Inclusion Australia celebrates 70 years!

70 years of advocating for the inclusion and rights of people with an intellectual disability.

70 years ago, a group of families of people with an intellectual disability came together to meet about inclusion and rights. This meeting went for two days straight. Their dedication still inspires all of us at Inclusion Australia today.

As one of Australia’s longest-standing disability advocacy organisations, we are proud of what we achieved then, and the positive changes we are making today. But we are also ready to step into a future that is fair for all.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the last 70 years. None of our efforts would be possible without you.

Stay tuned for more news about our platinum anniversary celebrations later in the year.

Thank you to the Minister for the NDIS, Hon Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Social Services, Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, and to Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Hon Michael Sukkar MP for sending your birthday wishes!

Watch their messages below or via our You Tube Channel: https://youtu.be/Nn0CRxCWARs.

A message from our CEO, Catherine McAlpine:

On 22 May 1954, a group of families of people with an intellectual disability came together to advocate for inclusion and rights. That meeting went on for over two days and it was still running 70 years ago, today.

That was Australia’s introduction to Inclusion Australia. A group of passionate trailblazers, who wanted to do what was right for Australians with an intellectual disability. And they did that and so much more.

Thanks to them, Inclusion Australia was there to help steer the introduction of Australia’s first disability discrimination laws.

Today, we remain strong as we continue our quest for inclusive education, equal jobs for equal pay, and improvements to health and housing.

When I look to the future, I want to see an inclusive Australia for all. With people with an intellectual disability at the centre of everything we do. I can only imagine the positive change we can continue to create over the next 70 years.

Happy 70th Birthday Inclusion Australia!

A happy birthday message from our Board Chair, Felicity Crowther:

As Chair of Inclusion Australia, I’m incredibly proud to be celebrating our 70th anniversary this week.

We’re not just celebrating our past achievements but looking forward to a future where everyone is included. We will continue to listen to the voices of those with an intellectual disability and their families, putting you at the centre of all we do as we all work to build a fairer, more equitable Australia.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Inclusion Australia over the years. Here’s to another 70 years of making a difference together.

Making Money Decisions Real webinar

Making decisions about money and growing financial independence is an important part of life.

Our Making Money Decision Real webinar on Wednesday June 12, 11am – 12.30pm (AEST) is for families supporting people with an intellectual disability. It will be a facilitated conversation between Inclusion Australia’s Specialist Advisor, Dariane McLean and Dr Rhonda Faragher AO, Professor in Inclusive Education at the University of Queensland.

You can register to attend the webinar via Zoom.

Dariane and Rhonda will explore money independence and practical strategies to build money understanding and skills for people with an intellectual disability in a safe way.

We know building financial independence for a person with an intellectual disability can sometimes be difficult and there are some very real duty-of-care safeguarding considerations. However, making decisions about your money and growing financial independence is an important part of life.

Based on the principles of supported decision making this webinar is an opportunity to further empower and educate you to support safe and independent money skills for people with an intellectual disability.

Tools and resources for families and supporters will be discussed, as well as the opportunities and risks that come with money decisions. We encourage you to interact with the panelists via the chat. There will be time to ask questions in the last 20 minutes.

This webinar will be recorded and publicly shared so families can continue to access the discussion and learnings.

You can register to attend the Making Money Decisions Real webinar via Zoom.

Contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions.

About the speakers:

Dr Rhonda Faragher AO is a Professor in Inclusive Education. She has internationally recognised expertise in the mathematics education of learners with Down syndrome. In her research and teaching, she works to improve the educational outcomes of students who have difficulties learning mathematics. She has expertise in inclusive education in a range of contexts, including secondary classrooms.

Dr Faragher is the Director of the Down Syndrome Research Program within the School of Education. She is Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities. In 2023, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

You can learn more about Dr Faragher here: Professor Rhonda Faragher – School of Education – University of Queensland (uq.edu.au)

Dariane McLean has been involved in disability advocacy for many years. She is the mother of a 45-year-old autistic man with an intellectual disability who has high support needs.

