AFDO Newsletter - September 2012

September 2012

247 Flinders Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: 03 9662 3324
TTY: 03 9662 3374
Fax: 03 9662 3325

Table of Contents


Established in 2004, AFDO is a cross disability human rights organisation. Its membership consists of a number of national and state Disabled People’s Organisations including Blind Citizens Australia, Brain Injury Australia, Deaf Australia, Deafness Forum, National Association of People Living with HIV/Aids, National Council on Intellectual Disability, National Ethnic Disability Alliance, Short Statured Persons of Australia, Disability Resources Centre, Disability Justice Advocacy, People with Disabilities Western Australia and Australia for All. As well as these full members AFDO has a number of associate members. AFDO is in the unique position of bringing the concerns of people with a disability from a range of individual disability diagnoses and demographic factors as well as cross disability organisations together to form a combined and strong voice for people with a disability.

This publication has been prepared by the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations with funding assistance provided by the Australian Government, represented by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. The views expressed in this publication are those of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations Ltd. and do not necessarily represent the views of the Australian Government.


Thanks to AusAID funding, AFDO is thrilled to be hosting 10 members (and three carers) from the Pacific island of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) for the month of September. They are members of Te Toa Matoa ‘Strong Giants’, the island’s peak disability organization. AFDO has known about and admired TTM’s use of music, song and theatre to promote the rights of people with disabilities in Kiribati; Te Toa Matoa were keen to visit Australia to further broaden their skills and see what their Australian peers are up to.

In response, AFDO designed a program which offers opportunities for the group to get involved in theatre, music, radio, TV production, design and printing ¬– as well as computing training and networking with other disability groups and inclusive arts organizations. The Other Film Festival (films by, for and about people with disabilities) should be a highlight of their stay.

According to the group, their lives have been radically altered by the formation of Te Toa Matoa. The program will hopefully strengthen their resolve to continue their work in Kiribati, as well as the wider Asia Pacific region.

Brenda Lacey, AFDO’s office manager was smart enough to take up the opportunity of visiting Kiribati in July during her annual leave. She joined Jacqui Ward, who spent three months on the island as part of her RMIT international studies. Jacqui and Brenda have been the main organisers of the program and have enjoyed devising something that will really appeal. ‘Although there has been a huge amount of work getting the group to Australia, it promises to be one of the most rewarding projects I’ve been involved with,’ says Brenda.

Members of Te Toa Matoa at a video workshop


Geoff Crawford, acting AFDO policy officer (while Leah Hobson is busily employed elsewhere) addresses education issues below. If you have any queries, Geoff is happy to discuss on 9662 3324, email

Summary Report on the Review of Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Released June 2012)

In December 2010, the Australian Government began the first five-year review of the Standards. The Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and the Attorney-General, released a discussion paper in February 2011 inviting submissions to the review from all interested people. They received 200 submissions.

This report presents a summary of the key findings and recommendations of the first five-year review of the Disability Standards for Education 2005. The review team received 200 submissions and met with some 150 stakeholders including students with disability, community and advocacy organisations, education providers, state and territory authorities, anti discrimination boards and the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Full report available at

Education policy for students with disability

AFDO is very pleased to be supported by the Reichstein Foundation to develop an education project that supports and promotes better educational outcomes for students with disability. The disadvantage facing students with disability is a key concern for AFDO. Of the 305,900 young adults (20-24 years) who had a disability or a restrictive long term health condition, almost one-quarter (76,200 people) were categorised as having an education restriction (for example, needing time off from regular classes or requiring special tuition). Of this group only around a half (53%) had attained Year 12. Those who had a profound or severe disability were far less likely to have attained Year 12 (46%) than those who had a moderate or mild disability (73%).

Over the past years AFDO has made a number of submissions around the education system, including work on the Gonski Report and the Disability Standards for Education.

AFDO is also represented on the federal Ministerial Schools Disability Advisory Committee through our CEO, Lesley Hall.

