Strengthening Disability Advocacy conference 2014
Champions of change

4 & 5 August @ Melbourne & Olympic Park Convention Centre

A plan for change


Monday 4th August, 2014: 6:00am - 7:00am


River Room


Facilitated by:

Maryanne Diamond, General Manager Advocacy and Engagement, Vision Australia

Maryanne leads Vision Australia’s Advocacy and Engagement Department which is responsible for: Government Relations and Policy, Advocacy, Client Consultation and Engagement, Communications and Marketing. The fifth element of the department includes Maryanne’s work as Immediate Past President of the WBU and fostering and developing relationships and collaborations with similar organisations worldwide. Maryanne is blind and … Continued Photo of Maryanne Diamond, General Manager Advocacy and Engagement, Vision Australia

Panelists include:

Michael Cromie, Acting Manager, Victorian Office for Disability

Michael has spent over 17 years working in the disability sector in promoting the rights of people with a disability to live more full and active lives in their community. Michael has influenced and led key Victorian Government policy and service delivery initiatives to improve outcomes for people with a disability, and to deal with … Continued

Photo of Michael Cromie, Acting Manager, Victorian Office for Disability

Keran Howe, Executive Officer, Women with Disabilities Victoria

Keran has represented issues related to women’s health, violence prevention and the rights of people with disabilities over many years. She is currently a Member of the National Disability Research and Development Steering Committee, the Residential Independence Trust Board and the Board of Domestic Violence Victoria. In 2005 Keran was awarded a Churchill Scholarship to … Continued

Photo of Keran Howe, Executive Officer, Women with Disabilities Victoria

Liz Kelly, Co-director of TLConsult

Liz has worked in human resources and financial management across a broad range of industries in the private sector for over 20 years. Liz has a track record in Project and Change Management; she has extensive experience in developing solutions to complex industry change initiatives in the public, private and NGO sector, both in metropolitan … Continued

Photo of Liz Kelly, Co-director of TLConsult

Laura Lo Bianco–Smith, Manager Transport Accessibility, Public Transport Victoria

Laura’s role is to ensure that accessibility is a core consideration in all aspects of delivering public transport services in Victoria. Laura is an experienced policy and program manager and has expertise in a range of areas including accessible public transport, public health, local government and Indigenous issues.

Photo of Laura Lo Bianco–Smith, Manager Transport Accessibility, Public Transport Victoria

Session Summary

Is the State Disability Plan making change happen? How can advocates use the plan to make change happen in their communities? How have advocates already used the plan to make change happen? These are just some of the questions that Maryanne Diamond, General Manager Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia and former World Blind Union President, puts to this interactive and engaging panel.


Useful links


Audio podcast



Welcome to the final session of day one of Champions of Change, Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference. I’m robyn gail and i will introduce to you Maryanne Diamond who will be chairing our next session called “A Plan for Change”, about the 2015/2016 state disability plan. Let me tell you a little about Maryanne before i hand over to her so she can ably chair this next session.

Maryanne Diamond is the General Manager, Advocacy and Engagement at Vision Australia. Maryanne leads Vision Australia’s advocacy and engagement work and whenever i read about Maryanne i get exhausted. Listen to this, she leads vision australia’s advocacy and engagement work, responsible for government relations, policy and advocacy, client consultation and engagement, communications and marketing. A bit of an under achiever. She is the immediate past president of the World Blind Union. Prior to her current role at Vision Australia Maryanne was the inaugural CEO of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisation. She was recently elected as the next chair of the international disability alliance and was awarded the Order of Australia in the 2014 queens birthday honours.

Maryanne is blind, she has four children, one of whom has a vision impairment. She has a husband and i’m exhausted hearing about her life. Maryanne i hand over to you for the next session – A Plan for Change.

Thanks Robyn and thank you for that introduction. Like many people in this room we all do lots of different things and often at the one time. Welcome to this session, A Plan for Change. This is an interactive session, which will explore how advocates can use the Victorian State Disability Plan to create change and influence the future.

We just heard from the Parliamentary Secretary a little about this plan. And Michael I think it’s up to all of us to get feedback not just you.

Welcome to our speakers Liz Kelly, Michael Cromie, Laura Lo Bianco-Smith and Keran Howe. Welcome to all of you. I’m surprised I thought you all would’ve opted for Bingo. We have designed this session to provide as much time as possible to you in the room to interact with our panellist. We will take questions along the way, I will tell you how we will do it as we go.