In her role as a Specialist Advisor at Inclusion Australia Dariane works on family networking and policy development. She has been invited to participate on many advisory groups including on issues such as autism and intellectually disability, positive behaviour support, NDIA Independent Expert Review model, and was a special witness at the Disability Royal Commission. She also facilitates a services for one national community of practice of families who are committed to the same model.

Dariane has also held a role on the VALID advocacy team for 16 years where she has provided individual and systemic advocacy for people with an intellectual disability with high level complex support needs. She facilitates a VALID peer action group of families who support someone who has a history of behaviours of concern to provide a safe environment for them to receive support, peer connection and information.

A new law about changes to the NDIS

The federal government has introduced a new Bill into Parliament. They want to make a new law to change the way the NDIS works.

Today, the Australian Government introduced a new Bill into Parliament. A Bill is a draft law that still needs to be talked about by the Parliament before it can become the law.

The government wants to make a new law to change the way the NDIS works. NDIS Minister Bill Shorten gave a speech in Canberra today about this.

Bill Shorten said there are two groups of changes the government wants to make to the NDIS.

One group of changes is about ideas from the NDIS Review that happened last year. These changes will take time.

The second group of changes will happen more quickly. This is about changes to NDIS planning and services.

Minister Shorten says the government wants to work with people with disability and their families about the Bill and the changes to the NDIS.

Inclusion Australia will work hard to make sure the government hears the voices of people with intellectual disability and their families.

Click the link to read our Easy Read summary of Bill Shorten’s speech (also via the link below).

You can also see some information from the government here. They will have Easy Read soon too.

My reflection from the Having a Say Conference 2024

Brooke Canham, Policy Officer at Inclusion Australia shares her experience attending and presenting at the VALID Having a Say Conference in Geelong.

In February I attended the VALID Having a Say Conference in Geelong, Victoria. VALID is one of our member organisations. I presented about the Disability Royal Commission and about Inclusion Australia’s project on Supported Decision-Making.

The best part of the Conference was helping Our Voice and helping one of the members hold the microphone during their presentation. Our Voice is an official committee of the Inclusion Australia Board, giving advice on issues that are important to people with an intellectual disability.  I also helped hand out freddo frogs for their ice breaker where you had to try and open the chocolate using one hand.

I also helped hand out the traffic light cards. Traffic light cards are used to make meetings more accessible. Red for (bad), green (good), yellow (I have a something to say).

I loved being included in the Our Voice presentation and being able to help roam the room with the microphone.

I also enjoyed listening to other people who have an intellectual disability, because I am passionate about doing my job and helping when someone needs it. I feel good about helping people with an intellectual disability.

Helping others at the conference makes me feel like I am doing something to make someone’s day. Listening and seeing a lot of people with an intellectual disability talk about their personal experiences and hearing about what people achieve in their life puts a smile on my face.

Some things were challenging, too. The conference program was very busy, and I found it hard to attend everything that I wanted to, and to catch-up with everyone!

Our presentations

Brooke and Maeve, Senior Manager Policy & Projects

I gave two presentations at Having a Say. One was about the Disability Royal Commission and the other was about Supported Decision-Making. I think both presentations were very good. I spoke slow and I enjoyed every minute.

In the Disability Royal Commission presentation there were so many good questions. I felt very happy because a lot of people took something from my presentation.

I liked how the Supported Decision-Making presentation was spilt in to two. We shared it with our NSW member, the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). Their presentation was really good. They talked about ‘My Rights Matter’ and how people can communicate with a device to make their own decisions.

When I spoke about Supported Decision-Making it didn’t make me feel nervous as this is an important topic for people with an intellectual disability, it is a human right.

What I learned at Having a Say

I helped on the Inclusion Australia table and explained to people what we do as an organisation. I learned that some people haven’t heard about Inclusion Australia! It was great to share more about who we are and what we do and some of the resources that we have made for different projects.

Brooke and Our Voice Committee member, Kyal

I learned that a lot of people with an intellectual disability have questions about the Disability Royal Commission. It is important that we are there to give independent information about it in accessible ways.

