Kymberly Martin

Disability Advocacy in NSW: “Will not be unfunded”

“Disability Advocacy is not going to be unfunded in NSW.” These were the words delivered by NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald,pictured, at his keynote to the Physical Disability Council of NSW (PDCN) AGM in Sydney.

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“The government, the opposition and the cross bench are at one.  As to where there will be differences in terms of how advocacy is delivered, the amount to be contributed, and the outcomes to be measured, we will have to wait and see,” he said.

Fitzgerald has been undertaking a review of disability advocacy in NSW. He told the audience that advocacy matters and recommendations to the government will stress this when it comes to people with disability.“Whatever the proposals the government ultimately accept, I will be recommending long term certainty in relation to funding for disability. I am completely opposed to short term funding arrangements to agencies once an agreed framework is established.

“People with disability demand no less than that. While I don’t know what the recommendations are going to be my starting point is what are the needs and aspirations of people with disability. It is not about the survival of individual organisations, it is about the people that we serve and work with and in your case, people with disability. I can tell you with absolute certainty that my report will be 100 per cent pro- advocacy.”

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In this space the biggest challenge is determining the role for the NSW Government given funding by both the NDIS and Commonwealth Government. “Additionally we are looking to determine reasonable outcomes measures that should drive good quality advocacy. Effectively asking the right questions,” he told F2L.

In the conducting of investigations Fitzgerald has been given power to issue search warrants and subpoenas. NSW will appoint 60 dedicated police officers, known as Aged Crime Prevention Officers, to deal with crimes against people with disability, aged people and those experiencing homelessness.

“My first priority is the safety of those at risk. But let me be clear, where there is wrongdoing we will expose it. Where there are criminal wrong doers we will refer the matter to the police where necessary. Where there are organisations and services not doing the right thing we will deal with those using the powers given to us.”

His Advocacy Report will be delivered to the NSW Parliament on December 19.

Also speaking at the AGM was president Chris Sparks and executive officer, Serena Ovens. Sparks posed the question: “Where to next for people with disability?” adding that he was confident the review led by Commissioner Fitzgerald would pave the way for PDCN and other organisations to be recognised for making NSW a better place for people with disability.

“Our Achilles Heel is that much of the work we do is unseen and takes many years to bear fruit and take effect. We need to argue the case about disability advocacy and why it is so important.”

Ovens, pictured, spoke about improving accessibility in the entertainment sector and the partnership with the Sydney Opera House which remains a work in progress. Ticketek too has established a pilot protocol for online booking for accessible seating that is being rolled out to all Ticketek bookings offices where possible. “Among PDCN’s many achievements were representations on 23 advisory council committees, giving evidence at Parliamentary inquiries, delivering seven NDIS workshops and providing input into improving regulations for powered wheelchairs and personal mobility devices.”

Photo: David Sinclair (ATSA), Craig Slattery, Tania Modde, Sally Farrow (Paramobility) Chris and Wendy Sparks

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