We’re almost two years into the State Disability Plan, it’s timely for us to have this discussion about the plan whether it’s making change happen and how we can use the plan to bring about the kind of change that we know we need and want. Our panellists will speak on the plan from different perspectives and then we will take questions from the floor.

I think we’re all aware that Victoria has led the way in innovative and individualised and high quality support for persons with disabilities and much of this leadership has been influencing the design of and the development of the NDIS. But we must not forget that larger numbers of Victorians living with a disability will not qualify for packages under the NDIS. And for a whole lot of range of reasons. It is important that Victoria finds a way to provide the appropriate support who those of us are in that group while keeping the commitment to make resources change over to the NDIS as promised in the agreements.

I think I can say that all of us agree that all infrastructure and community participation programs and services must be inclusive at the time of development. The best way to do this is by using the principles of universal design at the stage of design of a program. We’ve heard a lot about employment today. Employment and community participation of persons with disabilities both in Government and in the community will be enhanced if there is a commitment to and the practice of social and accessible procurement programs both within Government and organisations Government provide resources too.

I will say before I hand to my speakers it is pleasing to see examples of the plan in action such as the recent reform to the taxi industry following the enquiry and the $5 million commitment by Government to upgrading the Geelong Railway Station in line with accessible standards.

I would like to move to our first speaker. Liz Kelly, Liz you’ve read her bio in the program so I won’t spend too much time but Liz is a parent of a person with a disability. She is a Deputy Chair of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council. A member of the Victorian Disability Services Board and has her own business. Liz how can the plan make a difference and how can advocacy, advocates use that plan to know and understand what difference it makes?

Thanks Maryanne. I guess the State Disability Plan was put together with as Andrea pointed out with people with disabilities input. From a Victorian Disability Advisory Council perspective I guess one of our roles or a huge part of our role is to ensure what’s in the plan, we continue to work with our various networks.

Anyone that doesn’t know about the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, it is under the Disability Act. We’re there to provide advice to the Minister and influence parts of Government around disability issues. There is place there for us to influence across Government the implementation of the plan. I’m a big one personally, I’m a big one for action. I like to see outcomes. I think at times when there’s a plan it’s very difficult as things over time happen you don’t realise they happen because you’re on to the next thing.

One of the key things that VDAC are involved in is ensuring that we evaluate the plan, we go back to the various groups we spoke to and other people when we put the plan, when the Government put the plan together to see whether things have actually changed, to try and measure some change.

I would suggest that we still have a long way to go and still will. I think to reiterate under a National Disability Insurance Scheme I think there has been a lot of focus on that. We’ve put a lot of energy, a lot of people have put a lot of energy into ensuring that it gets up, that it’s successful. We’re all monitoring it, looking at it. But what we don’t often think about is it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great package if you can’t get into your local school, get on to a train, get access to work, get into a workplace, really it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to be very helpful.

To me the State Plan and ongoing State Plans is about influencing social inclusion, influencing other parts of life as people with a disability, as parents, as whoever, what other people take for granted but we should have appropriate access to things. I think this is a way to influence things.

From my own personal perspective the reason I’m sitting here today, I’ve probably told the story, but anyone that hasn’t heard the story the reason I’m here today is because my son was included in a child care. Connor has got very high needs, he is in a wheelchair, he is ventrally fed. The childcare just took him in. There was no barriers, we were approached by the Principal when he was 3 by the school my daughter goes to to say what will Connor need when he comes to us. I know you’re all advocates, I’m sort of speaking to the converted here but I guess they’re the sort of stories that we need to tell people too. Sometimes we need to tell good stories, what has worked for us.

Obviously we’ve still got the hard fight too. From my perspective and from VDAC’s perspective it’s about hearing the various successors, things that we still need to work on.

Thanks Liz I guess half way through the plan is where we are now. It would be good to hear from some of you, do you think you’ve seen a difference since the plan was rolled out? If you have, let us know what, if you haven’t what would you like to see and how would you like to get that information?

Okay so those with the microphones if you look at Felix he will identify to you who is the next person with their hand up so we avoid someone having their hand up for an hour. We will take three comments and if there is questions to answer, answer them otherwise we will keep going for about ten minutes.

