently under-supported with a need for more people to take on the role. Qualifications such as the Certificate IV Mental Health Peer Work have helped to prepare and train workers, while recognition of the importance of the role in the community continues to improve.

Further investments in peer work can help to address the growing need for mental health support within communities and assist with ensuring a strong rate of recovery.

More information on Peer Support services across Australia can be found here.

Author’s Bio:

This article was written by Daniel Defendi, who recommends Lifeplan for peer work assistance in Perth. You can catch Daniel on LinkedIn to discuss this piece.

Open Letter to the Premier of NSW about the Scourge of Locked Accessible Toilets

Monday 24 September 2018

Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP
Premier of New South Wales

RE: The Scourge of Locked Accessible Toilets

Dear Premier,

Physical Disability Australia (PDA) is a national peak membership-based representative organisation run by people with physical disability for people with physical disability. PDA was founded 21 years ago and we have over 1,000 members from all Australian States and Territories (232 in NSW). Our purpose is to:

– Encourage all levels of government to enable and provide every Australian living with a physical disability with opportunities to realise their full potential;
– Embrace and promote difference and diversity for an inclusive society; and
– Work with governments, industry and the community to promote the rights, responsibilities, issues and participation of people with physical disability.

We are writing to you now to let you know of an opportunity you have to improve access for people with physical disabilities across NSW by eliminating a discriminatory practice that causes them grief on a daily basis – the fact that many wheelchair-accessible public toilets in your State are fitted with access-hindering Master Locksmith Access Key (MLAK) locks.

According to the Australian Government’s toilet map website[1], there are over 540 publicly available accessible toilets fitted with MLAK locks in NSW. This means roughly 1 in 6 public wheelchair accessible public toilets are inaccessible to those who do not have an MLAK or who can’t use them because they lack the physical ability to do so. The same website reports there are fewer than 40 of these in the remainder of the country.

This issue was recently highlighted on the Coast Community News’ website[2] where it was reported that this issue had prompted the CEO of the Charmhaven Tennis Centre, Brett Bevan, to call for “[The Central Coast] Council [to] suspend immediately its policy of locking its disabled toilets and move to unlock all disability toilets”.

Mr Bevan argued that “the process of forcing those who are disabled to have to pay any sum of money to be able to use a public accessible disabled toilet is outrageous, immoral and unconscionable.”

PDA agrees. We also assert that this practice is unlawful because it contravenes section 49B (1) (b) of your State’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1977[3]and section 6 of the Federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992[4] in that it imposes conditions upon people with a physical disability that are not imposed on the able-bodied population: that they must purchase a key, or ask to borrow one from a council office or local business in order to use a public toilet.

It is worth noting that the legal question of whether or not this practice is, in fact, unlawful is more-or-less settled. The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board’s newsletter, Equal Times, in 1999[5] and again in 2001[6] provided summaries of successful conciliations in which ‘perpetrators’ came to understand that it was unlawful to lock wheelchair-accessible toilets and undertook to discontinue this practice.

Similarly, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s website[7] also has details of successful conciliations where ‘respondents’ accepted that it was unlawful to require people with disability to buy or borrow a key where able bodied people had unfettered access to public toilets.

The Federal Magistrates Court (as it was then called) has also found that the practice of having wheelchair-accessible toilets locked was discriminatory[8]

Unfortunately, discrimination law is complaints driven, and people with physical disabilities (principally in NSW) will continue to be disadvantaged as long as local authorities, public transport operators, and the managers of other community facilities can blithely install MLAK locks on wheelchair accessible toilets.

We invite you then to take this opportunity to work with your opposition colleagues and wipe out this systemic discrimination by bringing about the removal of MLAK locks from all public wheelchair accessible toilets they maintain so that they are as freely usable as the general-use public toilets they sit alongside.

Yours Sincerely,

Physical Disability Australia

Letters similar to this have been sent to the Leader of the Opposition and Ministers for Local Government, Planning, Disability Services, Transport and Infrastructure, and Innovation and Better Regulation (and their opposition counterparts) with the hope that you can agree on a coordinated bipartisan solution to the scourge of locked accessible toilets.









