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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5696

Senator CAROL BROWN (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (22:48): I rise tonight to speak on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the NDIS. As a senator for Tasmania and one of the co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of Disability, I am delighted that Tasmania has been successful in securing a National Disability Insurance Scheme launch site. It was a historic moment for Australia and a historic moment for Tasmania.

In Tasmania we are especially pleased to have been chosen to provide services to young Tasmanians between the ages of 15 and 24 living with a disability. This support is uncapped and is expected to provide services for 1,000 young Tasmanians. This number includes those who already have access to disability services and will also extend to new clients. A launch focussing on this age group will enable support to be provided to individuals at critical transition points to enhance their independence and promote their participation in the community and in employment. Young Tasmanians living with a disability will be able to be assessed to receive individualised care and support packages and will have the power to make decisions about their care and support. This will include choosing their own service provider and getting assistance from local coordinators to help manage and deliver their support. This system will be easy to navigate and will link people with disabilities to mainstream services.

The NDIS recognises the many struggles and challenges that Australians living with a disability face to obtain what the rest of the community considers an ordinary life. For the first time, Australians with significant and permanent disability will receive care and support over their lifetime regardless of how they acquired their disability. The federal government is investing nearly $38 million to make the NDIS a reality in Tasmania. The Tasmanian government has committed to contributing up to an additional $2 million a year. This is an outstanding example of cooperation and collaboration at a state and federal level, demonstrating our national commitment to better outcomes for all Australians living with a disability.

The NDIS announcement has been received very positively right across the state. With our high prevalence of people with a disability, the NDIS, once fully rolled out, will benefit many Tasmanians. For too long the current system of care and support has let people living with a disability, their families and their carers down. Their determination and their dedication have contributed to this significant change, and I applaud their hard work. Tasmanians have been proactive in campaigning for and supporting the NDIS. In Tasmania the National Disability Services do wonderful work providing support for people with a disability and advocating on their behalf. They have organised many forums and events to hear about the NDIS and how the NDIS would be most effective.

In June of this year—together with my parliamentary colleagues the minister for community services; Julie Collins, the member for Franklin; and Senator Catryna Bilyk—we hosted an NDIS forum the keynote speaker of which was the parliamentary secretary Senator Jan McLucas. We also had available to us the state minister Cassy O'Connor. It was an excellent turnout of over 100 people at the forum, with representatives from the sector, disability workers, people living with a disability and their families and carers all present. All were advocating in support of the NDIS and the desire for Tasmania to be a launch site.

On 6 July this year the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, came to Tasmania to attend a forum organised by the sector where the minister answered questions particularly regarding the hope and opportunity that the NDIS will bring to people living with a disability. We did not have to wait long. On 25 July the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Tasmanian Premier, Lara Giddings, announced that Tasmania would host an NDIS launch site. On the announcement the Prime Minister said, 'The National Disability Insurance Scheme is the vision we need for this country to overcome a fundamental unfairness.' It was a day indeed applauded. The very next day I was joined on the lawns of parliament by the Tasmanian Minister for Human Services, Cassy O'Connor, and many other Tasmanians who had advocated for the NDIS. We celebrated Tasmania securing a launch site. This was a very special moment for all of us.

In the past weeks I have met with young people with disability, their families, their carers and their friends and asked them what the launch site of the NDIS will mean to them. The NDIS will change the lives of Australians living with disabilities. We will all enjoy the benefits of an Australian society that supports everyone to fully participate in our great nation. This is why the NDIS must not turn into a political issue as has occurred during the initial negotiations with states for launch site funding.

Initially it was only state Labor governments who found the capacity to contribute for launch sites. I applaud them on this commitment. Since then, Victoria and New South Wales have joined South Australia, ACT and Tasmania in providing greater opportunities and support to people living with a disability. This cross-party support is crucial. The NDIS is a huge piece of public policy reform, so we need everyone to get in and work together to ensure it is delivered. Presently there are some levels of bipartisan support from all sides of politics. I hope this continues, because there are too many Australians who stand to benefit from the implementation of such a scheme for it not to continue. I want to acknowledge the hard work of all those who have made the NDIS a reality, especially the Minister for Disability Reform, Jenny Macklin, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas. Their compassion, drive and determination have inspired us all.

Recently, Treasurer Wayne Swan visited Tasmania and, together with me, Premier Lara Giddings and Minister Julie Collins, met young Tasmanians and their families and carers who will benefit from the NDIS and joined in their excitement. Sheree Hill, who incidentally looked after my own brother as a carer, is also the mother of a young man who will benefit from the NDIS. His name is Matthew. She told us, through crying eyes, of the joy she felt when she heard that Tasmania would trial the NDIS. She told Mr Swan that the scheme meant her family had freedom of choice. She said that Matthew will be able to access services that up until now they were not able to link into. Sheree Hill said that the NDIS will mean not only better outcomes for Matthew but that she will be to spend more time with her other children. The NDIS will change the lives of whole families.

I especially want to acknowledge all the people in Tasmania who made this happen. I congratulate our Premier, Lara Giddings, and the minister for disabilities for their advocacy and work to help bring the NDIS launch site to Tasmania. They are a state government with a strong commitment to disability services, with almost $175 million invested in disability services across the state in 2012-13. I would like to thank all the NDIS task force members for their commitment to the vision of the NDIS. I would also like to acknowledge Margaret Reynolds and her team at National Disability Services Tasmania, including their new CEO, David Clements.

Over the next few weeks in London we will be reminded of the outstanding feats that people living with disabilities can achieve, as the Paralympic Games begin. We will be reminded to see ability, not disability. The NDIS will also serve to maximise the ability of Australians, and we will all be stronger for it. I commend the federal and state governments on their partnership to achieve better outcomes for people living with a disability and look forward to the launch of the NDIS in Tasmania.