Exciting news for Inclusion Australia Northern Territory!

2024 is a big year for the Inclusion Australia Northern Territory (IANT) team. From 1 July 2024, the organisation providing support to IANT will change from Inclusion Australia to the South Australian Council on Intellectual Disability (SACID).

SACID is the South Australian member of Inclusion Australia. They speak up about issues that are important to people with intellectual disability and their families in South Australia.

Earlier this year, members of the IANT team met with Felicity Crowther, Executive Director of SACID to talk about the changes and said:

  • “Felicity is a nice person to meet and I am looking forward to working with her in the future.”
  • “I am happy and excited about this change.”
  • “I am glad we are talking about the change.”
  • “I am looking forward to meeting new people.”

In March the IANT team welcomed Felicity, Melinda, Kim and Maddi from SACID to Darwin to meet with the Local Steering Group and learn more about our work in the Northern Territory. The IANT team has started doing some training with SACID and both teams are enjoying learning together.

Support from SACID will strengthen IANT’s work and create more opportunities to work with people with an intellectual disability and families in the NT. This includes learning how to deliver more workshops and work on Easy Read information.

IANT will continue to represent people with an intellectual disability and families who live in the Northern Territory as the NT representative organisation of Inclusion Australia. From 1 July its name will change to ‘Inclusion Northern Territory.’

Easy Read information about the changes.

You can read more about SACID here

Follow IANT and SACID on Facebook.

Advocates recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Congratulations to Fiona McKenzie, Michael Sullivan and Ian Cummins who were all awarded the Order of Australia this week.

The Order of Australia is an award given to Australians who have done important things in their community, or in their work.

Michael and Fiona are both from NSW and work with the Council for Intellectual Disability (CID). They have been recognised for their outstanding achievement and service for people with disabilities.

Michael Sullivan has a long history of advocating for people with an intellectual disability. He is a former Chair of Our Voice, the committee which provides advice to Inclusion Australia’s Board. Michael was also CID Board Chair, and was appointed as the first Chairperson of the Down Syndrome Australia Network in 2018. In 2017 Michael was one of the key voices calling for a Disability Royal Commission.

“Enough is enough! It is our time to be heard. It is our time for justice – now!” – Michael Sullivan calls for a Disability Royal Commission in 2017

Michael Sullivan in Melbourne in 2017 calling for a Disability Royal Commission

Fiona McKenzie is the current chairperson of the CID Board. She was the first female chairperson with intellectual disability at CID. She has also spent many years advocating for people with an intellectual disability. This includes work with the Black Dog Institute to help people with intellectual disability learn and talk about mental health issues. She was a leader in CID’s Don’t Silence Us campaign for advocacy funding for people with intellectual disability in NSW.

Talking about her award, Fiona said: “It encapsulates everything, it’s an absolute honour to be recognised with an AM because it shows having intellectual disability you can achieve anything.”

Meanwhile in South Australia, advocate Ian Cummins has also received an Order of Australia. Ian is well known in South Australia for his work in self-advocacy and also representing people with a disabilities, especially working with JFA Purple Orange. This includes talking at the Disability Royal Commission in 2021.

To find out more about Ian’s work, watch this video of him in conversation with Gavin Burner from SACID: Peer Support and Finding Your Voice

To read more about Michael and Fiona’s work and achievements visit: https://cid.org.au/our-stories/congratulations-are-in-order/

Well done to Michael, Fiona and Ian for your work to make Australia more inclusive of people with an intellectual disability.

“I miss my friends but I would never go back” – one woman’s experience of working in ADEs

Ahead of the Disability Royal Commission hearing on Australian Disability Enterprises, Georgie – a woman with disability in her 60s from Perth, Western Australia talked with Jamie Bannister about her long career.

A woman in a cafe smiling

Meet Georgie

Georgie is originally from Melbourne. She moved to Perth when she was 10.

Now in her 60s, Georgie works part time at Shelter WA, and does part time work for Developmental Disability WA (DDWA) as part of the Towards Inclusive Practice project.

In her spare time Georgie likes to catch up with friends for coffee, play on her iPad and barrack for the West Coast Eagles in AFL.

Georgie’s career

Georgie has had a long career, full of different roles. Her first job was in the 1970s, working for the Good Sammy charity in WA. “People were kind and friendly there.”