The Reichstein funding will provide a part time policy officer dedicated to education issues and will address the following:

• The National Disability Strategy (NDS)
• Disability Discrimination Act
• National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)
• The Gonski review of funding for schooling.


Jessica Zammit, National Policy Officer for Blind Citizens Australia and an AFDO representative on the Australian Public Transport National Advisory Committee (APTNAC) brings you up-to-date on public transport and disability in the article below. If you want further information, you can telephone Jessica on 9654 1400 or email

While access to public transport has improved since the introduction of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport in 2002, we still have what looks to be a bumpy road ahead.

As many AFDO members would recall, the Disability Standards were reviewed in 2007 by the Allen Consulting group, with the Federal government response to this review only released in mid 2011. Later this year, the Federal government will conduct the second five-year review of the Standards.

Recently the draft terms of reference, which outline the focus of the pending review, were released by the Federal government for comment. As one of two AFDO representatives on the Australian Public Transport National Advisory Committee, I collected feedback from members and produced a short report highlighting what we believe needs to be considered in the upcoming review. Here’s a snapshot:

• An ‘internal’ review of the effectiveness of the Standards to remove discrimination, conducted by the Department, has been proposed. AFDO does not support this proposal as we are concerned that this could lead to a less transparent process and could compromise the extent to which the full concerns of people with disability are investigated and reported.
• Wide consultation with people with disability is crucial. AFDO has recommended that there needs to be mechanisms to consult with people with disability, with consultation that is well promoted, accessible and inclusive.
• The review should take a good look at whether the Standards have resulted in more people with disability being able to use the public transport five years on. Questions we have posed include the proportion of journeys that are actually accessible, how accessibility is currently measured by state and territory jurisdictions and whether the Standards are responding to the needs of people with disability.
• AFDO has recommended better connections with people with disability to guide and inform the prioritisation of compliance with the Standards to ensure better outcomes.
• AFDO has also raised questions about enforcement and auditing – what does it actually mean to be compliant and who verifies this? This also extends to examining other ways to enforce compliance in addition to individuals lodging individual DDA complaints.
• Consideration of the additional barriers to public transport access such as attitudinal barriers and non disability specific issues such as overcrowding and cost of modes such as taxis.
• Compatibility with other laws and standards such as road safety requirements, Australian Standards and OH&S laws.
• Suitability of the development of technical standards to ensure consistency for people with disability and better outcomes
• Allow for new innovations within the Standards in light of some great developments since the Standards have commenced.

The transparency and timeliness of the Review has also been highlighted, with recommendations made that the final Terms of Reference outline

• The date the Review process will commence
• The timeframe for public consultation and stakeholder feedback
• The timeframe for the development of the Review report and recommendations
• Projected date of the release of the Final report
• Mechanisms for updating the community about any changes to these timeframes

While the outcomes of the 2007 review were disappointing for many people with disability, it is important that we do not lose the opportunity to influence the 2012 review. Anchor points, accessible information (both visual and aural) and physical access restrictions onboard vehicles continue to be significant barriers to independent travel for people with disability. We will provide more details about the review as it comes to hand.

In regards to current work programs, APTNAC has discussed the progression of a number of the recommendations identified in the Government response.

The recommendation for the phased introduction of accessible school buses by 2044 is one which has been a source of contentious discussion. AFDO has expressed significant concern that a child born today will not be able to use a school bus during their schooling years. However state and territory representatives have indicated that they do not support this recommendation as other alternative transport mechanisms are in place for children with disability. More work will be needed to get this over the line to ensure that children with disability can use a school bus and have the social experience associated in getting to school.

The development of a mobility device (such as scooters) labelling scheme is also being investigated, with APTNAC waiting on further information from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s mobility scooter working group. The safety of mobility aids while travelling on public transport has also been discussed, with industry operators, including the bus industry, viewing this as a high priority. Industry have expressed significant concerns that current tethering systems do not provide the level of stability needed for people with disability and have recommended that people with disability need to be involved in the testing process.
A sub group of APTNAC has also been established, at AFDO’s request, to review and develop consistent emergency management practices for people with disability who use public transport. AFDO has recommended that the group review the current procedures across all modes and in static environments such as railway stations for disruptions, medical emergencies, unplanned evacuations and emergencies.


