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Call for Royal Commission into abuse of people with disability

Media Release:  

“As a woman with an intellectual disability, I can say that abuse from people who were supposed to be caring for me has had a very bad long term impact on my life”, says Heather Forsyth. 

Ms Forsyth is Inclusion Australia’s Our Voice Chairperson and knows first-hand the devastating impact abuse and violence against people with disability has on lives.

Inclusion Australia and its member organisations are supporting the call for a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability. And pressure is mounting for the Government to step up and do the same, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Jenny Macklin, today also calling for a Royal Commission into the abuse of people with disability.

“Every single week, Inclusion Australia hears stories of abuse, bullying and violence – this happens in disability services, schools and our community – it must stop”, says Kevin Stone, Chairperson of Inclusion Australia.

“People with intellectual disability suffer human rights abuses every day such as neglect, lack of access to appropriate care as well as physical and sexual abuse. It is just not acceptable”, he says.

A Royal Commission is essential in hearing the voices of people with disability, in particular intellectual disability, who haven’t been given adequate opportunity to voice their experiences and who are the sufferers of alarming and widespread violence and abuse.

The rate of violence for people with disability is three times the national average. It’s an epidemic. Stories from a mother whose son with an intellectual disability was “assaulted, starved and neglected” in care are shocking – but all too common.

More than 90% of women with disability who have severe communication difficulties, have experienced sexual abuse. This is absolutely horrific”, Kevin Stone says.

A Royal Commission is critical to providing a comprehensive, independent, and just response to all forms of violence and abuse against people with disability.

“A Royal Commission will not only bring justice for the many victims but will also be a powerful mechanism in working towards a future where people with intellectual disability can be free from abuse.  Inclusion Australia join an army of voices from people with disability and their families, human rights advocates, academics and healthcare professionals in calling for this to happen now”, Kevin Stone says.

Inclusion Australia urges the Government to call a Royal Commission into this critical issue now. People with intellectual disability in Australia deserve nothing less.

For more information please contact Kevin Stone on 0418 562 922 or Aine Healy on 0418 450 717.

Inclusion Australia is the national and leading voice on issues of importance to people with intellectual disability in Australia. Inclusion Australia brings together Members from across Australia, all of who are connected locally to people with intellectual disability and who are committed to the vision of inclusion.


People with intellectual disability need quality mental health services not to be ignored

The Commonwealth Government has just release the National Mental Health Plan for comment, and people with intellectual disability are not even mentioned in the 77 page draft.  This omission defies belief in view of the terrible mental health disparities experienced by people with intellectual disability and the highlighting of the need for action on these in recent years.

We urge you to speak up for people for people with intellectual disability!

See for how you can have your say – by going to a consultations meeting, filling in a feedback survey or making a submission.

Feel free to use our arguments on why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability  and how it can do that.  –

Why the plan must focus on people with intellectual disability?

  • Approximately 150,000 people with intellectual disability have mental disorders but poor access to appropriate mental health care.
  • The COAG National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 specifically calls for universal mental health initiatives to address the needs of people with disability.
  • The National Roundtable on the Mental Health of People with Intellectual Disability 2013 endorsed eight key elements of an effective response:
  1. The needs of people with intellectual disability and a mental disorder are specifically accommodated in all mental health initiatives.
  • The NSW Mental Health Commission included a specific and detailed focus on intellectual disability mental health in its 10 year strategic plan for mental health in NSW.

How the plan should include people with intellectual disability  

 The plan should:

  1. Include a focus on the research in relation to poor mental health of people with intellectual disability.
  1. Include “people with intellectual disability” in the list of groups whose specific needs should be considered when implementing the plan.  Already listed are: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex people; and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  1. Include specific measures through the plan so that the needs of these equity  groups are in fact acted upon. Without specific measures, the plan’s call for equity is likely to be little more than a motherhood statement.  This is the experience of people with intellectual disability and their families over many decades.