She then moved to working in a Good Sammy shop. The days were long, from 9-5 and 9-6 on weekends. “There was lots of standing up which I didn’t like as it made me very tired.”

One day in the 1980s Georgie saw a sign for Activ, a disability service provider in Perth. She put her name down and was invited to come in for an interview. She was quickly offered a place at Activ.

Her work included putting labels on beer bottles, and lollies in show bags. She worked five days a week, from 8.30am to 3.30pm.

Unfortunately, she does not have good memories of her time there. “I didn’t like it. Some of the staff you get on with, but others treated us badly. They would tell us to ‘sit down and do your job.’”

Georgie felt that the paid staff and the staff with disabilities were not treated the same. “They would have morning teas with nice food, but we couldn’t have any. We were not allowed or had to bring in our own.”

One time Georgie met up with her work friends for lunch on her day off. “I went to the bar and ordered a beer and the staff yelled ‘what are you doing Georgie?’ I said, ‘I’m having a beer, I’m allowed.’”

Georgie remembers the staff telling the ADE workers that they were not allowed to have the broken lollies they put in the showbags. “Then we would see them put them away in a drawer and eating them later.”

After getting her 5-year badge, Georgie decided to leave after 8 years. “They moved the place to another site. It was too far away. You had to pay for your own bus fare to get there so it wasn’t worth it.”

Later on Georgie worked for the City of Fremantle and Fremantle Hospital. “I promised myself I would never, ever go back to a sheltered workshop. I miss my friends, but I would never go back if you gave me $1000.”

Eventually Georgie found out about DDWA. She loves working there. “The people are like family here,” she says.

What needs to change about ADEs?

“Staff need training themselves on respect. The way staff treated people was not OK. We have the same rights they have”

What would you say to people who enjoy working at an ADE?

Georgie says that she has some friends who still work at Activ. One friend has been there for 38 years. “Some of the guys worry they won’t see their friends anymore [if they leave].”

“Some people like it, they think it’s great. But I get paid properly for my work [in the Towards Inclusive Practice project]. It helps me to budget and save for things.”

“Jobs are harder to get now because of COVID,” says Georgie. “There should be more help for people who want to get into open employment. Open employment is best. You get more money and real pay.”

What would you say to the Disability Royal Commission about ADEs?

“If I had a choice, I’d close them down. It’s unfair on the guys. I’d say you need to get every person out. Get them out of the workshops.”

Georgie can also see similarities with previous campaigns about segregation of people with disabilities. “It’s like the old institutions. People don’t have choices about where to live and work. I see some services where they spent lots and lots of money to make them all new again. Nah, close them down.”

Changes to NDIS Supported Independent Living must not leave people with disability worse off

Inclusion Australia is concerned about announcements this week about changes to home and living supports, and in particular changes to Supported Independent Living (or SIL) for people with disability who use the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

As the national peak body for people with an intellectual disability and their families, we welcome discussion and actions to improve NDIS systems and processes and make it easier for people with disabilities to access the supports they need to live their lives.

However, any changes must reflect the very real challenges experienced by people with disability and be developed in partnership with the disability community to avoid leaving people without essential supports.

SIL is a primary support for people with an intellectual disability. This includes many people who have been institutionalised all their life and those who have complex support needs. These are the very people the NDIS was designed to support.

We and other disability representative organisations are regularly hearing anecdotal reports around cuts to SIL in people’s NDIS packages. We are naturally cautious that the changes to SIL are being rushed through in a climate of ongoing concerns expressed by the Government and the National Disability Insurance Agency about scheme sustainability and reducing costs.

This should not be the driver for change, nor should announcements that fit in with the election cycle. 

We are also concerned about the move to ‘step down’ or reduce the supports for people with disability where they live.

Inclusion Australia CEO Catherine McAlpine said “Whilst we believe there is a sincerity to make the scheme work better, we fear that these changes are being rushed through. We do not wish to see changes that will mean people are left with insufficient supports. This will lead services to cut corners and will result in a decrease in the freedoms and rights of people with disability.”

“We also want to see more consideration of other safeguards people need, including funded independent support for decision-making that ensure people are not being forced into making ‘choices’ against their best interests.”

