Bi-Monthly Update – January 2018

From the Chairperson

Welcome to 2018!  QDN was pleased to welcome both the State and Commonwealth Ministers for Disability on 18 January to officially open QDN’s new office in Spring Hill and launch the digital story

for the NDIS Targeted Strategies Project – Getting on the NDIS Grid.

I would like to thank Hon. Coralee O’Rourke MP,  Minister for Communities and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors for officially opening the new office. I also want to acknowledge the Minister’s announcement of funding for QDN to undertake peer to peer advocacy for people yet to enter the NDIS will start on 1 July 2018. We look forward to undertaking this work built on the strong foundations of ‘nothing about us without us.’ We will give members more information about this in the near future.

I would also like to thank Hon Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services for officially launching the digital story for the “Getting on the NDIS Grid” project helping people who currently don’t get any disability services and experience additional disadvantage find out about the NDIS and how they can access it. My thanks also to our group convenors and Getting on the NDIS Grid peer leaders who were able to come along, and to our allies and supporters.

To start the year, QDN’s Board Directors held our annual strategic planning day on 18 January 2018 to reflect on our achievements and identify our priorities and strategic actions for the year ahead, our governance and stewardship of the organisation and implementation of the strategies of our business plan. I would like to thank Directors for their contribution, wisdom and continued work to help grow the organisation. QDN has produced a new one page flyer promoting our work and what we do across QDN’s Knowledge Network, LEAD Institute, QDeNgage and our policy work Our Voice. Please click here.

2018 has also seen the start of letters and communication from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to people with disability in the areas rolling out from 1 July 2018. You can check if you are in a new roll out area at  Some members have found the letters confusing and QDN has received a number of queries about them.  The NDIA National Access Team sent out the letter in December 2017 to start the process of moving people with disability to the NDIS.  The purpose of the letter is to introduce people with disability to the NDIS and to give people the opportunity to be prepared when they receive an Access Request phone call as well as letting people know how to contact the Agency.

QDN has contacted the NDIA to get clarification for member’s questions about if they need to get further assessments for the access and eligibility process. This letter was sent to people with disability currently receiving disability services funded through the Queensland Department of Communities, Disability Services.  Many people receiving funding from the State Department are seen as ‘defined’ clients by the NDIA.  The NDIA has confirmed that a prospective participant is an existing client of a defined Commonwealth, state or territory disability program on List C below, the NDIA will be satisfied that the person meets the disability requirements of the NDIS, without further assessment.  Read the NDIA response here.

List C – Queensland

Clients of the following Queensland schemes will generally be considered to satisfy the disability requirements without further evidence being required: Service Access Team Assessed, Individual Funding, AS and RS (Accommodation Support and Respite Support), Supported Accommodation (large/small residential, group homes, attendant care/personal care, in home accommodation support and other accommodation support), Centre Based Respite, Registration of Need Database and Housing and Support Program (HASP)

Please note: A person does not need to be a client of a defined program on List C to become a participant in the NDIS.

I would encourage members to have a look at QDN’s website which outlines the information we have received from the NDIA. Please contact QDN on 1300 363 783 if you have any questions about the information on our website or the NDIA on 1800 800 110 if you have any questions about registering for the NDIS.

Since our last edition of the Ebulletin, Queensland has also held a state election which has seen 93 representatives elected to the 56th Parliament of Queensland and re-election of the Palaszczuk Government. QDN would like to congratulate the Premier, her new cabinet and Government on their re-election and look forward to our meetings with Ministers to progress QDN’s Election Platform document. QDN would also like to congratulate Deb Frecklington, Opposition Leader and her shadow cabinet and all elected Members of Legislative Assembly. QDN and our members look forward to working with this parliament to ensure the Queensland State Government is delivering and funding essential accessible, affordable and quality Government and community mainstream services to people with disability, and its critical role in fostering full inclusion and participation of people with disability in the economic, social, civic and cultural life of Queensland.