I learned a lot about Boards and Committees from Our Voice. I took a lot away from their presentation and I feel like their information will help me with my own work and in my other advocacy activities.

Thinking about the next Having a Say  

I think it is great that Having a Say is very inclusive and gives people with disability the chance to participate in the conference. I can’t wait to go again in the future! Thank you for VALID!

Inclusion Australia CEO to Co-Chair National Disability Data Asset Council

Catherine McAlpine appointed Co-Chair of the National Disability Data Asset Council

 

On 19 February 2024, Catherine McAlpine, Inclusion Australia CEO, was appointed Co-Chair of the National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) Council. The Council’s first meeting on 19 February has set the agenda for a hopeful path forward, to improve policies and programs for Australians with disability and their families.

The NDDA aims to create a clearer picture of the life experiences of people living with disability. By bringing together de-identified data from different Government agencies into one national disability dataset. The NDAA will offer insights about Australians with disability.

Australians with disability and their families are at the centre of this program’s design and delivery. The newly appointed Council is chaired by three disability community members and data experts.

The Council and panel members will manage research priorities and make sure that data collation is inclusive, safe, and ethical.

Catherine met with the other Council members Dr. Scott Avery, Professor Bruce Bonyhady, Giancarlo de Vera, Ms Rosemary Kayess, and Dr Julian Trollor for the Council’s first meeting on the 19 February. The Council will be meeting several times a year and work toward full data operations by end 2025.

National data that is accessible, accurate, and consistent will provide a better understanding of the barriers and needs of Australians with disability. These insights will help improve the programs and services delivered by disability organisations and Governments.

However, we think people with disability and their families must have a say in the policies that impact them. That is why we encourage you to take part in the National Disability Asset Council too.

There are two public panels for people with disability to join. Expressions of interest are open until Thursday 29 February.

You can find more information below:

NDDA public panels (including Easy Read information): Expressions of Interest and NDDA panel information.

Media release from the Australian Government about NDDA: NDDA media release.

Inclusion Australia’s position statement on the NDDA: Inclusion Australia NDDA position statement.

NDDA website: NDDA website.

My Reflection on the Intellectual Disability Reference Group

Brooke Canham, Policy Officer at Inclusion Australia, shares her experience attending the NDIS Intellectual Disability Reference Group meeting in Melbourne.

The NDIS Intellectual Disability Reference Group (IDRG) is part of the Independent Advisory Council which provides advice to the Board or the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) The IDRG makes make sure the voices of people with an intellectual disability are heard more clearly by the NDIS.

Brooke Canham, Policy Officer at Inclusion Australia is a member of the IDRG. She recently attended their meeting in Melbourne.

Why did you go to Melbourne?

I went to Melbourne for a meeting called the Intellectual Disability Reference Group (IDRG). The meetings take place in different places around Australia. My first meeting was in Adelaide in August.

What happened when you arrived?

On the first day we had a pre-meeting with all the members who have an intellectual disability. We went through the agenda for the meeting to help us prepare.

It was good to see the IDRG members again. I felt less nervous this time. I was able to speak up on the big topics, and I felt like I was able to have my voice heard.

On the second day we got to have morning tea and mingle before the meeting. Then the meeting commenced, and I was able to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas.

On the third day we started the meeting earlier, so we were able to chat during morning tea. Then Kurt Fearnely arrived, and we got to take group photos and have a quick chat with him. Kurt is the Chair of the NDIS Board. He stayed for lunch, and the meeting too.

What were the big topics people talked about?

  • making the IDRG more accessible and inclusive for people with an intellectual disability
  • making NDIS plans more accessible
  • the NDIS Reform for Outcomes program

The NDIS Reform for Outcomes program is about looking at 6 big things that the NDIS needs to do better. The 6 big things will be looked at with people with disability and the disability community so the NDIS can give better support to participants.

You can read more about the NDIS Reform for Outcomes here: www.ndis.gov.au/community/have-your-say/co-designing-reform

Did you have a chance to meet and talk to the other IDRG members?