It is also critical that other parts of the system work to support the aims of the NDIS. People with disability are part of the broader Australian community.  Inclusion Australia calls for all states and territories to increase the range of accessible, social and public housing options. Without this, people ‘stepping down’ from SIL to an Independent Living Options (ILO) package will end up languishing in dangerous and insecure accommodation such as boarding houses.

Scheme sustainability is vital to the success of the NDIS. However, changes must be co-designed and implemented in partnership with scheme participants and disabled peoples organisations. To do otherwise only creates new problems and puts the lives of people with disability at risk.


Talking inclusion on World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 is on Monday, 21 March. The theme for this year’s event is ‘What does inclusion mean?’

Our colleagues Brooke Canham and Tara Elliffe took time out from their work to share their thoughts on what inclusion means to them with our Inclusion Manager, Becky Rowe.

Thanks for talking with me today. What does inclusion mean to you?

Brooke:             Inclusion means that everyone is working together as a team.

Tara:                  Inclusion means being part of a community [with] lots of different options for us.

What does inclusion look like at work?

Brooke:             In the workplace I feel having my opinion and having my voice heard is being included. I get to say what I want to say, and I’m not pushed to the side…

Tara:                  [It’s about] new challenges and adventures, to understand what we have to say – work in a team and celebrate Down syndrome with me!

How do the people you work with make you feel included?

Brooke:             [They] let me say what I like to do during the workday. [They also] make a work plan to help me focus and be included in the team and understand all the things. Also, my coworker talks to me and tells me things. I feel included because she is comfortable around me to include me.

Tara:                  [My co-worker] understands me… he knows me. He’s got a good sense of humour, he’s funny. He teaches me all sorts of different kinds of things like leadership. [My boss] also includes me. She has a son with Down syndrome. Parents who have good relationship with their daughter or son with Down syndrome [helps them to support me].

A young woman with glasses and a pink shirt smiling
Brooke Canham, Peer Worker for the Make Decisions Real project

What can other workplaces do to make people with Down syndrome feel included?

Tara:                    They should be doing a lot of training of how to support us. There should be training on disabilities. [Especially] training with people with Down syndrome as presenters. We all have a voice to use – just listen to me!

Brooke:               Don’t discriminate. Give them a try. If we need help, let us ask questions. Never judge a book by its cover. A lot of people are very rude to people with Down Syndrome.

Tara:                    Workplaces that don’t include you make me so stressed. I got a migraine and my body shut down. I was very stressed and had to leave that job.

Brooke:              To be included is to be invited to staff functions, don’t be rude about it! My other work has included me in their team [Brooke also works in a coffee shop]. They are very inclusive there, we always talk together, we always communicate on a higher level. I’m happy my boss reached out and wanted to work with people with Down syndrome. He says it makes him happy.

What does inclusion look like in the community?

Brooke:              [It’s about] going out to places and being included in the things you love to do.

Tara:                   I socialize, coffee, food, shopping, hanging out with my family, music, football, games, walking, sky diving! My friend did it so why can’t I do it?

Brooke:              Sometimes it could be a bit better. Some people stare at you, and I don’t feel like that’s very inclusive. If something goes wrong… if you’re upset then people in the community don’t come and make sure you’re OK. I think that’s more due to COVID. Like people trying to keep their distance.”

Tara:                   I have 3 brothers. It’s difficult the impact of Down syndrome in my family. It’s a challenge. [But they make me feel] good because their friends are my friends too. I’m an aunty of 2 girls who are 6 and 2. I like to teach the girls to learn about people with Down syndrome like me. Their cousin has Down syndrome too. I’m not the only person in the family with Down syndrome. There’s 3 of us.

Brooke:              [Being included] is a positive feeling. It makes you feel you know someone in the community is there. You know you’re being treated the same way as other people.

A young woman in a patterned t-shirt smiling with her arms in the air
Tara Elliffe, Easy Read advisor

How does your community include you?

Brooke:              A lot of family include me… They always ring me making sure I’m OK. They include me in family events. Mum always asks me to come round for dinner and includes me in fitness – like going to spin class together. Dad calls me and picks me up from places… asks me what I want and cooks dinner. [My sister] includes me in a lot. She does so much for me. She includes me with going out with her friends sometimes. She includes me in so much. My neighbours include me as well. [We] talk when things go wrong – like if someone breaks into your house – and they help you out. [We need] more people looking in and being aware that someone who has Down syndrome may need help.

