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Disability Strategy 2021-2031

On 3 December our community celebrated International Day of People with Disability – an opportunity to highlight and applaud the incredible contribution people with disability have on a society. Unsurprisingly, I had a VERY busy day (something I’m incredibly fortunate and humble about) going from function to function and, in all, it was a terrific albeit tiring day recognising and celebrating people with disability. However, the day also marked a pretty important event, and that was the launch of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031 a $250 million scheme that outlines targeted actions that governments of all levels are looking to achieve to ensure greater equality for people with disability. The updated strategy follows on from the previous Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (more on this later) and, at 70-plus pages, clearly outlines the actions that Federal, States and Local Governments and Council will be taking in order to ensure greater equality for people in disability. I’ve read the strategy, and it’s fair to say there are themes that run through the proposed actions. Firstly, the strategy revolves around seven Outcome Areas: 1. Employment and Financial Security 2. Inclusive Homes and Communities 3. Safety, Rights and Justice 4. Personal and Community Support 5. Education and Learning 6. Health and Wellbeing 7. Community Attitudes Within each of these Outcome Areas are initiatives and targeted action plans that Federal and State Governments have and will implement to achieve these outcomes by 2031. More on this at the bottom of the blog. Taking a helicopter view, however, it seems to me there are some regular themes that are discussed and highlighted throughout the strategy. One that’s glaringly obvious is the need to not only engage, but shift community perceptions. Regular readers will know this is a regular topic of mine. It’s not rocket science to know that there’s power in numbers, and if more people call for change then there’s a greater chance of it happening. It’s a noise that can’t be ignored. But community acceptance and accessibility is something the disabled community have been calling for for many, many years now, so what makes the next 10 years different? I also find it a little dangerous the reliance that this strategy has on community attitudes to be successful, but I suppose the argument can be made that we’ll never truly experience equality until the community recognise and implement it. Independence is another theme that jumps out to me, and something I’m really pleased is being specifically targeted. While we might need a little extra help at times, people with disability are just that – people – and they want to live their lives. Jobs that give us financial independence; being able to freely move around and live in an accessible house, in a suburb of our choosing, being accepted and contribute to the community we live. You can’t underestimate the power that can have on someone’s quality of life. At the end of this decade (if not sooner) I’d love to see all people with disability having the opportunity to live their lives, of being considered and treated as equals to people without disability. We’re already seeing a shift of sorts in terms of disabled representation, Dylan Alcott OAM continues to kick goals as an Australian of the Year nominee, and fellow Paralympian and great bloke Kurt Fearnley OAM is a member of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic Games planning committee. As Dylan always says “You can’t be it if you can’t see it”, so representation matters. That’s not just on the sporting field or in TV screens, but the barista making your morning coffee, the administrator or teacher at your local school, the nurse at your local GP. Importantly, the rollout of the Disability Strategy 2021-2031 and its various targeted action plans will be reported on annually. That allows us to review its progress to ensure we don’t get to the end of the 10 years and nothing has been achieved. So I implore you to have a read of the strategy, or at least visit the website. Never underestimate the power of the people. Together, we can create real and lasting change so that people with disability can finally realise the equality we’ve so long desired. Outcome Areas Summary Employment and Financial Security People with disability have economic security, enabling them to plan for the future and exercise choice and control over their lives. Employment and financial security are central to improving outcomes for people with disability. This includes providing jobs and career opportunities, and having adequate income for people to meet their needs. Policy Priorities 1. Increase employment of people with a disability 2. Improve the transition of young people with disability from education to employment 3. Strengthen financial independence of people with disability Inclusive Homes and Communities People with a disability live in inclusive, accessible and well-designed homes and communities. Having appropriate housing, and a community that is accessible and inclusive, is central to how people with disability live, work and socialise. Accessible housing, transport, communication and the built environment are key factors supporting the participation of people with disability. Accessible public buildings, facilities, parks and events all support the inclusion of people with disability in community life. Policy Priorities 1. Increase the availability of affordable housing 2. Housing is accessible and people with a disability have choice and control about where they live, who they live with and who comes into their home 3. People with disability are able to fully participate in social, recreational, sporting, religious and cultural life 4. The built and natural environment is accessible 5. Transport systems are accessible for the whole community 6. Information and communication systems are accessible, reliable and responsive Safety, Rights and Justice The rights of people with disability are promoted, upheld and protected, and people with a disability feel safe and enjoy equality before the law. People with disability are experts in their own lives and have the same rights as people without disability.

