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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8594

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (21:54): Over the past few weeks there has been a significant development for Australians living with disability. Our nation is finally moving towards a nationwide disability insurance scheme that will allow people with a disability to have more control over their lives, more certainty over the level of care that they receive and more opportunity to lead an active and full life through work, education and community involvement. Under the NDIS, for the first time in our nation's history, the people who need assistance the most will finally be able to receive individualised care and support packages and have access to comprehensive local support systems. From mid-2013 the first stage of the NDIS will commence, with more than 20,000 people with significant and permanent disabilities across our nation benefiting. The NDIS has been warmly welcomed by individuals and families in our community as well as organisations that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

The Australian Foundation for Disability, AFFORD, is an organisation that has been providing disability services in New South Wales over the past 60 years and is one of those welcoming and celebrating the rollout of the NDIS. Earlier this year I attended a morning tea organised by AFFORD at their Canley Vale Community Participation Program. The morning tea was part of the 'I count' campaign and represented a celebration of the NDIS. A large number of the AFFORD clients with various levels of disability turned out to demonstrate their delight in the NDIS. They acknowledged the significance of the NDIS and its aim of providing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that all people with a disability, their families and their carers get the real support they need when they need it.

AFFORD currently caters to more than 1,500 people with disabilities in greater western Sydney and supports more than 500 people in employment. The AFFORD team, led by CEO Tim Walton, works hard to provide employment services, transition to work and retirement programs, accommodation, respite assistance, community participation programs and other vital services to people with a disability. AFFORD has a very strong presence, fortunately, in my electorate of Fowler. Its Liverpool base offers transition to work services where individuals with a disability complete a two-year course leading to a certificate I in Work Skills for Life. They offer disability employment services to 84 clients with the aim of assisting 150 clients by the end of this financial year. Twenty-four people have already been placed in work in the last six months. AFFORD has also built strong partnerships with local schools including Cabramatta High School, James Busby High School, the Lawrence Hargrave and Les Powell public schools. AFFORD services cater for individuals of various levels of disability, backgrounds and age groups.

During my recent visit to AFFORD I was briefed by CEO Tim Walton; Philip Anderson, the chief operating officer; and Fiona Ellis, the marketing and communications manager, about the transition-to-retirement community placement program for ageing employees. The program provides ageing people with a disability an opportunity to continue participating in and contributing to their local communities once they are ready to leave employment. The program is based on volunteering and membership with community groups such as our local Men's Sheds. It allows members to actively participate in planning their own futures, providing active mentoring, training and support.

There are currently 31 individuals participating in the program, with two successful transitions to retirement and three participants increasing their community engagement and many more intending to do so in the near future. Participation in the program has been shown to positively contribute to the wellbeing and health of ageing individuals with a disability. People living with a disability deserve the understanding and support demonstrated by organisations such as AFFORD and by the current government through the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I am convinced that history will judge our generation on how we relate to, and how we include, people with disabilities. This is the first step in a long way to go to ensure that there is inclusion in our place for people with disabilities.