Nigel Webb, Chairperson, QDN Board of Directors

From the CEO

Happy new year to everyone. The year has started off at full pace and QDN continues to be working across a range of critical areas as we move into 2018. Transport, health, housing, employment, domestic and family violence and the National Disability Insurance Scheme continue to be key issues for members.

I am pleased to announce that QDN is holding its first “My Housing Matters” workshop for people with disability on 31 January 2018. This workshop is for people with disability to start to look at what the key things are that they want in a home, what options there are in private and public rental and purchasing options, and what the first steps to making it happen are. It is great that this workshop has received such interest as housing and a place to call home is such a fundamental need in people’s lives, and I am pleased that we have also received sponsorship from a number of organisations and businesses to sponsor the places of a number of people with disability. We will keep members and supporters updated about the workshop in the next Ebulletin.

The New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains have been an issue on the agenda for some time now, and QDN has been working hard to raise the impacts of the train’s design with the Minister and Queensland Government for people with disability. Late last year, the State of Queensland (acting through the Department of Main Roads and Transport) and Queensland Rail jointly applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for temporary exemption to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Standards 2002 (DSAPT) for a period of three years. This exemption is sought in order for the State of Queensland and Queensland Rail to progressively address DSAPT non-compliance issues with the NGR trains. Over Christmas, QDN’s Board Directors and staff worked on submissions to the Australian Human Rights Commission with regards to this issue. A range of our allies and supporters have also responded to this application for temporary exemption. Submissions were due on 15 January 2018 and you can read QDN’s paper here. We will continue to work with the State Government to find a resolution to this issue, with 5 trains now in service on South East Queensland rail network before a ruling by the AHRC.

 As Nigel mentioned, QDN started out the year with officially opening our new premises at Spring Hill.  We were honoured to have Hon. Coralee O’Rourke MP and Hon. Jane Prentice MP involved in the official parts of the opening.  We also wish to thank the many members, supporters and allies who attended the twilight office opening and for their ongoing support of QDN’s work.  At the office opening we also launched a new Getting on the NDIS Grid video. You can read more about this and get a link to the video here.  This project is funded through the Sector Development Fund through the Department of Social Services and runs through to 30 June 2018. The project has developed a range of interactive and creative ways to engage with people with disability who currently don’t get disability services and may be eligible and their supporters/workers. This has included  “getting on the grid” to help people think about what day to day supports they need and what the NDIS funds as reasonable and necessary supports and NDIS Bingo to help people learn about the NDIS, eligibility, and how to access. QDN and our consortia partners have been working hard to engage with this group of people that are often described as ‘hard to reach’ and as at 31 December 2018, we have had contact with 3,162 people with disability and workers. There is still much work to be done, and people with disability and their workers continue to raise the challenges people are experiencing even with the initial step of making an access request, before even getting to the planning conversation and then implementing the plan. QDN believes it is critical that work continues for this group to assist their access to the scheme and the reasonable and necessary supports they need related to their disability.

As the NDIS starts to roll out to almost 60,000 people here in the South East Corner and Far North Queensland in the 2018-2019 year, it is really important that people are doing their pre-planning and what the reasonable and necessary supports are they need in their day to day life to socially and economically participate in their community. QDN encourages members to continue to raise the important issues that members are experiencing, especially with all the interface issues with health, housing, transport, aids and equipment. We will continue to raise issues with the NDIA and State Government to ensure that NDIS delivers what people need to live their day to day life and achieve their goals.

Paige Armstrong, CEO

             The Getting on the NDIS Grid facilitators, consortia and staff


   Hon. Minister Jane Prentice, Nigel Webb, Paige Armstrong and Hon. Minister Coralee O’Rourke at the QDN Office Opening


Chairperson and CEO Report

QDN’s new Spring Hill office officially opened by Hon. Coralee O’Rourke MP on 18 January

Hon. Jane Prentice MP launches a new digital resource for the Getting on the NDIS Grid targeted strategies project lead by QDN on 18 January 2018 at office opening.