I’d like to just buy into Liz your comment because we’ve been trying to get this now for a long time. The publicising of good stories. As a parent advocate we’re only called in when things go haywire. You get a picture of the scene out there that it’s disastrous and awful. However we also know there is some really good practices happening in schools but nobody knows about them. That’s almost a crime and we’ve tried to engage the Ministry, the VEECD to put together a resource that actually tells us about these good practices because that’s how teachers learn from each other.

If you’ve got any suggestions of how maybe the advisory council can put something together. Years ago that was a very powerful tool that’s now just disappeared off the scene, there is nothing to replace it that we can take to schools or we can show teachers, principals, parents, whoever of how to go about it. That would further some of the objectives within the plan.

Thanks we will keep moving. When you get the microphone say your name and if you’re from an organisation that would be helpful.

If it took Medicare four years to come in why has it taken the NDIS so long?

Okay the next one and then I will invite someone to respond.

Hello, David Forin is my name. Thank you Maryanne and Liz. You briefly alluded to the point I wanted to raise is the prospect of Victorians. I think we do things relatively good here, better than other places so we should be congratulated to that at least. Services Connect is coming in. Age reform is coming in, NDIS is coming in. It’s a massive amount of influx. Someone else said at a conference elsewhere, if you don’t like change you’re going to like obsolescence even less.

What can be the recommendations or the uses or plan to prepare Victorians at least for what is a massive transformation that will or won’t lead to the ultimate care of people with disability in our society?

Liz do you want to have a crack at these, we can all help out?

I guess to go to the good story the first one, I think is it half way through the plan Michael there are some videos and there is one where I’m speaking about inclusion in schools.

There is a video up saying this is where we’re at at the moment. There is something there. I know that the school my son is in, is included because he also goes to a special school as well, they were really conscious of not being seen as the school that…because what happened in our local area is they were known as a school that was inclusive. So every person in the area even if they weren’t zoned were flocking to that school.

They were saying we actually want other schools to take on…it shouldn’t be something that’s just our school. I agree that we need to be able to tell good stories. It’s something that all schools can do and should do.

Can I just add to that I think it’s very unusual to start with a question that’s so positive and talking about good news stories. I don’t think we do promote the good stories well. I think we have pockets of examples of that.

I’m really interested in maybe catching up with you afterwards to hear the response you got from Childhood Education and Early Development. I would’ve thought this is a really good opportunity to present positive work happening in there from a Department such as Education that often cops a lot of grief. Really keen to do that. We’ve got an interdepartmental committee of which Education is on and we would be happy to talk to them about your question. The other questions are a lot more difficult.

Maybe I will have a go at Medicare and NDIS why is it taking so long. As we know Medicare collected a lot of money from tax payers and tax payers are contributing to the NDIS but it’s not sufficient enough money to cover the cost of the roll out of NDIS.

There is also a huge development and training of skilled staff that needs to take place for a full roll out of NDIS. A number of programs are differently managed and organised in each State. I think that it is learn from experience, so we can improve as we roll out to more areas. But also recognising that we don’t have the workforce, the skilled workforce in place at the moment if we were to just introduce it.

I think David’s comment on the huge amount of things happening at the moment, I think I will reemphasise the point made by a few, we need to work together. We can’t think of not having some interaction with connection awareness of what’s happening in other sectors such as aged care and so on. Keran, Laura do you want to comment before we move on?

Oh yeah I agree entirely with the importance of working together. I think us working with organisations like VCOS and other peaks is critical in keeping the voice of advocacy up there with regard to the reform that’s happening in Victoria and federally.

I think often disability service providers their voices are there, they’re very well resourced to be involved in different forums and conferences. It’s just really important that we link up with those other peak bodies that can make sure that advocacy for people with disabilities is considered as part of the reforms.

Thanks Keran. What we might do is move to our next two speakers who both are really heading Government type bodies and then take some more questions from the floor.

Our next speaker is Michael Cromie, Michael is the Acting Manager for the Office of Disability in Victoria. He has a lot of experience over many years with policy within Government. So Michael the Office of Disability is responsible for putting the plan into action and checking whether it is making a difference. As a manager how do you think advocates can influence the plan and find out if it is making the difference we’re looking for?

I think I should start by saying I think it was Mel that asked the question about, if you can do this for four years. The plan took a long time to come about, it wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was largely the work of advocates that made the Disability Plan happen.

The Disability Act that was the precursor to the plan came largely from strong advocates and the advocacy sector that played a huge part in making the act happen and making the act be something that means there will always be a State Disability Plan there because it comes out of legislation. That was a lot of work that came from your end that made it happen.