Nick’s Home Mods

PDA’s Director for South Australia, Nick Schumi, took a leap and decided to purchase his own apartment. He’s also had some home modifications done to make it accessible and this post tells the lessons he learnt along the way.

Important Note: Nicks renovations were funded by Disability SA. Going forward, people who need home modifications will be able to request them as a component of their NDIS funded supports so this post talks a little about getting Home Modifications under the national scheme.


There are many different ways to make a place accessible and not all are created equal. Ask your friends, speak with your Occupational Therapist (OT), search online, visit accessible homes, whether in person or online. The NDIS will fund some home modifications, but you need to get your wish-list sorted before the planning conversations.

Instead of the standard accessible side opening oven, Nick opted for an oven door that will open forward and slide completely underneath, so he can access the oven from all sides and maximise the space of his kitchen.

Nick also decided that his kitchen counter (including hotplate and sink) should be height adjustable with the push of a button rather than just being set at a low height. This makes the kitchen flexible enough for anyone to use with ease.


While Nick got his funding for his renovations from Disability SA, moving forward people with disability who are NDIS participants and who have a genuine need for accessibility renovations will be able to have funding for these included in their plans… provided they can make a good case that the works are ‘reasonable and necessary’ and provide ‘value for money’.

Having an accessible home lets you do more things for yourself. This means you can make do with less paid support and lead a more ‘ordinary life’, and If one of your NDIS goals is to live more independently, this argument should get funding for assessments and renovations  included in your plan.


It’s important to work closely with your OT to create renovation plans that suit you. This may involve a lot of going back and forth as ideas about which accessibility features best meet your needs are evaluated and chosen.

Just because your OT comes up with a suggestion, doesn’t mean you have to go with it. You should feel comfortable enough with your OT to have an honest conversation about your wants and needs. This is your place, so make sure that you are happy with the plans.


It may be the case that the budget provided by the NDIS for your home modifications does not cover everything you want at the start. For example, Nick wanted an automatic front door so he can get in and out with ease, but he is not sure this will be approved by his NDIS planner as that person may decide this isn’t ‘reasonable and necessary’ yet because Nick can still open the door by hand. This decision could be reversed as his NDIS plan is reviewed, so Nick has planned ahead. He installed a power point near the door so that if automation is not approved initially, it will be easy to install when it is.

Get to know Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner – Alastair McEwin

As a 14-year-old boy growing up in Adelaide, I have a vivid and searing recollection of a particular lesson in history class one day.  We were studying ancient Greek history and I learnt that babies with obvious physical deformities were reported to have been routinely thrown off cliffs or left to die, deserted by their parents and families in the open or in forests away from the tribes. I well remember feeling a sense of shock and thinking that this was grossly unfair and unjust and that everyone, irrespective of how they may appear, has the right to a meaningful life in the community.  I have often looked back on this history lesson as one of my most formative moments that set me on the path to wanting to make a positive difference for people with disability.

As Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, it is my role and responsibility to promote and protect the human rights of all people with disability in Australia.  I came to the role with a strong background in advocacy.  A few years after that pivotal history lesson, I commenced combined studies in Arts and Law at the University of Adelaide.  I chose law studies as I recognised that having an understanding of the law would likely help me in my advocacy for disability rights.  I have a distinct memory of not being particularly interested in pursuing the traditional career path of a lawyer – becoming a solicitor in a law firm; I just couldn’t picture myself doing that.   Instead, I had visions of broad-scale systemic advocacy and policy work; I even had heady notions of working at the United Nations one day.  Becoming a Disability Discrimination Commissioner however was not even on my radar during those days as a young university student.

Following two years of post-graduate legal studies at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver, Canada, the first year of which was on a Rotary Ambassadorial scholarship, I returned to Adelaide to work as an associate for a Federal Court judge.  A great year of learning opportunities, including observing the many different styles of advocacy on display in the court by barristers.  I then moved to Sydney to take up a graduate position with Accenture, a global management consulting firm.  From there, I moved into the not-for-profit sector, working at the Australian Centre for Disability Law, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) and, immediately prior to my current role, Community Legal Centres NSW.  In parallel with my professional career, I have also been on the boards of a range of disability organisations, such as Deaf Australia, the Deaf Society of NSW and the Australian Communication Exchange.  All my professional roles have given me vast experience in advocacy and policy work, as well as skills in management and leadership.

