Today is International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations sanctioned day which aims to increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability, while also celebrating their achievements and contributions. It’s also a significant day for the National Disability Insurance Agency as it continues to deliver the world-leading NDIS, a scheme providing Australians with significant and permanent disability, and their families, with the support that they need to reach their full potential.
This year’s International Day of People with Disability is focused on how we can celebrate diversity and strive for inclusion through the removal of barriers for people with disability within the community. We are proud of the dedication and commitment of the agency delivering the NDIS, which is now supporting more than 200,000 Australians with a disability in providing them with supports and services they need to achieve their goals. One in three people are receiving support for the first time.
If we step back to July 2013, in my electorate of Grey, we were part of a very early rollout of the scheme for children under the age of 14. It was new to not only the participants themselves but also their carers, support workers and service providers. In 2017, the scheme became available for 15- to 17-year-olds and, in 2018, to those over 18 years old. In the early days, many people still don’t didn’t know what the NDIS was all about. There weren’t many service providers signed up, particularly in rural and regional areas, and there weren’t many people in our local communities who could advocate for or assist those who needed help through the process. Planning meetings, support coordinators, service providers, requesting a review of a reviewable decision—what did it all mean? It can be highly confusing for someone who hasn’t experienced the NDIS or a plan for someone with a disability. There were always going to be teething problems in rolling out a $20 billion a year program. It’s a complete game changer and by far the biggest program of this type ever rolled out in our history.
Encouragingly, as time has progressed, my constituents are becoming more confident with their understanding of the NDIS and happier with the supports and services made available through the scheme. If I take Port Pirie as an example, where I have one of my offices, the federal government has supported a service provider called Thrive, which houses occupational therapists and physios. It has a heated swimming pool and is literally allowing those with a disability to thrive. The Morrison government invested $500,000 through the Regional Jobs and Investment program to support the construction of Thrive, and I must say it’s been a very good investment. Thrive has provided a lot of support to many NDIS participants in Port Pirie and the surrounding areas. Today, International Day of People with Disability, I’d like to congratulate Nigel Young and his team on everything they’re doing to support people in that area. In fact, I’d like to congratulate and say thank you to everyone in Grey who supports people with disability. There are almost 350 service providers across the electorate and a lot of special organisations in our communities doing wonderful things—organisations like Orana, Bedford, Uniting Country; there are too many to name.
There are also so many great individual stories. There are stories about people with an NDIS plan, like my constituent Jason, who has two young boys with disability and NDIS plans. For the first time since having children 15 years ago, Jason and his wife have been able to take a night off together, thanks to the regular respite care. And what about Georgia, who can now communicate with her teachers and classmates through eye-gaze technology? This is because the NDIS has funded and made available assistive technologies for her. The funny thing is that the first thing Georgia did with her eye-gaze technology was tell someone she didn’t like them—but what freedom it has given her to finally be able to express herself. These positive stories, where we can clearly see the benefit of the NDIS, can be found right across the electorate. Tex has got a specially fitted wheelchair now, which is much more comfortable for the seven-year-old. Up until last year, his mum had been pushing him in a pram type chair. She’d made a few home modifications but needed more. He has a wonderful new wheelchair now because of the NDIS.
Our government wants to make sure that Australians with a disability are respected, and welcomed as equal and positive contributors to our community. The theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disability is ‘promoting the participation of all persons with disabilities and their leadership’, and it’s also a key focus of the Morrison government.