It goes from 2013 to 2016 and all Government Departments have put forward actions to the plan. You’ve got plans I think dotted around the room. Underneath the plan you have on the table is an implementation plan and that has 146 actions that are being contributed by Government Departments. It includes areas like health, housing, transport. NDIS won’t fix everything and I know you know all that but the plan recognises that the NDIS without a lot of action in areas like transport, education, health, justice and other areas will not mean that people can experience life in the way they want to.

It tries to pick up on the inter connection of all those things and the requirement of those things to work in tandem. Rights is a big part of goal  two of the plan. Advocates play a huge part in making sure people get their rights and exercise their rights, either their own or those of others.

How can you help us with it, hopefully that’s something you are interested in. We need to get it out to more people, we need more people to be aware of it. The plan is just a plan and needs momentum, it need impetus, needs people to get on board and understand while it might go as far as what we’d like it to, it’s a start of a catalyst for change.

Making sure people if they’re not aware of it become aware of it. Where you can assist people to tell us whether the plan is or isn’t working because certainly we’ve heard a lot of stories about where it’s making a difference but many, many stories where we think it doesn’t go FAR enough. We would like to use the opportunity from Office of Disability perspective to push the agenda and work with other Government Departments to push the way they are doing their work and certainly Maryanne in your comments about universal design principles are where we’re coming from as well.

We would like to see that adopted across the board but we have a way to go with that at the moment. One thing that’s happened certainly with the plan areas like the  self-advocacy resource unit and others have used the plan in supporting the work they do.

If a Government Department including ours, is saying they’re going to do something under the plan you can certainly hold them to account for that. This is signed off by all Ministers and all Government Department secretaries. If you feel like the things they said they’re going to do under the plan aren’t being done you can use that as a way in which you lobby and go back to Government. That’s a big role in advocacy.

Advocacy I think in that way will be held to account and will be able to continue to progress on the areas we’re supposed to be progressing on. I am firmly in the view that the plan isn’t the be all and end all. The plan needs a hell of a lot of work. The plan needs to continue to be something that evolves and changes.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned in also saying you can put me under the pump, she mentioned this is something we see that as something that needs to continue to evolve over time. We’re at a really, really important point in Victoria as the rest of Australia is.

As I said at the start the NDIS is only one part of this equation. We need this plan to work, there is no point having support finally and have waited for it for a long time if you can’t use that support accessing public transport or anything else and can’t get out into the community with the support you would like to do.

That’s our view and we would like you to assist us in the goal of making this plan a reality in those areas.

Thanks Michael, for your presentation. I’m going to move to Laura Lo Bianco-Smith. Laura is the Manager of Transport Accessibility Unit of the Department of Transport. Laura I guess you have an important job and had lots of experience in policy and management. I guess as the manager how do you think advocates can influence the plan?

Thank you, I have heard today from many people there are many ways advocates can use the plan. Using public transport as an example I will tell you how advocates have influenced the plan and continue doing it.

As you have heard from Michael and others, the State Disability Plan priorities public transport as one of its aims. It wants to improve public transport so people can get on with their lives. They can get to their medical appointments, work, education, social activities whatever. It’s an important priority.

To support that is another plan that sits under it, it’s called the Accessible Public Transport Plan in Victoria. Public Transport Victoria who I work for will be delivering on that plan.

I’m assuming you have all heard of PTV. It was set up two years ago to fix public transport, to make it easy to use and make it less confusing for customers, so they have one place to go to get information. We had a lot of input into the development of the plan. We relied heavily on what self-advocates and community advocates told us.

They told us our previous plan, which was all about infrastructure, improving railways and that, wasn’t enough. They told us we need to think about the whole journey. We listened. They told us we need to improve customer service. They told us we need to talk to people more. There is a good idea. They also told us we need to fix services and facilities. Basically need the trams, buses and trains to be easier to use and we need to upgrade stops and stations. Those priorities people told us about are now priorities of the action plan.

Those things are important and it really helped us structure the document. It’s really important now that we’re delivering the plan we continue to listen to what advocates tell us. It’s critical that they talk to us throughout the delivery of the plan and get ideas of what’s working well and what isn’t.

The plan requires us to talk to you as part of delivering it. There is a whole priority area around listening to advocates. We have to do it we just don’t do it because we want to do it. Just to give you examples of how we’re listening to public advocates, we’ve set up a public transport access committee. They’re a committee that provides advice to the Government, to the Minister and they come to us with ideas and thoughts around how we can do things better and tell us some of the problems we’re experiencing .We also ask them to consider things we’re developing.