In particular, specific measures to ensure inclusion of equity groups are needed in the draft plans sections on:

  • Priority area 1: integrated regional planning and service delivery
  • Priority area 7: safety and quality in mental health care
  • Monitoring and reporting on reform progress

Priority area 2 : coordinated treatment and supports for people with severe and complex mental illnesses:

  • The plan should address that people with intellectual disability often have complex mental illnesses due to difficulties with communication and diagnosis and the interplay between the mental illness, the intellectual disability and the person’s social circumstances.
  • Include people with intellectual disability who also have a mental illness in the discussion about the interplay between the roles of mental health services and the NDIS. In the draft plan, the focus on the NDIS does not address the issues arising for people who have a primary intellectual disability but also a mental disorder. The focus is concentrated on people who have a primary psychosocial disability.
  1. Priority area five: physical healthof people living with mental health issues
    Include a focus on working with the NDIS on physical health issues for people with mental illnesses. Improved health and well-being is one of the key outcome measures being used by the NDIS in its outcomes framework.
  1. Priority area six: stigma and discrimination reduction
    Include a specific focus on discrimination against people with intellectual disability in the mental health workforce. For people with intellectual disability, their mental health needs notoriously go untreated on the assumption that the behaviour resulting from the mental health problem in fact flows from the intellectual disability.
  1. INCLUDE A SPECIFIC PRIORITY AREA ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF PEOPLE WITH INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY! The NSW Strategic Plan for Mental Health 2014-2024 includes specific sections focused on people with intellectual disability and other equity groups. If NSW can do it, so can Australia!

(The material was prepared by NSWCID which takes the lead on health issues for people with intellectual disability on behalf of all Inclusion Australia’s members)


Commonwealth takes NDIS back to the ‘bad old days’ …

Minister Porter’s unilateral action in appointing new Board members to the NDIS has cast a shadow over the successful implementation of the NDIS.

“Inclusion Australia’s strong support for the NDIS was largely based on the belief that the new scheme would end decades of ‘bickering’ between the States and Commonwealth over meeting the daily support needs of people with disability; cooperation not competition. Minister Porter’s authoritarian approach will destroy the co-operation that has been built up to date and replace it with a new Centrelink, currently in the spotlight for its adverse treatment of people with severe disabilities”, says Mr Kevin Stone, President.

The States and Territories must be equal partners in NDIS. This is the only way in which people with disability and their families will have a direct say in how the Scheme works or not for them as this is where trusted relationships currently exist.

Inclusion Australia calls on the Commonwealth Government to genuinely consult with the States and Territories. As a matter of urgency the Commonwealth must re-establish the cooperative spirit of the NDIS and build the trust of people with disability and their families. Without this the NDIS will just become another Commonwealth department with all the inherent faults of a political and centralized bureaucracy.


If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Mark Pattison at 0407 406 647 or email at

Full media statement

When you get the right employment support good things happen!

21 DES services for people with intellectual disability show the way forward

People with significant intellectual disability can work in the open labour market when they get the right support.

The DES Outcome Rates by Disability Type report shows that some DES providers are achieving high rates of open employment outcomes for people with intellectual disability.

Twenty-one (21) providers are achieving 26-week employment outcome rates greater than fifty percent (>50%) for people with intellectual disability, with the highest performing provider achieving eighty-four percent (84%).

The highest performing provider had the following distinguishing features;

  1. Structured job search to customise a job specifically for a person with intellectual disability and building a compelling business case to the employer.
  2. Undertaking job analysis to establish the employer’s needs for job performance.
  3. Systematic job training by qualified staff at the work site to achieve the required job performance.
  4. Ongoing support with the employer and employee to maintain the quality of the job.

DES providers that adopt evidence based employment support for people with intellectual disability are demonstrating high rates of employment outcomes from 5 to 8 out of 10 persons with intellectual disability getting jobs that last at least six months.

The Commonwealth should be congratulated for;

  • focusing on rewarding providers who achieve good results,
  • introducing consequences for providers who achieve poor results, and,
  • publishing provider results by disability type, and creating an informed market.

The Executive Director of Inclusion Australia (formerly the National Council on Intellectual Disability), Mr Mark Pattison said,

“High performing DES providers deserve our recognition for their excellence in assisting people with intellectual disability get and keep jobs in the open labour market. It is encouraging to see a growing number of providers achieving 26-week employment outcome rates beyond 50%.”

These results indicate that future reform of Disability Employment Services must ensure that good practice remains viable and expanded to reach a greater number of people with intellectual disability across all regions who need the right support to get a job in the open labour market.

For inquires, contact Mark Pattison;; 0407 406 647

Full statement including table

A national inclusive employment plan for people with intellectual disability


Inclusion Australia welcomes the Willing To Work National Inquiry into Employment Discrimination Against Older Australians and Australians with Disability report from Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan.

We agree that we must do something to address the poor rates of employment participation of people with intellectual disability in Australia.

We call on the Commonwealth to develop a national strategy based on what works in collaboration with Inclusion Australia to lift the participation rate of people with intellectual disability.

Just 8% of adults with intellectual disability in receipt of national disability services work in the open labour market, despite decades of research and demonstration finding this group can successfully work in the open labour market when provided with the right support.