What can the community do better to include people with Down syndrome?

Brooke:              Not just looking at people and putting a label on them. [Having Down syndrome] can be challenging… people label that as ‘you can’t do this’ and ‘you can’t do that’. That ticks me off! That really gets to me.

Tara:                    Groups, like community groups, for everyone. I’m starting a group of my own soon. It’s for people about my age – adults. We’ll hang out, get coffee, lunch, movies, social outings…

Brooke:              At the shops… People speak to us as babies and it’s very patronising. Everywhere, the hospitals, the gym, just everywhere… needs to be more positive. It’s okay to have a disability! It’s okay and people don’t understand it’s okay.

Tara:                    Don’t be afraid of showing people what is you. I am proud to have Down syndrome. I have friends with Down’s and friends without Down’s. I have both. They treat me as a normal person. I am a woman, hear me roar!

To find out more about World Down Syndrome Day 2022 visit www.worlddownsyndromeday.org

You can also say what inclusion means to you on social media using the hashtags #InclusionMeans and #WorldDownSyndromeDay

Disability Royal Commission examines Disability Employment Services (DES)

The experiences of people with disability within the Disability Employment Services (DES) system will be the focus of the Disability Royal Commission hearing on 23-25 February 2022.

Read our statement on what this means for people with an intellectual disability and what needs to change.

Inclusion Australia Media Release – DRC and DES – February 2022 


Find more about our advocacy on employment here.

You can also find useful information on our Everyone Can Work website

Disability sector statement of concern on the Religious Discrimination Bill

Inclusion Australia has joined with organisations from across the disability sector to raise concerns about the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill. Read our joint statement.

We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned about the harmful impacts the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill will have on Australians with disability.

We all support protection against discrimination on the ground of religion and of religious freedom as essential to any thriving democracy, but this must not be allowed at the expense of the rights and dignity of others.

We have particular concerns with the Religious Discrimination Bill and its provisions permitting ‘statements of belief’ overriding the existing legal and policy protections for people with disability from humiliating, insulting, ridiculing and demeaning behaviour. This gives licence to an increase in such behaviour towards people with disability, undermining our confidence and sense of worth as Australians.

There are significant risks particularly for people with disability who have intersectional identities like those from communities that are LGBTQAI+, Cultural & Linguistically Diverse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, who already face intersecting discrimination, along with women and girls with disability as well as children and young people with disability as they grow and form their own identity. We see discrimination of all people with disability being exacerbated and openly allowed by this Bill.

Discrimination protections seek to ensure that people are not treated less favourably, yet the statement of belief provision will allow people to be treated in ways that demean or humiliate them because of their disability. This is clearly less favourable treatment and will be expressly permitted by this new legislation, overriding the provisions of the federal Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and equivalent provisions in every State and Territories law’s.

People with disability are often subjected to unwelcome & uninvited statements of religious belief that demean disability as the result of sin, possession, or karma. Some examples that they have been told:

  • their disability is a “punishment from God for their, or their parents’, sins”
  • their disability can be “healed by prayer” or by “living virtuously”
  • they “deserve to suffer from their disability for what they have done in a previous life”.

While these may seem extreme religious views and statements, they are views commonly expressed to people with disability and the Bill will legitimise these views as long as they are personally held beliefs of religious doctrine and are made in good faith. It would be extremely difficult to prove that a person expressing such views is not acting in good faith because they genuinely hold the view that what they are expressing is their religion’s will and they are seeking to “save” the person. The limits in the Bill on very extreme statements are insufficient to protect people with disability from personal, hurtful and demeaning statements that undermine our dignity and humanity.

All people with disability deserve services, education, employment, health care and communities that are free of prejudice, stigma, denigration, and discrimination. The Religious Discrimination Bill will encourage prejudice, stigma, denigration, division, and discrimination against people with disability, and undermine all efforts to build and sustain an inclusive Australia.

These are impacts that undermine Australia’s commitments to the equality, and equal dignity and rights for people with disability under:

  • the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability
  • the vision of Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021–2031
  • the purpose of the Disability Royal Commission
  • the principles of dignity and equity that Australian disability communities continue to fight for.