When we developed the action plan we asked them to give us ideas on what we can include in it. They read it reviewed it. That was an important role for the access committee.
Another way advocates can get involved is by participating in trials that we run. As an example, I don’t know if you’ve seen the new E Class Trams out there. Two years ago when we designed the tram we invited people from the public, advocates, community groups come and test it. There was a lot of people with disability come and test the tram and as a result of what they told us we changed the design. There is more handles, colour contrast is different. People with a vision impairment told us what colours work better for them. People with mobility devices told us we need to change the manoeuvrability space. That was a real change from those consultations and trials. We talked to people about toilets, information and that sort of thing.

We continually seek input. Another way advocates can have input is just telling us what’s going on out there. There is four of us in my team and we can’t be everywhere all the time. We don’t always know what’s going well and what’s not. An example I think Ty is here from Blind Citizens. They came to us and told us Southern Cross isn’t working for people with vision impairment. They wrote a document with their issues and concerns. As a result we got an audit done and I know it’s taken a long time but we’re now going out to fix the problems.

I guess there are a few ways you can help influence the plan. You can tell us what is and isn’t working and I encourage you to do that because we can’t be everywhere and understand what’s working. You can participate in trials and tests that I think a lot of Government Services are doing not just us. And of course the most important thing I think Michael talked about when we say we’re going to do something in the plan, make sure we do. If you’re reading and it says December 14th we’re going to have the website accessible and in January it’s not, tell someone, ring us up, hold us to account.

Thanks Laura for your presentation. We’ve heard from Michael and Laura. One from the Office of Disability who is responsible for checking the plans being rolled out and what’s happening. We’ve heard from transport, which is one of the key pillars in the plan, what they’re doing to roll it out and ensure you’re informed. We might move to you in the room again. Felix if we can get our roving mics to people who would like to ask a question, make a comment. For the next 10 minutes if we take three questions, comments

Hi Kate Timmons from Disability Advocacy in Grampians. I was just wondering whether the transport is only for metro or is it actually for rural as well.

My team cover both metro and rural. We’ve got programs and projects in both areas.

Thank you.

Advocate at Leadership Plus. The issue I’m experiencing is the fact a lot of people are having problems with the ISP’s so therefore accessing general community and what have you seems to be not happening until those issues are in place. The action plan is one thing but then having ISPs effectively working is another thing. I’m wondering what’s being done to address that situation?

It’s a question that I’m not unfamiliar with and don’t have a good answer for. There is certainly more demand than there is resources at the moment. People’s access to ISP there is still a lot of people on the Disability Support Register in Victoria as well.

Absolutely the whole reason why the NDIS has happened is because of the inability to meet the demand out there That doesn’t answer your question in terms of what happens now for individuals. Certainly you like to think peoples ISPs where they do have them are working well for them. We take a person centred approach.

I think that still hasn’t got to the point where everyone can expect a really good, consistent way of going about making sure people what they want is being provided to them through ISPs as well. You’ve got a lack of resources in one part or unmet needs in one part. You have a lot of work to be done on approaches of organisations and the structures that sit around the ISP approach.

I can’t give you another answer about additional resources or anything because it is a difficult time. But the answer is the whole reason why the broken fragmented system described in the Productivity Commission Report needed to be addressed was because of the things you’re describing now. Let’s hope in 2020 when the full scheme comes some of those issues are addressed to a certain degree. The continued role of advocacy in that area is critical.

This is for Lauren, I have to say well done for improvement for the trains, buses and trams. What happening with the taxi?

I  don’t have too much detail on what’s happening with taxis. I can speak to you afterwards.

I have some of that. The taxi enquiry took place and that was about the taxi industry was obviously going through great difficulty. In part of that there was a move in providing greater number of wheelchair accessible taxis. We need to provide more incentives to taxi operators to provide more of those and that included regional areas and taxis in those areas.

The idea being those changes to the cost of licences would mean an increase in the number of taxis and hopefully that will flow on and happen.

The other thing is the development of a centralised booking system, which means hopefully people with a disability get priority in despatching of taxis so if a wheelchair accessible taxi is there and picks up someone that doesn’t require a wheelchair accessible taxi leaves someone else waiting for an extraordinary period of time is the feedback we’ve heard. Hopefully the centralised system works and gets off ground at some point soon.

