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Tony Talks: Reflections from the Victorian State Conference

Headshot of Acting State Manager Tony Pooley with speech bubble reading 'Tony Talks'

15/03/2019

This is my first message to Victorian members since commencing as Acting Victorian State Manager just a couple of weeks ago. For those of you that I had a chance to meet at the recent conference, I thank you for the warm welcome and I look forward to meeting many more of you over the weeks to come.

A wholehearted thank you, as well, to everyone who gave up their time and attended the NDS Victorian State Conference in the first week of March. We had over 500 attendees on each of the two days, and all of those that attended were enthusiastic, engaged, and not afraid to ask the difficult questions.

The theme of the conference, 'From Obstacles to Opportunities', seemed to accurately sum up the mood and experience of Victorian providers. While there are many success stories in the NDIS, there is also no shortage of practical obstacles that providers are still encountering on a daily basis.

In the very first address, from Minister Luke Donnellan, we heard of a case that identified a number of aspects of the scheme that urgently need fixing. A young man from a CALD background, stuck in a regional hospital on the weekend. There was no access to emergency assistance via the agency, and though he had received an NDIS plan worth $120k more than four months ago, not one dollar had been used because of the difficulty his family had in navigating what has become, for many people, an exceptionally complex scheme.

While the situation was eventually resolved, it was only through the intervention of the state government and a couple of providers who had the experience, networks and capacity to do so.

While there are many success stories in the NDIS - David Moody gave just one example of a person who had never before received services from the Victorian Government and now had a much more active life - there are still far too many examples of participants and providers struggling to make the system work.

Among a range of other important contributions was the address from Quality and Safeguarding Commissioner, Graeme Head. In Victoria from 1 July, the Commission will be responsible for the registration of providers, the code of conduct, employment screening and reportable incidents.

The Commissioner made the important point that, before an organisation seeks a quote for the external audit process, it is vital that they have completed the online self assessment process so that the scope of the audit can be determined. Anecdotal evidence from NSW and SA suggests that this will be a more expensive quote than providers have previously encountered.

It is also worth mentioning that while an organisation, if registered with the Victorian Government on 30 June this year will automatically be registered with the commission on 1 July, the process for the external audit can commence any time thereafter, regardless of when your most recent audit for Victorian registration occurred. NDS is aware of member concerns about the cost of quality audits and the lack of recognition between the Federal and state systems, and is actively raising these with relevant government bodies.

Everyone who registered for the conference has received a copy of speaker presentations and a feedback form, via email. We would very much appreciate your advice on what worked and what didn’t at the conference.

Other important issues that NDS has recently made statements on that may be of interest to you include a statement of support for the proposed Royal Commission into abuse and neglect in disability services.

NDS and our members across Australia look forward to supporting the Royal Commission in the further development of its terms of reference and subsequent inquiry.

NDS leads an initiative called Zero Tolerance, in partnership with the Australian disability sector. This is our national approach to promoting human rights and preventing and responding to abuse, neglect, violence and exploitation experienced by people with disability.

NDS also recently presented its Pre-Budget Submission to the Victorian Government. It aims to highlight the Victorian government's continuing responsibility to support all Victorians with disability, whether eligible or ineligible for individual packages under the NDIS. Divided into priority areas of supporting a sustainable, innovative disability sector, it makes recommendations on pricing, market stewardship, workforce and quality and safeguards. The second priority area is on continuing to build an inclusive community with suggestions on improvements to transport, employment for people with disabilities and a housing strategy.

A friendly reminder as well that feedback is invited on the Victorian Government’s review of the Disability Act 2006. On a final note, you have the opportunity to nominate someone making an outstanding contribution to the disability sector as nominations are open for the 2019 Victorian Disability Awards!

See you next month,

Tony Pooley

Contact information
Tony Pooley, Acting State Manager VIC, 02 9256 3119,