I got a chance to meet everyone who came to the meeting. I also got to meet the other people with an intellectual disability at the pre-meeting and have a good chat.

What are some things you shared with the IDRG about the big topics?

I spoke a lot about accessibility. I spoke about making sure that the IDRG meeting is more accessible for people with an intellectual disability.

We also talked about making sure NDIS plans are accessible.

Some ideas to make NDIS plans more accessible were:

  • plans and information in Easy Read
  • having your plan in order so it is easy to understand
  • having each part colour-coded
  • clear information about funding

The last meeting was in Adelaide, and we talked about having some accessible things for the meeting, like traffic light cards. They were then used at the Melbourne meeting and were a big success! It made me feel like I was getting heard as you raise a card to share your question with the group.

How did it feel to meet Kurt Fearnley and to have him at the meeting?

I felt very excited when they said Kurt Fearnely was going to be at the meeting. It was nice to have a chat with him. He also listened in on what we were talking about on the last day of the meeting. I also felt happy when I got a photo with Kurt Fearnley.

What is one thing you hope the IDRG can achieve for people with an intellectual disability?

I like that the group is led by people who have an intellectual disability. It gives people with an intellectual disability a chance to speak up and talk about what they would like to see in the future.

Read about Brooke’s first meeting with the IDRG here: www.inclusionaustralia.org.au/speaking-up-at-the-idrg/

You can read more about the IAC here: www.ndis.gov.au/about-us/governance/independent-advisory-council

Disability Employment Centre of Excellence

Brooke Canham says why she thinks the new Disability Employment Centre of Excellence will help people with an intellectual disability gain meaningful employment.

People with disability can face many barriers to employment.

Through the advocacy work of organisations like Inclusion Australia, the Government is starting to address some of these barriers. However, more work needs to be done so people with a disability can find and retain work.

The Australian Government committed to establishing a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence in the 2023 budget.

What is the Disability Employment Centre of Excellence and what will it do?

It will help people with disability find work, keep work and have meaningful jobs.

It could help employment service providers and employers support people with disability in the work they do.

Why do we need a centre like this and who will it help?

I think we need a centre like this to help more people with disability find the work they want.

It could also help employment service providers and employers give the right support to people with disability in their work.

Who will the centre help?

I hope the centre will be able to help people with disability and their families.

I think it could also help teach employers to build their workers confidence to do well in their work and keep a job.

How will the centre work?

There are different ways the centre will work:

  • support research and training for disability employment.
  • have online resources and information.
  • have experts on disability employment give training.

People with an intellectual disability have told me they often find it hard to get a job and keep a job, and don’t get enough support at work.

The government information says the centre will:

  • help people understand what segregated education and employment is.
  • share information about meaningful jobs and why this is important.
  • explain how the NDIS can help you with your employment and education.
  • help people with disabilities to find jobs and stay in jobs.
  • give accessible information.
  • give supports for people with disability who need support in their work.
  • teach you about your rights – for example, that employers should treat you fairly.

What do you think the centre needs to do to make sure it can work well for people with an intellectual disability?

I think the centre should have easy read information about the centre and what it can provide.

Also, it should include everyone in the conversation; people with an intellectual disability and other disabilities, as well as other groups like LGBTIQA+ and First Nations people.

They need to give information to families and people with disability to understand the way they work and the way they want to participate in work.

How can people tell the government their ideas for the centre?

Discussion papers, consultation reports and submissions were considered in developing an options paper on a proposed model for the Disability Employment Centre of Excellence.

An options paper will help stakeholders make decisions about the centre.

The Department of Social Services is seeking feedback and ideas until November 27, 2023. Feedback and comments are welcome from anyone.

You can find an Easy Read version of the options paper here: Disability Employment Centre of Excellence (dss.gov.au)

You can read the full version of the options paper here: Establishing a Disability Employment Centre of Excellence (dss.gov.au)

An era ends and a new one begins for Inclusion Australia

There was a sense of change at Inclusion Australia this week with the election of a new chair of our board.

