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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2551

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (16:46): I rise to speak about a recent visit to Parramatta by the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform, the Hon. Jenny Macklin MP. The minister came to Parramatta last week to visit a wonderful organisation called Northcott Disability Services, and to witness firsthand the great work they do.

Northcott Disability Services is an innovative and dynamic not-for-profit organisation. While they are based in my electorate of Parramatta, their support extends across New South Wales and the ACT to 10,000 people with a broad range of disabilities and to their families and carers. Northcott provides a broad range of services, including accommodation, respite, recreation, day programs, therapy, employment, equipment, community development and support for individuals and families. They serve a client mix that covers all ages and a broad range of disability types. Indeed, some people with rare or lesser known disabilities find Northcott to be the only provider of appropriate support and services for them.

CEO Kerry Stubbs, Chief Operating Officer Lee Carpenter, Chief General Manager of Client Services Tracey Gleeson and board member John Surian gave the minister and the other guests a tour of centre. The tour included programs such as Northcott Equipment Solutions, in which trained technicians repair and maintain manual and powered wheelchairs as well as hoists and electric beds, and make wheelchairs specifically for individuals; Jobmatch, which provides job seekers with advice and job-seeking skills to those seeking to gain open employment; and Computer Assistive Technology Services, which provides information, advice and support regarding assistive technology options for people with disabilities. We then visited their community participation program, where Minister Macklin helped put together a cupcake mix—unfortunately, we didn't get to stay long enough to eat them but they looked pretty good.

But without a doubt the highlight of the minister and I visiting Northcott and really the reason I rise to speak today was an extraordinary speech by a young woman, Gretta Serov, on the importance of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Gretta is no stranger to publicity, having received coverage in the Sydney Morning Herald last year about how the National Disability Insurance Scheme will vastly improve her life. Gretta has cerebral palsy, she is in a wheelchair and she cannot speak. She told those present her story by communicating through an iPad. Gretta told the minister and those present:

Although my disability has never fazed me or my loved ones, the main frustration that has increased for me and many others throughout the years is the lack of, or restrictions on, much-needed funds.

She went on to say:

This issue has affected every aspect of my life, including accessing equipment such as electric wheelchairs and speech devices, which are crucial to both my independence and my ability to access the community. This year when I finished my Higher School Certificate, I have realised how serious this issue really is. Although there were many reasons for this, the main one which has affected both my emotional and intellectual health is the lack of support there is for people with disabilities wanting to go on to tertiary education. This includes the lack of care available while attending TAFE or university.

I have no doubt that Gretta will get to university and achieve her goals, but it is up to us to remove the unfair and unequal barriers that currently stand in her way. That is why I support the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and encourage all members to do the same. A National Disability Insurance Scheme will give people like Gretta the kind of support they have the right to expect, and give Australians who are born with or acquire a disability the confidence that they will get the helping hand they need to live a good life. An NDIS will offer people with disability greater choice and control over the support they receive and how it is delivered.

In 2012 we will commence work on the design of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We will establish a Commonwealth agency to lead our work on planning for the launch of the NDIS, working with the states and territories. I would like to thank Northcott Disability Services for being such gracious hosts, both to myself and the minister. While the government works towards the NDIS, Northcott is working hard to help people with disability reach their potential now. They are a truly remarkable organisation and I feel incredibly privileged to have them in my electorate.