Minister O’Rourke announces Queenslanders with Disability Network to provide peer to peer advocacy for people with disability who yet to enter the NDIS starting 1 July 2018.

QDN provides submission to Australian Human Rights Commission on the application for temporary exemption for New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains.

QDN’s work in Getting on the NDIS Grid, working with people with disability who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, living in supported accommodation, caravan parks, leaving child safety, juvenile justice and criminal justice systems has had contact with 3,162 people with disability and their supporters/workers so far.

Policy Work

Call for Submission on the Market Readiness for Provision of Services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

QDN 2017 Member Survey – top priority issues for members are NDIS, Health, Housing, Transport and Pensions.

Register for the My Housing Matters Workshop today!  This is an introductory workshop for people with disability and their supporters to think more about their home they want to live in

Departments renamed under newly elected Labor governments.

QDN encourages you to complete the Australian Network of Universal Housing Design survey

Policy Updates

A discussion paper on the future of supported employment has been released and feedback is invited on a number of areas.  This is due before 9 March 2018.

New NDIS pathway announced that will introduce a new NDIS pathway to be piloted in Victoria for six months.

A number of new rewards and rebates aimed at reducing electricity bills and increasing the uptake of more energy efficient appliances announced.

QDN Project Updates

NDIS rollout continues – read this section to learn how to make an access request.

Jen Barrkman project lead for DSO Project, with Karin Swift and Louise Abson.

Ready to go now finished work in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Logan, Redlands, Fraser Coast, Burnett and Cairns and Far North Queensland. From 1 January 2018 – just working in Moreton Bay region, Caboolture and Sunshine Coast helping people getting ready for NDIS

Local Support Groups around Queensland meet to celebrate Christmas and their groups’ success.

2017 QDN Member Survey Summary

QDN invited members to participate in 2017 member survey to get feedback about what’s important to members, what QDN is doing well, and how we can work better into the future.

We had a 19.56% response rate to the survey and we would like to thank everyone who took the time to give us their feedback and ideas. The information has been provided to the Board of Directors and will be used to inform the planning and priorities across our work in policy, membership and projects in 2018 and beyond.  The breakdown of top 5 issues most important to members is as follows:

Allowances, pensions and entitlements65%

Members said that the key things about the NDIS that are most important to members now are:

Supports under the NDIS67%
Getting ready for the planning process60%
Access to the scheme60%
Putting my plan into action: Understanding my plan and my goals54.2%
Self-direction and plan management51%

 Digital Connections

Digital literacy and digital connection and communication continues to be an issue for people with disability and reflected in member’s responses where only 42% of members who completed the survey said they have access to the internet or emails, meaning 58% of members who don’t have access.

45% or members who responded said they have at least monthly contact with QDN either by phone, in person or via website/facebook.

Key areas of feedback on how we can improve what we do for members included:

Use of technology in more effective ways including assistive technology, accessibility issues with tools used, and use of skype to connect with rural and regional communities

  • Increasing QDN’s presence in regions across Queensland and undertaking more Member focused activities
  • More employment opportunities for people with disability
  • Delivery of NDIS services to help members learn to navigate NDIS, manage their plans and budgets
  • Engagement with hard to reach people, ensuring everyone has a voice, represent all people with disability and diversity of membership
  • More focus on those who are not part of the NDIS but have just as many needs

Policy Work

Call for Submission on the Market Readiness for Provision of Services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme

QDN will be providing a response to the Senate Standing Committee’s request for information on the Market Readiness for Provision of Services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Senate Standing Committee’s role will be look into and report on market readiness for provision of services under the NDIS and they are asking for feedback from the public on a number of areas. QDN is looking at the following areas below however the Committee is covering a more extensive list.  The full list is available at

QDN is keen to hear your feedback on the following areas to be included in this submission:

  • participant readiness to navigate new markets;
  • the development of the disability workforce to support the emerging market;
  • the provision of housing options for people with disability, with particular reference to the impact of Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) supports on the disability housing market;
  • the impact of the Quality and Safeguarding Framework on the development of the market;
  • provider of last resort arrangements, including for crisis accommodation;

If you could like to provide your feedback on any of the topics above you can do so by contacting Olivia Spadina, Project Officer by email at or phoning 1300 363 783 by 12 February 2018


Rolling Out – Queensland Rail’s new trains are officially in service

New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains are on the tracks. Click here to find out what QDN Board Director John McPherson had to say in an interview on Chanel 10 news in December.