People with intellectual disability are currently subject to a system that underestimates their capacity to work, and fails to provide skilled providers across all regions.

The Commonwealth’s evaluation of Disability Employment Services found that:

Research and practice in the field has shown that with the right level and type of support, people with significant intellectual disability can achieve more substantial employment. After 30 years of open employment provision in Australia, it is clear what works and what doesn’t in achieving outcomes for people with intellectual disability. 

Our plan — provided to the Commonwealth in 2015 — is focused on building competent open employment support. This support is critical to raising expectations, engaging employers, achieving outcomes, and providing savings to the Commonwealth.

The Centre for International Economics has estimated that national evidence based open employment support for people with significant intellectual disability would save the Commonwealth up to $53 million per year.

Our plan calls for a new open employment program which exclusively targets jobseekers with disability that are NDIS eligible.  A new support system must presume a capacity to work in the open labour market and provide evidence based support to give the best opportunity to lift the current poor participation rates.

The Federal Budget 2016 did not offer any indexation to the immediate concerns about Disability Employment Services (DES) funding. There has been no Indexation of DES funding since 2010 and this is putting the the viability of evidence based open employment support for people with intellectual at risk. There was also no discussion or decision from the Budget about the Commonwealth’s plans to develop a new national disability employment system.

Inclusion Australia, in partnership with Down Syndrome Australia, will be writing to all political parties as part of the We Can Work With the Right Support Campaign, to begin a national discussion to find a way forward to develop a long term national plan to lift the employment participation rates of people with intellectual disability.

Media Statement

16.05.09 – HRC and Budget Response

Supporting people with disability to have a good life must not be about politics

The request by the Commonwealth Government to State and Territory governments to cede the NDIS Agency’s Board nomination rights to the Commonwealth is not the ‘right way to go’ to ensure that the Australian community has a commitment to the NDIS and the substantial funds that it requires.

The States/Territories have a considerable financial stake in the NDIS and also provide a range of other services to people with disability, e.g., accommodations and health, and their commitment can only be assured if they have equal responsibility for the governance of the Scheme.

The current governance arrangements have successfully launched the NDIS, and as the Scheme goes through expansion and consolidation the skills, experience and capacity of Board members should be reviewed. This process will only be successfully accomplished through cooperation and negotiation involving all stakeholders, based on what is best to enable people with disability to have a good life and the appropriate governance of the NDIS and not with one party asserting its position.

The success of the NDIS is built on the cooperative efforts of people with disability, their families, the community and the leadership shown by all governments. The creative tension created by the involvement of the different parties has enabled the Scheme to roll out within an evidence based framework without the ideological / policy stance of any particular party or group prevailing. This governance arrangement has ensured the ongoing commitment of the Australian community to the increase in the medicare levy and the additional government resources that are needed for the full implementation of the Scheme.

Any attempt by one party to dominate the ongoing policy development and implementation of the Scheme places the NDIS is grave jeopardy of losing the community’s goodwill and hence its ongoing financial sustainability and viability.

Inclusion Australia calls on all governments to continue to work cooperatively to ensure the viability of the NDIS, the commitment of the broader Australian Community and the successful interrelationship of NDIS services with State/Territory services for people with disability.

Media Statement

budget logo

Budget 2015 summary

The information below outlines the announcements that accompanied the Budget 2015. Over the coming weeks we will be publishing the details related to each measure. 

I would like highlight the BETTER PATHWAYS initiative in the Employment section; we have been advocating for this initiative for over 12 months and it is pleasing that Minister Morrison and DSS have accepted our policy initiative and funded it! Congratulations Paul Cain.

For more information:

For more information about Department of Social Services’ Budget measures, visit the Department of Social Services website (

For information about the 2015 Budget, visit the Australian Government budget website (


People with disability contribute much to the workforce. They generally stay in jobs longer and take fewer sick days. The Government wants more people with disability to have to opportunity to work.

The 2015 Budget includes four measures to better support job seekers with disability and employers. These measures deliver a $25 million package over four years to begin shaping disability employment toward a new model in 2018.

The Government is also investing $17 million on business development to improve the viability of Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs). This is part of a $189 million ADEs additional support package.

These initiatives will be delivered from 1 July 2015 until June 2019 to assist ADEs to be ready for the full roll-out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2019.

The funding will enable ADEs to use professional services to help them improve their sustainability and prepare for likely higher wage costs over time.

JobAccess Gateway

A new central information entry point will streamline employment services for job seekers with disability and potential employers.

It will provide a new online and telephone service with information about Government employment programmes and direct access to Disability Employment Services (DES).

