Monday, 9 February 2015

Concerns about representation of people with intellectual disability in new national alliance

Assistant Minister for Social Service, Senator Mitch Fifield's announcement of de-funding and non-funding for many community and national organisations (including Down Syndrome Australia) just before Christmas 2014 raised a good deal of criticism. Now, his announcement of funding for a selective Cross-Disability Alliance on Friday (6th February) has not met with universal approval either:

Media release, Australian Cross Disability Alliance, 6th February 2015
Five national, cross disability organisations welcome the funding provided by the Australian Government to form the Australian Cross Disability Alliance that will provide a voice for the 4.2 million Australians with disability. 
The members of the Australian Cross Disability Alliance are:
  • Children with Disability Australia (CDA)
  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN)
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  • People with Disability Australia (PWDA)
  • Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA)
Commenting on the cross disability model, PWDA President Mr Craig Wallace said, “The Cross Disability Alliance provides a modern, coherent and more comprehensive national voice for people with disability. This means that people with any kind of disability can directly join, elect and hold accountable the peaks who represent them to Government. We are at a crossroad for disability rights and it is right for us to come together at this vital time. We commit to working hard to provide all Australians with a disability with the voice we deserve.” ... read the full media release from the Australian Cross Disability Alliance here

Responses from national organisations with concerns about representation of people with intellectual disabiliity:

Down Syndrome Australia is an active member of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) and supports their call for the federal government to provide more funding to disability groups so they can offer specialist advocacy services on behalf of ALL Australians with disabilities.There is a real risk that Australians with sensory and/or intellectual disabilities will be left behind unless the federal government provides more funding.

Join us in spreading the word.

Join the campaign to Save our Peaks.

Read the statement from AFDO on behalf of a consortium of 10 disability organisations that are currently at risk:



Disability Australia consortium calls for unity among people with disability organisations
A statement from the Disability Australia consortium
Today (6th February 2015) the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Minister Fifield, issued a statement announcing funding for a cross disability alliance of five people with disability organisations, stating that the new alliance would represent ‘all people with disability’ and noting alignment with a social model of disability and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). 
This statement is divisive and misleading. Whilst we welcome funding to the five organisations for people with disability, they do not represent our 200,000 constituents. The UNCRPD makes it clear that people with disability should freely choose their own representatives - it is not the role of any government to tell people with disability who should represent us. 
To you, our members, we will continue to represent your interest to the best of our ability. 
Our organisations know that people with disability relate to people who have had similar life experiences. We know that people who are blind best learn how to become empowered, confident and independent by being around people who have developed these skills. Many people who are Deaf like to be represented by organisations that understand Auslan and Deaf culture. 
There is an important role to be played by both population based organisations as well as people with disability organisations who provide specialist information, advocacy and peer support to people who are newly diagnosed with disability, people who acquire a disability and families. 
The divisive decision by the government to defund seven people with disability organisations and not grant funding to a further four people with disability organisations, including autism which is one of the fastest growing disabilities, announced before Christmas is an unprecedented attack on people with disability organisations in Australia. 
Our organisations, with over 200 years of combined experience, have been integral to the successful implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the development of the UNCRPD, captioning, accessible voting for people who are blind or vision impaired and the development of early intervention to support children with autism and Down syndrome. Without our organisations, these successes may not have come to pass. These successes have made fundamental differences to the lives of people with disability. 
We have and will continue to be representative and effective champions of and for people with disability and to be a resource to our members now and into the future. Our organisations will continue to drive change in the best interests of people with disability without fear or favour. 
To our constituents, we look forward to representing you, as the national independent voice of people with disability in Australia. 
Please direct all media enquiries to Mr Matthew Wright, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) on 0428 608 861. 

Our Voice Matters
Inclusion Australia, 6th February 2015
Inclusion Australia responds to DSS $1.5m cut to support and services for people with intellectual disability. 
Inclusion Australia (NCID) is the peak body for people with intellectual disability and their families. Inclusion Australia has represented people with intellectual disability for over 60 years with the support of thousands of people and organisations. 
In December last year the Department of Social Services decided that the specific voice of people with intellectual disability and their families is not important. Rather, they have decided that people with intellectual disability and their families can be represented by people without disabilities or by people who have a physical or sensory disability. The Board of Inclusion Australia deplores this decision as we believe it will deny people with intellectual disability and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the direction of disability policy and supports, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme ... read the full response here

Sample of media responses so far ...

Former commissioner says disability cuts breach UN convention
Julia May, The Age, 7th February 2015
The Federal Government's cuts to the disability sector are a "catastrophic" blow and breach the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled people, advocacy groups and one of the architects of the convention says ...

SBS News, 6th February 2015
People with disabilities will be represented in government policy-making by five advocacy groups, under new funding arrangements.

Dozens of community service groups, including 10 peak disability organisations, learnt just before Christmas they would no longer receive federal government contracts from June 30, 2015.

Assistant Social Services Minister Mitch Fifield on Friday announced a new cross-disability alliance had won a competitive tender for two years of funding to advise government on policy ...
... It was the sector's calls for reform that led to the government running the competitive process for the first time, he said.

However, those groups which missed out on funding are likely to be disappointed with the result.


Responses are also being provided on social media, especially on Twitter - search for 'cross disability alliance'.

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