QDN My Housing Matters

QDN is excited to be hosting our first fee for service workshop called My Housing Matters on 31 January 2018 in Brisbane.

This introductory workshop is for people with disability and their supporters who want to think more about their home they want to live in, what is important to them, and to get more information about options available in the private and public rental and purchasing options.  The workshop will also help people develop their confidence and capacity to be more informed consumers. The workshop has been co-designed with people with disability, and is an interactive and practical hands on workshop suitable for people with disability including people with intellectual and cognitive disability.

The workshop includes “QDN My Home Matters” Self-Assessment tool, access to peer stories from other people with disability about what they have done and how they have gone about making their home a reality, opportunity to identify what is really important to participants and what that looks like, take away practical useful information and tips about renting, buying or applying for affordable housing and identifying the next steps to making it happen.

We have been provided wonderful sponsorship from Department of Housing, Brisbane Housing Company, Hopkins Centre and JLL. Thank you. Consequently a number of bursaries are available for QDN members. Contact Jen Barrkman 07 3252 8566 for more information. Register for workshop online here or contact QDN (07) 3252 8566

Palaszczuk Government’s election commitments to Queenslanders with disability

Queenslanders with Disability Network received confirmation from Hon. Coralee O’Rourke MP, Minister for Communities, and Minister for Disability Services and Seniors that funding for the election commitment to QDN for peer to peer advocacy for people who are yet to enter the NDIS will commence on 1 July 2018. QDN will work with the Minister and her Department to progress this work to be ready to start in July.  Queensland Labor’s response to QDN’s six priority areas of our election platform are on our website.  Click here to read Labor’s full response.

Below is a snapshot of some of the commitments contained in Labor’s response, including a commitment to:

  • Re-negotiate existing bilateral arrangements to achieve the best possible outcomes for people with disability
  • QDN for an additional $750,000 to provide peer-to-peer advocacy for people with disability yet to enter the NDIS starting 1 July 2018.
  • Ongoing annual funding of over $4 million to provide certainty around continued State advocacy.
  • Meet a target that people with disability will comprise 8% of the Queensland Public Service workforce.
  • QDN to meet with the Minister for Disability Services to discuss the best way forward in relation to accessible, affordable transport and Taxi Subsidy Scheme.

Departments renamed under newly elected Labor government

The announcement of the new Queensland Government Ministry has meant there are a number of Machinery of Government (MoG) changes for some State Government departments.

These new arrangements are:

  • The former Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services will be renamed Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors (DCDSS).
  • Our Minister for the new DCDSS is the Hon. Coralee O’Rourke.  Clare O’Connor has been appointed as acting Director-General, Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors.
  • A new Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women (DCSYW), which will include Youth Justice and Working with Children Checks is moving from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (DJAG). Michael Hogan has been appointed the Director General of this department.
  • Multicultural Affairs moves to the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs.

Australian Network for Universal Housing Design Survey

COAG’s 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy committed to support the National Dialogue for Universal Housing Design’s goal that all new homes will be of an agreed liveable design standard by 2020. QDN encourages you to support the ANUHD towards more accessible and inclusive housing by taking 5 minutes to complete this survey.

Policy updates


Discussion paper on the future of supported employment released

The Australian government has released a discussion paper with the encouraging title, ‘Ensuring a strong future for supported employment’. It includes background on the provision of employment services as well as current challenges and opportunities for supported employment providers as they move into the NDIS.

