A new Disability Services Act built on lived experience
8 November 2022 at 3:03 pm
Public consultation is now open for the first major review of the Act since 1986.
Disability sector organisations and people with lived experience can have their say on the evolution of the Disability Services Act, which is set to undergo its first major review and update since its introduction in 1986.
The public consultation process, which is open online until 20 December, aims to ensure the new Act is modern and suitable for the needs of the one in six Australians that live with disability.
Changes to the Act seek to address the priorities outlined in the national disability policy framework, and provide a foundation for disability support and services outside of the NDIS.
Social services minister Amanda Rishworth invited people with disability, their family and carers, advocates, service providers, peak bodies and organisations to comment on the Act, which determines how government services are provided for people with disability.
Speaking to Pro Bono News prior to the announcement of the review, Rishworth said she was interested in understanding how to make the community more inclusive for all people with disability, beyond just the NDIS.
“It doesn’t matter how many supports you have if we don’t have a more inclusive community,” she said.
“It’s also about how we can make systemic changes to make people’s lives easier. And I think that’s what I’m really keen to do.”
Announcing the review, the minister said in a statement that input provided by people with lived experience would ensure Australia is meeting its obligations to promote equal and active participation of people with disability in the community.
“This is your opportunity to have your say about how disability and disability services are defined in law. It’s important we look to how we can improve all our systems to make sure all people living with disability, not just those connected to the NDIS, get the right level of support,” she said.
The public is invited to share their opinions about the objectives of the Act, who it should support, the types of services that should receive funding, and the language used to define disability.
Quality and safeguarding standards and the alignment of the Act to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will also be considered.
The outcome of the consultation may lead to the new Act better reflecting Australia’s human rights obligations and ensuring that people with disability are actively involved in the planning and design of support.
It may also clarify and ensure strong and effective service regulation standards, and integrate an intersectional approach to policy and funding decisions that considers the experiences of First Nations and LGBTIQA+ communities with disability.
Disability sector organisations shared their support for the consultation through their networks on Twitter, including activist and writer El Gibbs, who also commented on the historical context of the Act.
This is a fantastic look at why the Disability Services Act came into being, what it did, and what disabled people argued for in the 1980s. And oh god, so much is so familiar.https://t.co/o4Gm1GOy9C
— El Gibbs (@bluntshovels) November 7, 2022
The announcement aligns with last month’s federal budget allocation of $400,000 to modernise the Act as part of the Albanese government’s reform of the Disability Employment Services program, with $19.4 million announced for a two-year extension of the program that helps people with disability find work and keep a job.
It comes as the Australian Human Rights Commission’s IncludeAbility Project recently released updated guidelines to support employers to create meaningful and targeted employment opportunities for people with disability, which Rishworth commended.
Today the @AusHumanRights released their guidelines to help employers take practical steps to implement targeted recruitment of people with disability. @BenGauntlettDDC https://t.co/WN7hd9DfRM pic.twitter.com/ozWGVQfmfB
— Amanda Rishworth MP (@AmandaRishworth) November 7, 2022
In a statement released during the budget announcement, the minister said the government was “committed to leaving no one behind and holding no one back”.
“We want to improve the lives of all people living with disability. We know for many who are not connected to the NDIS, getting the right support can be crucial to their lives,” Rishworth said.