Those recommendations have been taken on by TSC, Taxi Services Commission.

My name is Andy Calder. I’m a disability advocate with the Uniting Church at State level. I’m interested in this topic, it’s a taboo topic really in forums and conferences like this and it’s the word that begins with S, spirituality. I think it’s an area that often is very, very important to people in their lives. It’s a box that doesn’t get ticked when it comes to the service delivery for people with disabilities across Victoria.

Yet some research in 2010 that we did with the Office for Disability highlighted the importance of this area for many people as a motivator for social inclusion. I would be interested in the panel’s comments and feedback to that, particularly welcome further dialogue.

I wasn’t around back then Andrew but I’m sure it’s true. I think that is an area that you would notice isn’t covered within the plan as it stands at the moment. I would be interested in having further dialogue with you about how that might look.

Maybe you can have some conversation. I was also going to add as part of NDIS packages, when they roll out in different areas, people set their own goals and aspirations. I think things like that the important people will be part of their own goal setting. You might find of that addressed there. Liz?

I was thinking within the plan it probably sits within access to local community, part of your local community. Your community life and what’s important to you is your spirituality then that sits in that space within your community.

It’s not just about work, education, access to public transport. Actually being able to access whatever buildings or life you want to have access to, that broader community is inclusive as well for people. For me it sits within that space.

I guess from an advocacy point of view, if people are bringing certain things to certain spaces or ministers or local members, whoever it might be, that they take a copy of the plan with them and point to a point in the plan that says look this is what your Department or Community have committed to. So it’s something you can take in your hand, I guess it’s a framework that adds to your arsenal of tools of what you can use in your advocacy world.

Thanks Liz that’s really good advice.

Okay we will take the three QUESTIONS and then move to our final speaker.

I’m Jarad and I’m here on behalf of YDAS today. The plan is from 2013 to 2016.  I hope in November there will be a change of Government but how would that impact on the plan if that happens? Also I’ve been noticing quite a lot of good public transport things, construction going on in my area and I’m pleased to say how proud I am. It’s around helping. I’m wondering it would be really good to see more of that in the plan as well, with the roll on roll off stops if metro could take it on board themselves. That would actually be good to see in the plan.

Okay so first of all we’re not sure if there will be a change of Government until after the election. But it is a good question. And you raise the issue of transport as well. Briefly Michael does the plan have bipartisan support, does it continue to 2016 irrespective of who is in Government? Maybe Laura you might comment on the roll out of the transport.

Not necessarily. The Act requires a plan so there will be a plan in place. In terms of the current Government, should there be a change in Government obviously the metre starts again on that. My own view and this is not a DHS view, it’s my own, I think it would be very surprising should a change of Government occur and the commitments made by a Government Department in the past not be honoured. I think that would be a really difficult political position to put yourself into as a party. I think you would be potentially…I don’t think it would be a good move.

All I can take from that is that I think there would be unlikely to be a wind back of the sorts of things committed to. We would like to see more good things committed to if anything.

Laura do you want to say anything briefly?

Just in relation to the transport actions. Regardless of who comes into Government, PTV separately made its own commitment to improving accessibility. All the actions we’ve identified will still roll out the difference is how much money we have to do it.

We are doing a lot of work to ensure independent access for people, mobility devices. Putting out some raised platforms and that sort of thing so people can independently board trains rather than relying on drivers. You will see some of that coming your way soon.

Okay we will move to the second last question.

Hi my name is Michelle Critchely from Disability Advocacy and Information Service in Wodonga. Just a question on Myki, which I assume, is what you do.

Just wondering if you have had much feedback on that. As a person coming from a country I find it incredibly frustrating to come in, ask people questions, get different answers of where I swipe on and off, where I can go to. I think I found out I can go as far as Seymour and then after that I think it had to be on a different ticket.

I don’t have an intellectual disability, I don’t have an acquired brain injury, I don’t have disabilities from coming from the country to go to medical appointments. If I am finding it incredibly frustrating and difficult to move around I’m wondering if you have much feedback on how others are finding that.

Just to the point of topping it up I have to register on line, if I register it in my name does it mean only I can use the card? I just want to go and pay some money and use the service.

Yeah look I don’t think you’re the only one who has those problems. Unfortunately I’m not in the area that gets complaints about Myki but I understand there are some issues people are concerned about.