Felicity Crowther, Executive Director of the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability (SACID) has taken over from our longstanding Chair Kevin Stone AM.

Felicity Crowther, Executive Director of SACID and the new chair of Inclusion Australia with our CEO Catherine McAlpine

Kevin officially stepped down last week after almost 30 years as a board member, first with the National Council on Intellectual Disability (NCID) and latterly with Inclusion Australia.

Kevin is well-known across the disability community in Australia and around the world for his work with people with an intellectual disability. As CEO of VALID in Victoria, Kevin was a committed supporter of self-advocacy and the importance of people with disabilities having a say and control over their own lives.

Through his work with Inclusion Australia, Kevin brought his passion and ideas to the national stage, working collaboratively with our members and others around the country on the big issues including deinstitutionalisation, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Disability Royal Commission and much more.

Kevin with disability advocate Sir Robert Martin from New Zealand at the 2017 VALID Having a Say Conference.

Kevin reflected “When I joined the NCID board back in 1994, I was conscious then of the proud history of our organisation, and felt humbled to be carrying the torch lit by [our] founding members back in the mid-1950’s. As I now stand down from the board, I like to imagine how proud those founders would be to see what has come of their vision.

Reflecting on Kevin’s time, our CEO Catherine McAlpine said “I will never forget Kevin telling me I had his complete trust when I started in the CEO role at IA. To have the backing of such a giant in the sector, a person who has lived their values on a daily basis, felt amazing. Kevin’s generous mentoring on the best way to speak truth to power and his personal reflections on balancing our shared lived experience in our advocacy work has been a privilege to experience. I want to thank Kevin and his family for his enormous contribution in improving the lives of people with an intellectual disability.”

Thinking about the future, Catherine is also looking forward to working with Felicity as the new Chair of Inclusion Australia. “It is wonderful to have Felicity as our new chair. Her leadership from when South Australia had no funded advocacy organisation focused on people with an intellectual disability to now  as the experienced Executive Director of SACID has been fantastic to observe over the past few years. I was lucky enough to be part of the past two SACID conferences and the voice of people with an intellectual disability is at the front of everything they do. I know that Felicity will bring this to her new role too. I look forward to working closely with her in the years to come.”

Kevin with Inclusion Australia Board members in 2021

Reflecting on taking over from Kevin, Felicity told us “The first time I met Kevin I was a student on placement. He came over to South Australia on International Day of Persons with Disability to talk about the work that VALID was doing on rights. I went to visit the team at VALID not long after and remember thinking I wish there was an organisation in South Australia I could work for! That was over 13 years ago, and Kevin has remained an amazing force in the sector. I admire his leadership, so it’s incredible to have an opportunity to try to fill his shoes.”

Sadly, Kevin was not available to attend our recent gathering of the Board in Melbourne for the planned farewell. We will make time in the future to say thank you.

In the meantime, the new look Board has started already including working with members of the Our Voice Committee on their ideas to make sure people with an intellectual disability play an even stronger role in everything we do at Inclusion Australia.

Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health launches in Sydney

There was some good news for our community this month with the official launch of the National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health on Friday 13 October.

Fiona MacKenzie, OAM, Chair, CID

Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, Ged Kearney formally launched the Centre at an event at the University of New South Wales which was hosted by Fiona MacKenzie OAM, Chair of the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID).

The Centre is a commitment from the National Roadmap to Health for improving the health of people with intellectual disability, which aims to address significant health inequalities faced by people with intellectual disability.

Minister Kearney formally opened the Centre, noting ‘there are 450,000 Australians who have an intellectual disability, and they deserve access to excellent, tailored and empathetic healthcare that fits their needs, the lived experience and skills of people with a disability will be central to the success of this Centre.’

The Centre of Excellence will be a catalyst to ensure people with an intellectual disability have better access to quality, timely and comprehensive health care. It will also help give health care professionals the knowledge, skills and right attitudes to work with people with an intellectual disability.

