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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6971

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (19:15): I rise today to talk about disability, both around the world and closer to home, and to highlight the importance of social inclusion for people with a disability. Recent developments in my electorate and at a global level have reaffirmed my commitment to being an advocate for people with a disability. Yesterday, along with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is in the chamber, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the first-ever World report on disability. This report, produced by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, reveals some very confronting facts about those living with a disability in the world today.

The master of ceremonies for the occasion was Professor Ron McCallum, the 2011 Senior Australian of the Year, former Dean of Law at Sydney University, my former teacher—and he is totally blind. The report shows that there are over one billion people living with a disability around the world. That is 15 per cent of the world's population—43 million times the population of Australia.

During my time working overseas for many years, especially in South-East Asia, I often thought about the many barriers faced by people with a disability in our region, in both highly developed countries and emerging economies. Sukhamvit Road in Bangkok is difficult enough to cross at any time of the day when you are able bodied, and the scale and volume of commuters in the labyrinths of the Tokyo subway system are exhausting, but what if you were blind? In Beijing, there were many occasions when I could not find lifts at train stations, or any access points other than stairs for popular tourist destinations. As highlighted by the World report on disability and echoed by the Australian Council for International Development's Executive Director, Marc Purcell, our neighbours in South-East Asia have the second highest rate of severe and moderate disability in the world, with the Pacific following close behind.

The report found that there is a direct correlation between poverty and disability. It is a fact that these people have poorer health, lower education achievements, less economic participation and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. And, of course, for too many of our near neighbours, disability is the result of war: the landmines of Cambodia and the civil war in Sri Lanka. The barriers faced by people with a disability in our region include inadequate health standards, negative attitudes and lack of accessibility.

Australia, as an affluent nation, has a definite role to play in assisting these people with disability in the developing world. While we do provide aid to countries overseas for the specific purpose of assisting those with disability, we can always do more. Australia's AusAID disability strategy has been praised by the Australian Council for International Development as 'world-leading', but it remains the case that more funding is always necessary. The World report on disability has recommended that specific funding for disability-inclusive programs and for mainstreaming inclusion right across aid programs is absolutely necessary. This is a recommendation I wholeheartedly support.

I now turn to disability initiatives in my electorate of Greenway, specifically the widespread support for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. I commend Ability Options in Seven Hills, in my electorate, which does a fantastic job in supporting people with disability in the areas of lifestyle, accommodation, respite and employment. I also commend the Endeavour Foundation, one of the largest non-government disability service providers in Australia, whose services include accom­modation, aged support, employment opportunities and education programs. One of my first engagements after being elected to this privileged place was to present the monthly employee award at Endeavour Foundation Industries in Seven Hills. This is where supported employees fulfil pharma­ceutical and veterinarian packaging contracts. Its workers enjoy the dignity of work. Both Ability Options and Endeavour Foundation, and I am sure the vast number of residents in Greenway, realise and support the urgent need for the implementation of a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Many have joined the Every Australian Counts campaign, which I also endorse. Now is the time to build support for the implementation of the NDIS.

In 2009, the Disability Investment Group presented its report The way forward: a new disability policy framework for Australia. It described what it called a 'new order' to replace what it called the 'welfare model of disability services' with a 'three-pillar policy': a comprehensive National Disability Insurance Scheme to deliver lifetime care and support for people with severe and profound disability, a strong income support system to enable people who cannot support themselves through work to live in dignity, and a range of measures to facilitate increased private expenditure.

As we await the final report of the Productivity Commission on disability care and support, which is scheduled to be delivered on 31 July, let us all remember that the essential component of disability services is inclusion. As we can see around the world and at home, the main issue surrounding disability services is this issue of social inclusion. I do believe it is now time to embrace an NDIS in this country and also to look to providing more support for people in less-developed countries in our near region who have a disability.