Andrea Mason OAM opened the first community forum of the Disability Royal Commission in Townsville today. These community forums enable selected people to share their stories.
No questions are permitted, nor can speakers provide comment on what has been raised by those before them. Speakers are instructed not to name individuals or organisations which may be the subject of their complaint. Anyone present can speak directly to Commissioners or Commission staff before or after the forum or provide written feedback. Four Commissioners were present:• Ms Barbara Bennett PSM• Dr Rhonda Galbally AC• Ms Andrea Mason OAM• The Hon John Ryan AMMedia presence was strong; and the Queensland Minister for Communities and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors, Coralee O’Rourke, was present in the audience.The stories told were challenging. A number of speakers talked about the exclusion and/or poor experiences of their children in the education system (in both mainstream and special schools). They highlighted the fact that schools often had high-quality documentation on how a child with disability would be supported but that it bore no resemblance to how the child (and often family) was treated. Also detailed was the discrimination, exclusion, violence and abuse children with disability had been subjected to by teachers, administrative staff and other children.Poor treatment of people with disability by support workers featured in some stories. An Aboriginal man spoke of being more disabled by some support staff than by his double lower-limb amputations. He noted that the lack of transportation options available to him was a major challenge – an issue echoed by others. A community transport provider spoke of the frustrations experienced when trying to support people with disability to move around their communities, often due to the lack of transport funding available through the NDIS.Another common theme was frustration with the NDIS, with access, planning, funding and support provision all featuring. Not being treated with respect was highlighted by a number of speakers. Poor treatment within open employment and DES services was also raised.Information regarding further community forums will be posted on the Royal Commission website as they are announced.The first Public Hearing of the Royal Commission will be held in Brisbane next Monday, 16 September. This officially opens the Royal Commission and provides the opportunity for the Commissioners to be formally introduced and explain how the Commission will operate and what it hopes to achieve.NDS and Russell Kennedy will be hosting a free live webinar the following day - Tuesday, 17 September from 12:00 pm to 12:45 pm, to provide a summary of what was covered and what this may mean for providers as hearings begin. This is a great opportunity for NDS members to better understand how the Royal Commission will operate, and will include the opportunity to ask questions. Registration is essential - register here.