Community acceptance of these rights and experiences will maximise individual power and autonomy, and support economic participation, social inclusion, safety and equality. Policy Priorities 1. People with disability are safe and feel safe from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation 2. Policies, processes and programs provide better responses to people with disability who have experienced trauma 3. Policies, processes and programs for people with disability promote gender equality and prevent violence against groups at heightened risk, including women and their children 4. The rights of people with a disability are promoted, upheld and protected 5. People with disability have equal access to justice 6. The criminal justice system responds effectively to the complex needs and vulnerabilities of people with disability Personal and Community Support People with disability have access to a range of supports to assist them to live independently and engage in their communities. Personal and community supports, including both specialist disability supports and mainstream services available to the general public, are fundamental to improving overall outcomes for people with disability. Some people with disability need support to be able to maintain everyday wellbeing at home and to be fully included in community activities. It is important for people with disability to be able to live independently and be involved in community activities, such as education, work, training, recreation , cultural life and neighbourhood activities. Policy Priorities 1. People with disability are able to access supports that meet their needs 2. The NDIS provides eligible people with permanent and significant disability with access to reasonable and necessary disability supports 3. The role of informal support is acknowledged and supported 4. People with disability are supported to access assistive technology Education and Learning People with disability achieve their full potential through education and learning. Access to formal and informal education is critical to the development of skills, independence and wellbeing of people with disability. It provides pathways to fulfilling employment, financial independence, and enriched lives. Despite educational reforms over the last decade, there remain significant gaps for students with a disability. These gaps are notable in attainment of Year 12 or equivalent, vocational education and training qualifications, and participation in university studies. Policy Priorities 1. Children with disability can access and participate in high-quality early childhood education and care 2. Build capability in the delivery of inclusive education to improve educational outcomes for school students with disability 3. Improve pathways and accessibility to further education and training for people with disability 4. People with disability have increased opportunities to participate in accessible and inclusive lifelong learning Health and Wellbeing People with disability attain the highest possible health and wellbeing outcomes throughout their lives. Good health and wellbeing are critical determinants of a person’s quality of life. This is especially the case for people with disability. In addition to the physical aspects of health and wellbeing, improving mental health outcomes for people with disability is also a key focus of the Strategy. It is also important to address the social, cultural and economic determinants of health and wellbeing. Policy Priorities 1. All health service providers have the capabilities to meet the needs of people with disability 2. Prevention and early intervention health services are timely, comprehensive, appropriate and effective to support better overall health and wellbeing 3. Mental health supports and services are appropriate, effective and accessible for people with disability 4. Disaster preparedness, risk management plans and public emergency responses are inclusive of people with disability, and support their physical and mental health, and wellbeing Community Attitudes Community attitudes support equality, inclusion and participation in society for people with disability. Building positive community attitudes towards people with disability is central to achieving an inclusive society and improving all outcomes for people with a disability under this Strategy. People with disability report the greatest barriers they face are not communication or physical, rather they are created through stigma, unconscious bias and lack of understanding of disability. This can include ableism, where people with disability can be seen as being less worthy of respect and consideration, less able to contribute, and not valued as much as people without disability. Removing these barriers will contribute to positive daily experiences and recognition of the contribution people with disability can make to society. People with disability have said changing attitudes of others will provide more choice and independence, and lead to butter support, improved treatment and more respect. Focusing on community attitudes will lead to better education outcomes, job opportunities, increased feelings of safety, and improved mental health and wellbeing for many people with disability. Community attitudes and awareness of disability have improved in recent years. However, lack of social and professional acceptance of disability and limited disability literacy remain issues which often create barriers for people with disability. Other factors such as gender, age, sexuality, race, type of disability, and cultural background an also influence how people with disability are treated in society. Recognising the importance of improving community attitudes on achieving the Strategy’s vision, on the initial Targets Action Plans focuses on addressing the following four Policy Priorities. Policy Priorities 1. Employers value the contribution people with disability make to the workforce, and recognise the benefits of employing people with disability 2. Key professional workforces are able to confidently and positively respond to people with disability 3. Increase representation of people with disability in leadership roles 4. Improving community attitudes to positively impact on Policy Priorities under the Strategy


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