The consultation period for the discussion paper is open until 9 March 2018. Interested individuals and organisations can provide written submissions directly to DSS through by 5:00pm 9 March 2018.


The whole journey: a guide for thinking beyond compliance to create accessible public transport journeys

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has produced a guide called “The Whole Journey” which provides advice on how transport planners and providers, architects, engineers, builders, certifiers and all levels of government can work together with people with disability to make public transport more accessible.

There are a variety of standards across government and industry that must be complied with in relation to designing and building public infrastructure. This guide asks us to go beyond compliance to deliver better outcomes.  Read more

QDN works hard on New Generation Rolling stock issue

QDN members and supporters will be aware that QDN has been working diligently to raise issues with Queensland Rail and the Queensland Government about the issues of accessibility on the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) trains.

The State of Queensland (acting through the Department of Main Roads and Transport) and Queensland Rail jointly applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for temporary exemption to the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Standards 2002 (DSAPT) for a period of three years. This exemption is sought in order for the State of Queensland and Queensland Rail to progressively address DSAPT non-compliance issues with the NGR trains.

QDN members have raised a number of issues with the NGR trains and QDN has made submission. Read more.


Independent Pricing Review Report to be released in March 2018

The NDIA has confirmed it intends to release the Independent Pricing Review Report with the Agency’s response by mid-March 2018.  In a Media Release dated 30 December 2017, the NDIA announced that the Report includes 25 formal recommendations.

It is important that people with disability have true choice and control in a strong and vibrant disability market and QDN hopes that the solutions going forward deliver what is needed for people with disability and the services who will operate in this market place.

NDIA to deliver NDIS in Western Australia

The Australian and Western Australian Governments have reached an agreement to bring Western Australia (WA) into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).Read more.

New NDIS Pathway

In October last year, the NDIS announced that it will be introducing a new NDIS Pathway, to be piloted in Victoria for six months to see if it works. Once the pilot ends it will be introduced in other areas, and should be in use in areas in South East Queensland by the time the NDIS rolls out from July 2018.

The new pathway is designed to help participants have a better NDIS experience by making things easier for them to engage with the NDIS. Some of the changes include the following:

  • Participants will be able to have their planning conversation in person instead of over the phone.
  • When dealing with the NDIA, participants will have one person as their point of contact, that person will most likely be a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) or an NDIA planner.
  • Participants will be able to see their plan as it is being developed and make as many changes to the plan and ask as many questions as they like before the plan is finalised.

More NDIS pilots are being planned to make accessing the NDIS easier for participants including people living with psychosocial disabilities.

If you would like more information about the new NDIS Pathway you can call the NDIA on 1800 800 110 or visit the NDIS website for a copy of the Easy English booklet here.

NDIS Quality Commissioner appointed and new inquiries commence

The NSW Public Service Commissioner Graeme Head has been appointed the inaugural NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner. He will begin work with the Department of Social Services (DSS) in the New Year, in preparation for assuming the three-year appointment as Commissioner from July 2018. Its head office will be in Sydney and regional offices will be established in other States and Territories.


QDN gains membership to Energy Queensland Customer Council

QDN has gained membership to the inaugural Energy Queensland Customer Council . The newly formed Council, which replaces the Energex and Ergon Energy Customer Councils, provides a forum for Energy Queensland to work in partnership with organisations to explore customer needs and expectations, emerging customer and community issues, initiatives in energy infrastructure and services, and the provision of energy solutions across Queensland

The Energy Queensland Customer Council will represent a broad and diverse group of customers and QDN looks forward to representing the views and experiences of members and people with disability and the critical issues people are experiencing with regards to energy and potential solutions. Paige Armstrong will be the representative for QDN on this council.

Energy rebates

Last year the Queensland government announced a number of new rewards and rebates aimed at reducing electricity bills and increasing the uptake of more energy efficient appliances as part of the Affordable Energy Plan.  These include a $50 rebate in 2018 and 2019 automatically from March 2018, and rebate for energy efficient appliances purchased on or after 1 January 2018.