The role of Disability Discrimination Commissioner is one that I take as a great privilege and honour to serve the community in this way.  Fundamentally, the work I do is driven by the views and experiences of people with disability themselves.  When I commenced in July 2016, I saw it as important to consult with the disability community to ensure the work I do is reflective of their views on the important issues of discrimination that we face in Australian society.  To that end, I have six priority areas that shape and guide the work I do; these areas are: employment, education, housing, criminal justice system, NDIS and violence against people with disability.  There are many other areas that are also important and I keep a watching brief on these.  I am based at the Australian Human Rights Commission in Sydney and travel regularly around the country meeting with disability, community and government stakeholders.  Ultimately, at the end of my term, it is my aim to see an Australia that is far more accessible and inclusive than when I commenced in July 2016.

Alastair McEwin
Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner

The One-Legged Sax Player on Leadership

Hi, I am 49 years old and I have been working since I was 15. I am married and have 2 grown twins.

My first job was a Junior Musician in the Royal Australian Navy. I served from 1984 to 1993. After this service, I came back to WA and before going back to University at 30 years old I had 13 different jobs.

I graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts with a Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz in 2005.

I have run a successful music school with my wife of 30 years and also a disability support agency.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with Osteomyelitis in my left foot. Over the next 5 years I fought with daily pain and many trips to hospital for operations and antibiotics. In July of 2014 I decided that the best way forward for me was to explore the opportunity for a below knee amputation and in February 2015 I had the operation done.

My leadership journey is quite different. I feel that even though I have been working for so many years I hadn’t really explored my leadership potential.

In April 2015, I applied for the LeadAbility Course run by Leadership Western Australia. This entry level leadership course was designed for people with disabilities and those that work in the disability sector. This course opened my eyes to what I could become and assisted me to clarify what I want to do.

At the conclusion of the course I went to the CEO, Robin McClellan, and basically said to her, “Put your money where your mouth is and employ me in the organisation.” From there a position of LeadAbility Experience Coordinator was created and I was employed to do that work. Considering my background, I had almost no experience in HR Administration, so I was on a massive learning journey.

I finished my contract with Leadership Western Australia in November 2017.

But in March 2017, I gained a place on the Rising Leadership Program. This program stretched me even further as I was working with people who had been in leadership previously, some for many years and I felt very out of my depth. Anyway, I completed the course and graduated at the end of August. I am now part of the Leadership Western Australia Alumni, which gives me access to their Skillsbank and continuing and further education.

I have a new business called “Lose the Awkward” This business is about Disability Access and Inclusion and how to deal with those awkward situations and conversations that seem to follow those of us with disabilities. I am also Vice Chair of the Committee of Management of People with Disabilities WA and Board Member of Diverse Leaders Inc.

So…some lessons I have learned.

1. Go for it! If it is something you feel that you want to have a go at, DO IT! Find an organisation that you can tap in to. Research them and then approach them. Don’t be put off by the little voice in your head saying “I’m not educated enough, not smart enough, no experience, I have a disability… If you are passionate about your subject and knowledge, you will find a place that will welcome it.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You all know the old saying, “If you don’t ask you don’t get”

3. Surround yourself with people. Organisations and businesses are run by people. When I say people, I recommend people who will not only support you in your leadership journey and aspirations, but people who will help you to grow as a leader and as a person. I continually seek out people who will challenge me, be it in music, business or education. You will be surprised of the amount of guidance you can get if you use Point 2.

4. Get out there. You cannot develop as a leader in your bedroom. Get involved with your community, local business associations, Rotary, Toastmasters, anything that will get you out of your day to day routine and expand your social and professional networks. People have to get to know you and you have to get to know them.

5. This one is my favourite. Be yourself. You’re a unique individual. You bring to the table things, lessons, experiences, that only you have had. No-one has walked your walk and no-one will, but they can learn from you and you can learn from them. Be open, be honest and be yourself.

The leadership journey can be hard, it is challenging, and it is sometimes very demoralising, BUT, it is also rewarding both personally and professionally.