Catherine McAlpine and Jim Simpson, Senior Advocate, CID

Inclusion Australia CEO, Catherine McAlpine was proud to be at the launch in Sydney. Catherine is part of the Roadmap Implementation Governance Group who oversee and provide advice on the implementation of the initiative.

“This is a historic day for people with an intellectual disability and their families.” Catherine shared. “It’s wonderful to be here together with CID, Down Syndrome Australia, 3DN and other organisations that have worked so hard to campaign for the Roadmap and the Centre of Excellence. I especially want to acknowledge the work of Jim Simpson, Senior Advocate at CID and Dr Nick Lennox who have been working towards this moment for many years.”

Catherine added “I also want to congratulate all the members of the successful consortium that will run the Centre. We look forward to working with you to improve health outcomes for people with a intellectual disability.”

The launch also featured, Rhys Nagas, Board member of First Peoples Disability Network Australia. Rhys shared the challenges he has faced in the healthcare system that have led him to feeling “like I was nothing”.

“The Centre of Excellence will be kinder.” Rhys added.

Naomi Lake, Health Ambassador for Down Syndrome Australia shared her role educating health professionals and being part of the intellectual disability Health Roadmap Governance Group. ‘What makes me different, makes me, me. It is really important that people with an intellectual disability are involved in their own healthcare.’

Reflecting on the launch, Jim Simpson said ‘We at CID are delighted to be part of delivering on the Centre’s potential to make big differences in the lives of people with intellectual disability.’

Fiona Mackenzie closed the launch noting, ‘the Centre will give us a voice!’

Naomi Lake, Health Ambassador, Down Syndrome Australia

You can view an Easy Read Guide to the Centre here: The National Centre for Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health Launch – Council for Intellectual Disability (cid.org.au)

You can watch a video of the launch here: https://youtu.be/OmFZ1RLP-lE

Reflecting on the Disability Royal Commission closing ceremony and Recommendations

Inclusion Australia staff member, Brooke Canham shares her thoughts on the Disability Royal Commission’s closing ceremony and the final reports recommendations.

The Disability Royal Commission Closing Ceremony September 2023

The Disability Royal Commission has now finished. It held 32 public hearings, more than 800 people gave evidence and 8,000 submissions were written. 4,000 of those submissions were from people with a disability.

We know that there were lots of people with an intellectual disability that did not get to share their stories.

On Friday 15 September the Disability Royal Commission held their closing ceremony. They showed footage from the Disability Royal Commission’s hearings of people who have lived experience, family members and other supporters. The footage was very emotional.

Poet, Andy Jackson spoke at the closing ceremony. The first poem Andy Jackson read was about Mutual Obligation. It was very interesting. The second poem was called Listen. This poem made me feel strong, it was touching and very interesting.  The poem was about being able to rest, being able to breathe and to be nourished. This meant a lot to me because sometimes, I need to rest and take a break.

The final report and final recommendations from the Disability Royal Commission

The Royal Commission has now handed down its final report.

There are 222 recommendations in the final report.

The recommendations talk about what changes need to happen to meet the vision for an inclusive Australia. It tells us how governments and other decision makers need to come together and work as a team to create more inclusion.

Visions are ideas about how people want things to be in the future. Some people want a future where people with disability are safe, and their rights are respected. A future where you can make your own decisions and live a full life.

There are some things I think are most important for the government to act on:

  • Making it harder to become a service provider by having more checks and procedures that need to be met
  • All documents should be in Easy Read so people can understand and be able to process all the information they need
  • Making government systems inclusive and easier for people with an intellectual disability to understand and follow instructions

What happens next?

The Disability Royal Commission has been very important for people with an intellectual disability. They have had a chance to have their voice heard and be able to talk about their lived experience.

Now it is time for the government to act and make the recommendations from the Royal Commission happen. During the public hearings we heard so many stories of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation that people with disability—including people with an intellectual disability—face in daily life.

If the government does not act, people will just keep experiencing this violence and nothing will change. We cannot let this happen and must make those peoples’ stories have meant something for the future.

You can find all the Disability Royal Commission Easy Read reports here: Disability Royal Commission Easy Read reports – Inclusion Australia