Standing up for Canberra

National Disability Insurance Scheme (Part 2)

I would like to quickly acknowledge the incredible work of ministers Bill Shorten and Jenny Macklin, and Senator McLucas, in getting us to this stage. Minister Shorten originally floated this idea when he was parliamentary secretary. At the time I applauded him and his team for that move, because I saw it as an extension of the work and the advocacy and the passion he had brought to the industrial relations space. I knew that as a result of that passion and that strong sense of advocacy and commitment to the welfare of all Australians that he would do a good job in terms of introducing or bringing about a scheme along these lines.

I had the opportunity to work with the minister during the campaign and saw the wonderful work he did in improving building codes to provide greater access for people with disabilities to basic things like showers. There was a building code, apparently, stating that there had to be a lip on a shower. No-one knows why that building code still existed. He managed to get rid of the code to ensure that people would roll into a shower in their wheelchair, without this nonsense of having a lip around shower recesses. Those are the sorts of small things that are significant for those suffering a disability. I commend the minister, who was then a parliamentary secretary, for the work he did in this area. What appeared to be small initiatives in terms of these building codes have had a major impact on the lives of those with a disability.

The success of this scheme would not have come about without the ministers I have referred to, but also without having the states and territories on board with the NDIS, especially the ACT, which led the charge to sign up. The ACT will be one of the launch sites, and I know how important this is to people in my electorate. The ACT Chief Minister has been at the forefront of pursuing a launch site in Canberra and I know from meeting with local disability groups and carers that they particularly welcome this move.

Now, the minister and other members have discussed the details of this legislation, but basically this a scheme that lays the foundations for a substantial and important reform that fundamentally revolutionises the way we will provide disability care and support in Australia.

The scheme as laid out before us takes on board the principles agreed to by the Prime Minister and other COAG first ministers. It is important to have these principles on the public record. They include: giving people with disability individual care and support based on their needs; giving people real choice and control over these supports, meaning more control over their lives; ending a situation where people are not told what support is available, or how to access that support; and fostering innovative services that are delivered and coordinated locally. This means that we are on the pathway to providing long-term certainty to the resourcing of disability care and support so that people with disability can feel secure that they will get what they need over the course of their lifetime. That is a particularly important message to send: it will meet their varying needs over the course of their lifetime.

The other main element of this scheme is that it considers the holistic and whole-of-life environment of people with a disability. It factors in when they need high and low levels of care throughout the course of their lives. It is designed to be receptive to each person's goals and aspirations for their life. It is about individual care. It also includes looking at how to support carers to sustain their caring role and take account of their needs, their goals and their aspirations, which are quite often overlooked or just not factored in because people are just so swamped when caring for the needs of someone with a disability. In disability and mental health the carer is often overlooked or not considered in the care program or in the provision of services. Carers are often left to pick up the pieces and battle to navigate between disparate services. I found that with that young mother that I met in my electorate office last year, and I have conversations along these lines with so many Canberrans.

We can never do enough for carers. The life of a carer is incredibly difficult, and their physical and mental health often suffers. This is why carers welcome the NDIS. We all recognise that the situation for people with a disability and their carers has been unacceptable. When the Prime Minister released the Productivity Commission inquiry report Disability care and support, there was an acknowledgment that disability care and support in Australia was underfunded, unfair, fragmented and inefficient and that major reform was needed. We took the Productivity Commission report seriously. The Commonwealth and all state and territory governments work towards an agreement on the need for major reform in the form of an NDIS, which would take an insurance approach that shares the costs of disability services and support across the community. I am very pleased to see the outcome of this approach before the parliament today.

Just before I close, I just want to recount two experiences that I have had in the disability sector— just in the last few months—that again underscore the need for this NDIS and the need for lifetime care and for a person's different needs throughout their life to be factored into the support. Last Friday I had the great fortune of launching a program called Six Seeds. Six Seeds is a program that is supported by six community groups and private sector groups across Canberra, and it is essentially a social enterprise. It has a chair, who I call a CEO, and it works with young adults with a moderate to severe disability and gets them involved in small businesses. What I launched on Friday was a program where we actually incorporated two of my great passions—one of them being small business, the other being rocky road. This small enterprise was set up by this group who were making rocky road for Valentine's day, and so we launched this project where they sold the rocky road and we were encouraged to sell it on to our friends and family and others in the community—and it looks as if it is going to be a very good business proposition. From that will grow other business ideas: in the confectionary area, I understand, they are thinking about doing some Easter eggs for Easter, and possibly bilbies, and then venturing out to chocolates and other confection for Mother's Day and possibly Father's Day. Again, this idea was just a small kernel of an idea from someone in that private sector— and also the community sectors here in Canberra—and it has grown into this social enterprise that promises to be incredibly successful. The young adults that I met last Friday were incredibly excited about it. Some of them were still just finishing off their high school and others were working part time at a range of mail rooms around town, but they were all really excited about this venture because it not only brought together a whole team of people that they could work with but also was a creative type of initiative that they could engage in. That is just one area where, if you start thinking laterally and you start factoring in the needs of particular people at a particular stage in their life, you can really get a great deal of innovation and enterprise coming from all sorts of areas. I commend the Six Seeds program and all of those involved in it— particularly the private sector, who were supporting it, and particularly that wonderful CEO.

I contrast that with a conversation that I had at a Christmas party late last year. I had met this family at a number of functions at Koomarri, which is an organisation here in Canberra that looks after intellectually and physically disabled children and young adults, and they have a range of schemes where they get people working in the community. What was tragic about this circumstance—and it really underscored the need for carers to be supported— was the fact that they were a non-English-speaking background family with a child who was relatively severely intellectually disabled and they were finding it very hard to cope. The mother was really quite wrung out and in tears for most of the many conversations I have had with her, and what really affected me when I saw them at Christmas was the fact that they not only had lived through this difficult time with this daughter —grappling with Australia and a new language—but also had just found out that the father had a brain tumour. You just think, when your luck is down, it is really down. So, for them, I support this and I encourage everyone in the House to support them.

Download a copy of this speech.