We are strongly opposed to this legislation and urge you to speak and vote against the Bill if Part 2 is proposed to be retained in any format.

Yours sincerely,

Disability Sector Representative Organisations (as listed below)

National Organisations:

  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • People with Disability Australia
  • National Ethnic Disability Alliance
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • Disability Advocacy Network Australia
  • Down Syndrome Australia
  • Inclusion Australia
  • Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia
  • Brain Injury Australia
  • Physical Disability Australia
  • Blind Citizens Australia
  • All Means All
  • National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol  Spectrum Disorders Australia.

State & Territory Organisations:

  • Disability Voices Tasmania
  • Disability Advocacy and Complaints Service of South Australia
  • People with Disabilities Western Australia.
Disability Sector Representative Organisations logos

Registration for the Make Decisions Real pilot training workshops is now open!

Supported decision making is about being able to make your own decisions with the right support.

Make Decisions Real is a 3-year ILC project that aims to help people with intellectual disability and their supporters through the development of tools and training that will:

  • increase their knowledge and skills around decision making and decision supporting,
  • improve their confidence to make and support decisions,
  • increase opportunities for decision making and self-advocacy, and
  • lead to greater choice, autonomy and independence.


As part of Make Decisions Real, Inclusion Australia is running workshops for people with intellectual disability and their decision supporters to learn about supported decision making.

The workshops have been co-designed by people with intellectual disability via our Project Steering Group, and will be presented by Inclusion Australia Peer Workers Brooke and Lorraine. They will be packed full of useful information, fun practical activities, and lived experience stories of supported decision making.

There will be 5 workshops held between November 2021 and March 2022. Each workshop happens over 2 days, on a Tuesday and Wednesday.

3 workshops will be held online via Zoom and are open to anyone in Australia, and 2 face-to-face workshops will be held in Perth WA.

  • Face-to-face workshops will have morning tea, lunch and coffee & tea provided, and an Auslan interpreter (if required).
  • The online workshops will have an Auslan interpreter and live closed captions.

Please check out the Easy Read promotional flyer (PDF) for links to register, and keep an eye on Inclusion Australia’s Facebook page for more information and updates.

Queries can be emailed to Emma Softly, Make Decisions Real Project Coordinator: [email protected]

Make Decisions Real Art Competition winners have been chosen!

We had 18 entries into our Art Competition as part of Inclusion Australia’s Make Decisions Real project. The theme for the competition was ‘I make my own decisions’.

Make Decisions Real is a 3-year ILC project that aims to strengthen the capacity and skills of people with intellectual disability and their supporters around supported decision making. This will happen with a series of pilot training workshops co-designed and presented by the project’s Peer Workers with intellectual disability, and by the creation of supported decision making resources.

Three winners were chosen by the Make Decisions Real Peer Workers, Brooke and Lorraine. Each won a $500 Visa gift card as their prize. They will also have their artwork featured in resources created for the project.

The 3 winners are:

My Path, My Decisions by George Williams

My Path, My Decisions – by George Williams

George said his artwork ‘represents how I decide, and what it means to choose my own different pathway as I develop and learn from the best people in my life.’

Lorraine and Brooke said: “We like this artwork because you can really see their decisions, and it shows that you can make both big and small decisions in your daily life.”

I Like Sushi by Matthew Lam

I Like Sushi – by Matthew Lam

Matthew says he painted his artwork because: ‘I like drawing and sushi.’

Lorraine and Brooke said:
“It shows an everyday decision. We like the colours. It was simple, but really good!”

Puzzle of Decisions by Sarah Porter

Puzzle of Decisions by Sarah Porter

Sarah said about her artwork:

‘It shows there are lots of decisions to make, and questions to ask. Sometimes they are like a puzzle that can go together in different ways.’

Our Peer Workers chose Sarah’s artwork because of its amazing detail.

The three winners were all very excited to have won and are looking forward to spending their $500 Visa gift cards!

There were so many great entries, and it was hard for our Peer Workers to choose only three. Some of the other artworks entered have also been chosen to feature in some of Inclusion Australia’s communications.

For more information about the Make Decisions Real project, including the upcoming pilot training workshops which will be held both online, and face-to-face in Perth WA, email Emma (Project Coordinator) [email protected] or keep an eye on Inclusion Australia’s Facebook page and the Inclusion Australia website.