You can find more details on how to register interest and apply for the rebates on the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy here.

Regional Queenslanders now eligible for $400 cashback to get ‘PeakSmart’ and help reduce electricity bills

The PeakSmart air conditioning program is expanding to regional Queensland which means a household or small business will receive a cash reward of up to $400 if they purchase a peak smart air conditioner. Read more.

Ready to go

Last 6 Months of the Plan Ahead workshops:

Over the past 3 years QDN has been delivering Plan Ahead workshops across Queensland and the Ready to Go team are currently planning the final 6 months of this project.  The final workshops will be held in the Moreton Bay Regional Council and Sunshine Coast regions.

Keep an eye on the QDN website and Facebook page for workshop to be held in Kawana, Melany, Beerwah, Morayfield and Deception Bay with further workshops to be planned for Gympie and Bribie Island. If you would like more information about the Plan Ahead workshops, you can contact Denise Sands at QDN 1300 363 783

Getting on the NDIS Grid

NDIS Rollout continues – how to make an access request

As many of you are aware the NDIS is on our doorstep and is rolling out now in Rockhampton, Gladstone and surrounding areas and set to roll out in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Hinterland, Logan and Redlands, Fraser Coast and Burnett, and Cairns and far north Queensland and Cape York and Torres Strait regions of Queensland from July 2018.

Some people have never received specialised disability supports before so may not be aware that they can start to get the ball rolling now by contacting the NDIS and telling them that they would like to make an access request.

If you want to make an access request for the NDIS, you need to

  • Call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) on 1800 800 110 from January 2018 and request an access form.
  • Complete the access form and gather any supporting evidence listed on the access form.

Your GP can supply additional evidence around your diagnosis and the things you need help with.

NDIS Local Area Coordinators can help people who might be eligible to complete the access request form. These Local Area Coordinators will be in place soon in the areas rolling out.

  • Send your access request to the (NDIA).  The national access team may contact you for more information.
  • If you are eligible for the NDIS the NDIA will contact you to arrange a planning conversation. To prepare for your planning meeting you can think about your current support needs and your goals for the future and write these down.  If possible take a support person to your planning meeting.
  •  If you are not eligible for the NDIS you can request a review of the decision by contacting the NDIA. QDN’s Getting on the NDIS Grid workbook will help you get ready for the NDIS. You can find this workbook at QDN’s website

QDN’s Ready to go project also has a video series that was made by our peer facilitators with a number of the videos about getting ready for the planning conversation. They can be found here.

If you need support to make an access request or to fill in your access request form you can ask family or friends or contact the NDIA to find out what supports may be available to you.

New Getting on the NDIS Grid digital resource launched

QDN wishes to thank Hon. Jane Prentice MP, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, for launching the new video resource from the NDIS Targeted Strategies Initiative Getting on the NDIS Grid.  QDN is leading this work with a consortia of organisations including Community Living Association, Community Resource Unit, Micah and Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS).  QDN and our project partners wish to acknowledge the work of the project Peer Leaders, ensuring people with lived experience are part of the design and delivery of the work. The “Getting on the NDIS Grid” Digital Story is about how the project is working to ensure all people eligible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can access the scheme, especially people who experience additional disadvantage.

Click here to access the video.


QDN LSG Office Update

The QDN Office is back after the Christmas/ New Year break and the DSO Team are looking forward to supporting all Local Support Groups in 2018.

The Jen Barrkman, is working as Projects Lead for the DSO project, and  Karin Swift, and new staff person, Louise Abson, will support Local Support Groups in their day-to-day running and logistics. We welcome Louise to the team and look forward to her contribution to QDN. Olivia Spadina is still part of the QDN team, but will be working in other areas in 2018. The DSO funding is until 30 June 2018 and QDN and Local Support Group Convenors and group members are working hard to help people get ready for the NDIS, and making the groups vibrant and sustainable into the future.  This promises to be a busy year for LSGs as South-East Queensland transitions to the NDIS in 2018.

