National Disability Insurance Scheme (Part 1)

Last year a young mother came to see me in my electorate office in Tuggeranong. This mother was struggling to cope with the needs of her two autistic children. Despite the availability of some very good services here in the ACT, the reality is that there are enormous financial and emotional stresses associated with raising children with disability. This young mother's life was difficult. She had no certainty about the future or what was in store for her young children. She did not know how she would be able to afford to pay for their care in the future.

Before Labor was elected, I would have had little more than kind words and compassion to comfort this young mother. But this brave mother in my electorate office was not seeing me for comfort or help or to ask me to assist with a difficult situation, which is commonly why constituents see their local members. In one of those moments that make you proud to be part of a progressive government, this mother of two children with autism wanted to thank me and the Gillard Labor government for initiating the National Disability Insurance Scheme. She had heard about the NDIS and wanted to get more information, but the main reason for her visit was to express her passion and enthusiasm for a national insurance scheme that could help parents like her. Her enthusiasm was palpable. It is not often a constituent comes to see you to say, 'Congratulations; this is life-changing legislation,' but that is what happened with that young mother that day, and, through a few tears, she also had plenty of smiles.

In August last year, I heard similar sentiments when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Senator Jan McLucas, joined my colleague the member for Fraser and I at an NDIS forum here in Canberra. At this forum, we heard very troubling stories about the lack of services, of people only being able to be bathed twice a week and of families in crisis and struggling. It was incredible to watch as Senator McLucas explained how the NDIS will work and what it meant to those at the forum. The people attending the forum started talking about the possibility of improved outcomes for their children. They told us how this would ease pressures on their families and their relationships. I heard directly from people with a disability, who told me they will now have choice and greater control over the support they will receive. I also heard about the hope of families and those with a disability when they talked about having choice over their care for the first time. Most importantly, many of those who attended these NDIS forums like the one held here in Canberra were involved in the consultation process or were able to have input through the government's website. There was an NDIS advisory group and NDIS expert groups, who gave the government valuable technical advice on the design of key elements of the scheme. Their advice was in areas such as eligibility and assessment, quality safeguards and standards, a national approach to choice and control for people with disability, and workforce and sector capacity.

But we did more. The government also funded the National Disability and Carer Alliance to go out and talk to people with a disability and their families and carers as well as their service providers. We wanted to find out what they thought was important in the design and implementation of the scheme—because it was vital to the outcome that so many people were able to have input into the NDIS design and implementation process. It means the disability sector has a large degree of ownership of this scheme. It is in large part created by them to meet their needs. The outcome of the lengthy and involved consultation process is that, for real people facing real challenges, their lives now look a lot better, thanks to this bold and innovative initiative of Labor.

While some in the media like to focus on peripheral issues, we are here today introducing legislation that will forever change the lives of millions of Australians. This is truly landmark legislation and policy. This is the type of policy that will be held up in the future as one of the great legacies of the Gillard Labor government.

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