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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2593

Senator HARRADINE(12.42) —I would like to know what the Human Rights Commissioner would define as a person with psychiatric disability. Frankly, I do not know whether we are talking about the same definition. If we are going to address this amendment properly we need to know about whom we are talking. During the debate I asked whether, in discussing this matter at the Committee stage, we should consider whether we are condemning the people we are concerned with to a permanent disability category. As has been explained by the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) and as is clear from the Disability Services Bill 1986, the purpose of this legislation is:

. . . to ensure that persons with disabilities receive the services necessary to enable them to achieve their maximum potential as members of the community;

to ensure that services provided to persons with disabilities-

(i) further the integration of persons with disabilities in the community . . .

Clause 8 of the Bill talks about the target group. It states:

The target group for the purposes of this part consists of persons with a disability that:

(a) is attributable to an intellectual, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of such impairments;

(b) is permanent or likely to be permanent . . .

I wonder whether it is appropriate to talk of persons with psychological disorders as having those conditions permanently. I am not a medico, but is not one of the aims in addressing the problems of persons with psychological disorders to give those persons some hope that they will be able to emerge out of the impairment caused by their psychological disorders? Alcoholism is just another type of example. I recognise also that we must address the problem of the permanence of the effect of their disability-for example, whether an employer is likely to take on a person with a psychological disorder. That also must be addressed when considering this amendment.

I acknowledge the problem that exists in a number of, for example, supported employment establishments, of which the predominant target group is the intellectually disabled. I note the distinction that is being made between the intellectually disabled and the type of stable situation in which they find their particular disablement, and the psychiatrically disabled. I acknowledge, and I want the Minister to address this point, that though there is a distinction, the disablement effect in many cases, so far as the latter are concerned, is permanent.

I note that the legislation provides that where the service is provided predominantly for persons included in the target group, the service shall be taken for the purpose of the Part to be provided for persons in that target group, notwithstanding that the service is also provided for some persons who are not included in the target group. I understand that there is a concern about this aspect amongst a number of people who operate, and have operated for many years, what we all knew as sheltered workshops but are now apparently referred to as supported employment establishments.

Their concern may be able to be overcome by this particular amendment, or perhaps this particular amendment is designed for some other purpose. I would like to know the specific reason Senator Peter Baume has put forward this particular amendment.