Andrew Fairbairn
Girrawheen, WA

Andrew is married with 2 grown children and is currently employed by People with Disabilities Western Australia as Field Diversity Officer. He is an avid Jazz lover and performs regularly with his wife, Kaye, as a high-tech Duo “2 or More” and is music director of a 7 piece jazz ensemble “Cafe Jazz

Queensland’s Inaccessible Trains – Get Mad and Get Even

As you are probably aware, on Thursday 29 March, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) formally dismissed the Queensland Government’s and Queensland Rail’s joint application for a temporary exemption from certain provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 so that they could operate their so-called New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains in South East Queensland.

They wanted an exemption because the NGR trains are not yet compliant with the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (DSAPT), and the AHRC decision confirms the importance of disability access in all new public transport systems regardless of pressing circumstances such as the Commonwealth Games.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that this decision does not and will not stop Queensland Rail from operating these trains unlawfully, and the Minister for Transport, Mark Bailey, has stated that they will do so. (Click here to read the Government’s official press release.)

So, what can be done to ensure the Queensland Government and Queensland Rail understand how inappropriate it is to flaunt the law?

1. Make a complaint about them to the AHRC – If you catch one of the NGR trains and you have difficulties:

  • moving between the accessible seating spaces;
  • using the toilet (if fitted); and/or
  • getting on or off the train at the relevant stations…

… then you can make an official complaint about this to the AHRC. (For more information about how to make a complaint, click here.)

If the AHRC accepts the complaint (and this is likely given that the NGR trains’ noncompliance with the DSAPT is acknowledged) then representatives of the Queensland Government and Queensland Rail must participate in a conciliation conference with you to see if a resolution can be reached.

2. Write to the Minister for Transport expressing your outrage about his Government’s contempt for Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. (Click here to download PDA’s template letter.)

While it is unlikely that the Minister himself will respond to your letter (unless you are a constituent of his in the electorate of Miller), he will know that you and other passengers with disability are angry about this matter.

3. Write to your local MP asking him or her to publicly condemn the Government’s decision to act unlawfully. (Again, you can click here to download another PDA template letter.)

Politicians of any party usually respond personally to letters from voters in their electorates and it’s important for all of them know how important disability access is to you.

4. Share your efforts on Social Media with #NGRNoGood

This message, emailed to Queensland PDA members and posted on PDA’s blog, has a limited direct audience. However, when you share it and the things you have done on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram it reaches a much larger audience of people who also think disability access is important.

Simon Burchill
PDA Manager

Access – it’s not just for buildings

I am a visual artist and a mother. In 2017, I completed the first year of my law degree and became a member of the Western Australia Disability Services Board.

I was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of 19 and have lived with increasing levels of disability as the muscles of my arms and legs have deteriorated. It took years for me to learn to articulate, let alone navigate, the chaos of acquiring and experiencing disability.

I now live in the town of Denmark in Western Australia and at the top of my wish list is improved universal access to recreation – especially to outdoor and natural amenities. I believe many people underestimate the impact on mental and physical health of those who are barred by lack of access and denied equal opportunity to a lifestyle most Australians hold dear.

Greens Pool, William Bay, is an example of a place of great natural beauty, a rare safe swimming spot on the rugged Southern Coast. It has a topography which could be adapted to universal access but remains accessible via only a notoriously difficult stair climb.

There is an old maintenance track running down to the water’s edge – clearly vehicular access was at some point a priority – and yet it is unsealed and not usable by those who rely on mobility aids. I am frankly nauseated by the privilege infrastructure and technology affords to vehicles and bikes in a world where access for wheelchairs remains vastly inadequate.

The provision of universal access throughout the built environment is a basic human right. A period of disability, whether permanent or temporary, is a part of the lives of many Australians. Barriers within the built environment limit freedom of movement and choice for many people, especially people with disability, people with limited mobility and older people. Universal access accommodates the needs of all people regardless of age and ability and benefits the whole community. As such, it as a community responsibility.

When we think of the built environment, its easy to forget that nature is accessible to most via roads, paths, trails, camp sites, platforms and holiday bungalows. Boat launches along the coast demonstrate that it’s not hard to get a set of wheels to the water’s edge in a desirable location.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It is the external built environment that enables us to access that lifestyle – or bars us from it. I’m not suggesting every natural amenity be graded to universal access – only that as with urban environments, there is room for improvement. After all, recreational moments, be they from a city wine bar or immersed in the ocean, are what quality of life is all about.