The Gateway will streamline services and programmes and create a virtual disability employment marketplace through a new online and client relationship service centre.

Extensive support already exists to help potential employers hire people with disability, including funding for workplace modifications and wage subsidies. A lack of awareness about these supports in the broader job market, however, is a barrier to getting more people with disability into jobs.

The Gateway measure will cost $9 million over three years.

Better pathways

The Government will also provide better opportunities for young people with significant disability at a critical point in their lives, when they leave school.

Through a $2.2 million investment, up to six month’s DES support will be provided while a young person’s participation in a state or territory funded post-school employment or Transition to Work programme is finalised.

Empowering people with disability

Through a $14 million investment (from 1 January 2016), eligible employees of Australian Disability Enterprises will have access to DES provider support for up to two years while maintaining their ADE jobs.

Currently, people with disability must resign from their ADE to receive assistance from a DES provider.

This means an additional 300 people per year in ADEs will benefit from DES assistance to find a new job, doubling the numbers who already take up this opportunity under the existing arrangements.

This measure will remove barriers for people with disability in supported employment to move to open employment.

Employment benchmark

A new 23-hour employment benchmark for DES will be introduced.

This will remove an unintended consequence in the DES programme that allowed service providers to claim participants were working for 23-29 hours per week while placing them in a job of only 15 hours per week.

This will address jobseekers concerns of not getting a job with sufficient work hours and will lift expectations of DES service providers, helping people with disability reach their full employment potential and reduce their reliance on income support.

Key facts

  • The Government is providing $17 million to help improve the viability of Australian Disability Enterprises, securing future employment opportunities for people with disability.
  • The four disability employment measures will cost an estimated $25 million over four years.
  • The Job Access Gateway will be operational from 1 July 2016.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is a new way of providing support for eligible people with permanent and significant disability, their families and carers.

The NDIS is currently being trialled across Australia and the Commonwealth and states are working to finalise details of the roll out of the NDIS to fully cover participating states and territories by 2019-20.

The 2015-16 Budget includes measures to effectively support the delivery of the NDIS as it rolls out across the country and a measure for early transition beyond the trial in
New South Wales.

NDIS full scheme technology

Before the Government can roll out the NDIS, the correct information and communications technology platform needs to be in place.

That’s why a new information and communications technology (ICT) system will support delivery of the NDIS when it replaces the current interim solution, which was never intended to service the Scheme long term.

The interim solution is not easily scalable to support the NDIS at full scheme and does not provide the full range of capabilities needed to support people with disability, their families and carers.

The new system will support about 460,000 participants when the NDIS is fully rolled out as well as service providers. It will provide enhanced data to the Australian Government and state and territory governments and streamline NDIS processes for people with disability.

The new system is estimated to cost $143 million over four years, with the Department of Human Services managing its implementation and integration.

Scheme roll-out

A carefully designed and staged roll out is critical to the national success of the NDIS.

The Australian and NSW Governments have signed an agreement to deliver disability supports for up to 2,000 young people up to 18 years of age in the Blue Mountains and Penrith from July 2015.

This agreement underscores the Australian Government’s commitment to introduce the NDIS in a carefully planned way across Australia, while also providing further opportunity to test features of the NDIS in advance of the ramp up from July 2016.

The Government has earmarked $20 million in 2015-16 so young people with disability in the Penrith and Blue Mountains area, and their families, can access information, referrals and capacity building through the National Disability Insurance Agency from July 2015, and individualised packages of support from September 2015.

Transfer of the Sector Development Fund

Responsibility for the Sector Development Fund (SDF) will transfer from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) to the Department of Social Services.

This transfer will allow the NDIA to focus on its key responsibility of implementing the roll-out of support packages for people with a disability eligible for the NDIS.

This measure also includes some refinements to the transition arrangements for Commonwealth programmes in NDIS trials and the My Way trial in Western Australia, at an overall cost of $3.8 million.

Key facts

  • The new ICT system is estimated to cost $143 million over four years.
  • The Department of Human Services will manage its implementation and integration.
  • Young people with disability in the Penrith and Blue Mountains area of NSW can begin preparing for the NDIS from
  • July 2015.
  • The SDF facilitates development of the disability support sector in preparation for the new way of delivering disability services in the context of the NDIS.



Students with a disability will receive the extra support they need with a record $1.3 billion being provided in 2015–16, and more than $5 billion over 2014–17 through the funding loading for students with a disability.
From 2016, for the first time ever, Commonwealth funding will be informed by the National Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD) so that all students with disability are funded on the same basis, regardless of the state or territory in which they live.