On June 30 AFDO received funding to auspice the National Disability and Carer Alliance for the NDIS Engagement Project. The project, which has been funded until June 30 next year, will be carried out across five organizations: the Alliance itself, AFDO, Carers Australia, National Disability Services and People with Disability Australia. Funding has now been distributed to all of the organizations, project staff have been appointed and work is underway to arrange the first round of engagement meetings across the country. Over the course of the project, the team will:

• Hold large public meetings in each capital city from late August through to mid October. Some of these meetings will be jointly held for people with disability, their families and carers, while others will be separate;

• Hold engagement meetings in rural and regional locations from late August to mid-October. These meetings will be joint meetings for people with disability, their families and carers, and service providers;

• Engage with people with disability, their families and carers and service providers online through the Alliance website and Facebook pages;

• Run focus groups later in the year to discuss specific issues or the needs of specific population groups;

• Attend meetings about the NDIS;

• Hold engagement meetings around the country when the government has a blueprint for the NDIS.

To date public forums have been held in Adelaide, Port Augusta, Perth, Bunbury, Canberra, Brisbane, Darwin and Townsville. Many more have been scheduled and details are available at In addition a survey is available at this web address in general, easy English and Auslan.


The second most watched sporting event worldwide has just finished, the Paralympic games. In the fifty two years since this event began, support for the Paralympics has been increasing, and with it awareness of the experience of athletes with a disability. According to the governments’ Paralympic Education Program: 57% of Australians reported that they followed the success of Australian Paralympic athletes in Athens and a greater number is expected to tune in to the London; 87% of Australians believe our Paralympians should receive the same or more funding than Olympic athletes; and 71% of Australians would like to know more about the personal stories of the Paralympic Athletes.

It is worth celebrating. The unprecedented support for our Paralympians is attention well deserved. Sadly though, we are celebrating the stories of only a small number of Australians with a disability, the majority of who live in a very different Australia. As we tuned into the Paralympic games, most Australians with a disability were experiencing isolation and loneliness, living in fear of violence or exploitation, or were unemployed and living below the poverty line.

A report to the United Nations released on August 29 attempts to tell the stories of this silent majority. Based on three years of consultation and research, a coalition of leading disability, human rights and community organisations has prepared the Disability Rights Now report, which documents the experience of Australians with a disability.
The report reveals that Australia is failing to meet the basic rights of people with disability in nearly all areas of life, including education, employment, access to health and support services, and participation in society. One of the most striking findings reported is that Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest countries, is ranked 27 out of 27 OECD nations for poverty amongst people with disability. This is not surprising given that in the last 20 years, participation rates of people with disability in the workforce have actually dropped. Myths and stereotypes about people with disability, together with inflexible working conditions, mean that people with disability are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed.

This disadvantage is set in train from an early age. Many people with disability do not have the same education opportunities as other Australians. Inadequate funding, the continued operation of 'special' or segregated schools, and a lack of trained teachers all result in significant disparities between people with disability and other Australians.
Even more striking are the stories that are rarely spoken about: those that reveal the significant levels of exploitation, violence and abuse experienced by people with disability, and particularly women with disability, which occur in all kinds of community and residential settings.

The Disability Rights Now report can be accessed at:


Leah Hobson is an AFDO representative on the Disability Support Pension (DSP) Advisory Group. This group was set up in 2011 to feed back information to Centrelink on the changes to eligibility for the DSP.

The changes were 3-fold: first, applicants – unless manifestly disabled – have to show that they have been seeking work for the previous 18 months; second, impairment tables were introduced that had a functionality focus but in effect were often stricter than under the previous ‘medical’ model; and third, as from July 2012 people under 35 on DSP are being required to attend Centrelink participation meetings. AFDO is keen to hear from people who are encountering any difficulties in attending such meetings.