Anwen Handmer
Denmark, WA

One Year in the NDIS – a retrospective

Jonathan SharHello, my name is Jonathan Shar. I have cerebral palsy with secondary dystonia and I have just completed my first year as a participant on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), and to be honest it hasn’t changed much in my day-to-day life.

Before the NDIS, the supports I received from the NSW government were not sufficient but at least I knew what to expect as my service provider made all the arrangements.

If anything, the NDIS has made things initially more complicated. Getting used to the myplace portal (where you access your plan, make service bookings and track how your funding is being spent) was my biggest challenge. The fact that you need to make a service booking for every time you use your funding was a big change in mindset for me. I have learnt from past mistakes of forgetting to put bookings in and built up a routine of logging in once a week to make all bookings for the following week.

Building up a good relationship with your Local Area Coordinator is key to getting a good plan. The provider in my area has been superb. If you are getting started as a NDIS participant, I would avoid Support Coordination, (where someone is employed to help you connect with services providers, mainstream services, the community and informal supports) because in my case they did nothing. My first plan was self-managed but for my second plan I changed to having Plan Management (where someone is paid to handle the business and financial work of getting your supports happening). Being self-managed requires a lot of behind the scenes administration work that may not suit everyone.

Communication with service providers also important. It is a good practice to keep a PDF of your plan and send relevant parts of it to the organisations you work with. In my case some providers were better than others. For example, one organisation I have used automatically made bookings on my behalf on their end while another just sent me invoices and waited a few months to tell me to make service bookings.

The first year of the NDIS for me was all about getting my bearings with the new system. Figuring out how different services are funded and which areas of funding to use was confusing to get your head around at times. It’s not just 1 big bundle of money you get to deal with. It’s divided into separate budgets to cover ‘Core’ (covering daily activities, social and community participation, consumables and NDIA managed transport); ‘Capacity Building’ (covering therapies and other assistance to help develop participants’ abilities); and ‘Capital’ (covering assistive technology and home modifications). Sometimes it’s a bit confusing working out which budget to use. For example, one of my main therapies, Conductive Education, is funded under Capacity Building and not Core like I first thought.

On the whole, I think the NDIS has some teething problems such as the portal and payments but fundamentally these issues will iron them self out between now and full roll out. People have to remember this is the biggest social reform since Medicare and there are bound to be problems but for me the NDIS has been a step in the right direction . In the future, my big goal is to move out of my family home into independent living so I’m going to ask for more personal support and training in life skills in my next plan.

Jonathan Shar
St Ives, NSW

Be Part of Saying Good-Bye to the ‘R’ Word

If you’re anything like me, it really grates me when people don’t think about the language that they use. Especially when it is in a negative way or used to put people down.

So, when I heard about a campaign that challenges people to think about using the word “retarded”, I was especially interested since we all know how much it is part of popular culture.

It’s a word that modern society uses freely and openly. No one flinches when they speak it or write it and very few people question the use of it as everyday language.

However, the ‘R’ word is incredibly offensive and derogatory not just to those people with an intellectual and physical disability but also to their friends, families and support teams. The word makes people feel excluded, different and not accepted by the community.

Did you know that the ‘R’ Word is used on Social Media every 5 seconds?

On Twitter alone, the stats are staggering with at least:

125,000 +           Uses of the R Word per week

17,858 +             Uses per day

744                      per hour

12                        per minute.

Here at Physical Disability Australia, we were particularly interested in this campaign as we value dignity inherent in all of us and we’re especially keen in efforts to improve the lives of our members.

By changing the language that society uses to describe people, we are highlighting out we are the same rather than different. We see this campaign as promoting inclusion for people with disabilities as well as to ensure that society becomes more diverse while providing equal opportunities for all of us.

The ‘R’ Word Campaign is simple.  This campaign encourages people to consider the words they use and the impact they have on others.  All in all, it’s a simple campaign to help raise awareness and educate the public on the very real impact of what the ‘R’ Word means to many, many people.

And we’re looking to you to help us take the campaign onto the world stage and to make society think about the language that they use.

Gabrielle Trenbath
Victoria Park, WA