Local Support Groups in December

Most Local Support Groups met in December to share in some festive cheer and end the year on a positive note. Some groups took the opportunity to do some forward planning for topics for 2018.

For those LSGs in the South-East corner, the NDIS is a key topic with many people interested to know more about what they need to do to prepare for their NDIS planning conversations.

Some groups are wanting more information about Assistive Technology that they may be able to apply for under the NDIS.  An initiative we will be undertaking with the Brisbane Hot Topics LSG is a digital story making project. This project, in partnership with Griffith University, will assist members learn how to make a digital story.  If successful, we will explore how to share this information with other groups.  All LSGs will recommence their regular meetings from January-February 2018.

NDIS Preplanning Activities

Local Support Group members in the South-East corner are starting to get ready for the NDIS planning conversations and being helped in a variety of ways. Many members who are already receiving services from current service providers are also being offered pre-planning meetings through their service providers. Local Support Group members are talking about finding out about all their options and the importance of having choice and control over who, where, when and how they want to purchase their supports under their NDIS plan.

If you are interested in being part of a QDN Local Support Group contact QDN at phone 1300 363 783.

Profile – Mary Burgess

Public Advocate

Please tell us about yourself and the work you have done previously?

I am a lawyer by background and have had a long-standing interest in social justice and legal policy. In the early years after becoming qualified I worked in small generalist legal firms. In 1990 I was looking for a career change and took a position as a lawyer with the Prisoners’ Legal Service Inc a community legal centre that provides free legal advice and representation to prisoners and their families on prison-related legal issues. I was also appointed as a Corrective Services Commissioner. In that role I contributed to the board’s decisions about the operation and management of the Queensland prison system. I have also worked as a researcher for the Criminal Justice Commission (now the Crime and Corruption Commission) as well as in the law and justice policy team in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. More recently, I was responsible for communications, publications and policy at Legal Aid Queensland.

Can you give us a brief overview of the role of the Public Advocate and your work?

I am now in the second year of my four year appointment as the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate is a statutory position under the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000. My role is to undertake ‘systemic advocacy’ to protect the rights and interests of all Queensland adults with impaired decision-making capacity. I do this by seeking to influence and change legislation, policy and practices that affect people with impaired capacity to better recognise their rights and support them to live independent lives.

What are some of the key system challenges the office of the Public Advocate is currently working on which impact upon people with disability?

A key project of this office has been to highlight the high rates of avoidable deaths of people with intellectual disability who live in supported accommodation and to encourage government action to address this issue. In 2016, the Public Advocate produced a report called Upholding the right to life and health: A review of the deaths in care of people with disability in Queensland. The report reviewed 72 deaths of people with intellectual and cognitive disability in care and found that more than half of the deaths were avoidable, 59 percent were unexpected 24 hours earlier and involved relatively young men and women (with nearly half of them in their 40s or younger). Many of the deaths were due to factors such as inadequate support for health-related matters, poor access to medical assessments and health care and lack of training for disability support staff and health professionals. The Premier has committed to working with our office to implement the recommendations of the report. We have also been communicating with the National Disability Insurance Agency about our report to try to ensure that the problems identified in the Queensland disability system and the risks to health and life for people with disabilities are not exacerbated with the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

We also have serious concerns about the operation of the Forensic Disability Service and the way people with disabilities who are under Forensic Orders (Disability) are being managed in that service and more generally in the forensic mental health system. Our office has consistently raised concerns about people who have been detained in the Forensic Disability Service not being progressed to alternative appropriate accommodation and support services.   We will report on the outcome of these activities on our website and in our Annual Report.

What are three important things you think need to happen/change so that the rights and interests of people with impaired decision-making capacity are upheld?

I think that we all need to have higher expectations of government and service providers and hold them to account for their actions, and more importantly, for their inaction. People with disability are entitled to be provided with appropriate services and support and to have their rights and interests respected. A key part of respecting the rights and interests of people with impaired decision-making capacity is to act in accordance with their views and wishes. If we don’t expect and demand more and seek to enforce the law and the rights of people with disabilities, those people and agencies who are not meeting those standards are not held to account.

There needs to be more funding for advocacy agencies like QDN and other disability advocacy services if we are going to hold government and service providers to account. It is irrelevant what rights you have under the law if you don’t have the ability to enforce those rights or to voice your dissatisfaction when systems are not respecting your rights. Advocacy services provide that support to help people with disabilities to negotiate what can sometimes be complex systems and to get their voices heard. They also help people with impaired decision-making capacity to develop their own advocacy skills and to have the confidence to be self-advocates.

We need government to commit to ensuring that people with disability and impaired decision-making capacity are involved in the decisions that affect all Queenslanders. A key way to achieve this is to develop government policies and processes that provide opportunities for people with disability to contribute to the development of legislation, programs and policies. This should include a commitment by government to having people with disability and impaired decision-making capacity included on advisory boards and committees across government. Ensuring that people with disability have the opportunity to genuinely participate in government processes will require some investment of resources and commitment by government agencies to provide accessible information and processes to support people with impaired decision-making capacity to engage with public consultation processes and to participate as members of advisory committees. However, the potential benefits for people with disability and our community as a whole would be enormous. I’m hoping to partner with QDN to advance this proposal to government during 2018.

Can you tell us about a couple of examples of positive outcomes or changes that the Office of the Public Advocate has been involved in recently?

As I discussed above, our Upholding the right to life and health report was successful in raising concerns about the inadequate health assessments and care for people with intellectual and cognitive disability. Having the Premier commit to the government working with our office to implement the recommendations of the report was also an achievement. Our next challenge is to ensure a successful implementation of the recommendations which we hope will improve health outcomes and reduce deaths among people with intellectual and cognitive disability in Queensland.

We were also very happy with the response of the Australian Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS to our submission to their ‘Inquiry into the provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition’. Our submission is posted on our website at:  Following receipt of our submission, the Committee invited me to appear before it to speak about the issues we had raised in our submission. In its final report the Committee made a series of detailed recommendations to improve the responsiveness of the NDIS to people experiencing mental health issues. The NDIS is now planning to develop new pathways into the NDIS designed to improve the experience of a range of specific groups of people including people with psychosocial disability, children, people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and those with more complex needs.

From our Friends

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Disability Network Queensland News

The ATSIDNQ have held yarning group workshops in Maryborough at Galangoor Duwalami and in Brisbane North.  Members discussed what they would like to focus on for 2018 and identified gaps in service delivery in the area.

Members discussed starting up a yarning group next year (members are very excited for this to start up).  ATSIDNQ also held a stall at the NDIS & Community Expo: ‘Connecting people with service providers’. We have been very busy this month attending a NDIS and community services Expo as a stall holder, held by plan management partners.  Around 30 service providers held stalls and around 120 community members attended. Find out more ATSIDNQ news here.

QCOSS State Conference

QCOSS are kicking off 2018 by confirming that the QCOSS State Conference will be held on 16 and 17 May with a new and exciting theme – Movement for change and QCOSS hope that you can join them to be part of a movement for change.  Register here.

Disability and inclusion

Community Living Association is recruiting for their next Skilling Queenslanders for work project – Certificate III individual Support – Disability & Aged Care.  This starts in January 2018. This course is an opportunity for anyone who has experienced long term unemployment to gain some skills and experience in the disability & aged care sector. Read more

Free online resource – My Rights Queensland

The My Rights Qld guide offers a free online resource for people with disability and their carers to access quick reference information about their rights and how to find help in Queensland. Read more

Nominations open for Queensland Public Guardian Excellence Awards

The Queensland Public Guardian announced the opening of the inaugural Queensland Public Guardian’s Excellence Awards.

These awards acknowledge the exemplary work being done by staff in the community services sector across Queensland. There are four categories open for anyone in the community services sector to nominate themselves or a colleague in recognition of their great work. Read more.