If you have a disability that means you can’t use the ticketing system we do have free tickets available. There is an access fare pass, a scooter and wheelchair pass, a vision impairment pass, companion pass. There are different options for people that can’t use it.

If it’s just about confusion you’re not the only one and we have a call centre that can respond to some of those. It will get better as it’s rolled out.

The call centre is that when you call Press 1 if you want to talk to somebody, Press 2 if you want to speak to somebody about confusion with Myki card, press 3 if you want to speak to someone else. It’s really frustrating for people.

Can I suggest, we haven’t got a lot of time. I think it’s a valid point and one many of us have experienced. Maybe Laura if you’re not the person in this Department you could take on board the comment and maybe some information made available on a website or through the Office for Disability that people could share about its use for persons with disabilities coming from outside the Melbourne area.

We might move to the last question.

My name is Christian Astourian from the Diversity and Disability Program. I would like to make a quick comment about the Disability Plan because I think it is a very good document to the point where the benefit of this plan it’s not only for people with a disability. It’s really a plan that will provide benefit to the whole community really.

When we talk about accessibility everyone benefits. From the point of view, probably I wouldn’t even call it anymore a Disability Plan, I would call it more of a Universal Plan for the whole community. Having said that I would like to add the fact that unfortunately with this plan there is no real accountability to stick to what the plan is saying within the time frame. There is no penalty for not following the plan.

The last important thing I would like to add, I would like to see more the private sector to be involved with this plan. There is a question I would like to ask the panel, how you think we can make the private sector be more involved?

Thank you Christian for that comment and question. I’m going to make the panel hold because we’re short of time. It’s a good reminder to all of us that this is not just a plan for persons with disability, it’s a community for everyone and how should we involve private sector.

I would like to move to our final speaker Keran Howe. Keran is someone I have known for many years and very interested to watch all the great work she does. She is currently the Executive Director of Women’s with Disability Victoria. As an advocate yourself for women with disability how do you think advocates can use the plan?

Thanks Maryanne and thanks Christian for that nice little introduction. I totally agree with you. I think the State plan is a good plan. It’s got some really critical issues in there with regard to housing. We haven’t talked a lot about housing and it’s a big issue at the moment for people with disabilities in Victoria.

But also all the areas that we have been talking about but it’s just a plan. What it is that’s really important for us as advocates is that it’s Government policy. It’s been signed off by the Victorian Government and as you say we need to hold them accountable.

I think the timing for talking about this with this conference is really important because we have an election coming up in November. This is the time when we really should be making sure that the current Government can report on exactly how well it is performing in all the different areas of the plan.

I think my greatest criticism of the plan is it’s not good at resourcing evaluation. I think it’s really important for all of the Departments that are relevant to be accountable in the sense of reporting back. What’s made a difference, how are we now seeing difference in for example, the Department of Justice in terms of access to justice for people with disabilities. We’ve seen a report on the enquiry into justice but haven’t seen specific outcomes at the moment.

My view would be that we should be pushing very hard in the coming election that both this Government and the current opposition can talk about what’s going to happen in terms of indicators of the future against the plan.

Our particular interest in Women with Disabilities is how the disadvantages of gender disadvantages people with disability. We’re particularly interested in health services for women with disability, sexual and reproductive health, we’re interested in violence against women with disability and the representation of women with disability both in their local community and the State level.

We focus on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and how it’s recognising gender as a critical issue, how it’s training the NDIA staff to be aware of things like violence and how to respond to violence when it’s recognised. It’s also focused on access to mainstream services. All the things we’re concerned about we can see fit with the aspirations and goals of the plan.

There are some areas that we’ve been specifically funded for and most particularly the gender and disability workforce development program, which is about making disability services more responsive and understanding of gender and providing much more respectful approached to women with disability in particular. But respect for men and women as being different and recognising there are difference between men and women with disability.

It’s basic but that’s where we are. We’ve been funded by the Victorian Government to roll out a pilot of that program and one of the really good things about that program is it’s not just about workforce development, it’s also about employment for women with disabilities as trainers. I am smiling at Colleen because she is one of our trainers at the moment. We’ve been able to train eleven women with disability and to employ some of those as trainers.

What I’m trying to say I think it’s really important that we look at how the difference components of the plan can intersect with one another and we don’t just try and do one thing at a time. All of these things as we know as advocates interrelate.

I’m conscious of time, maybe I will leave it there, leave it for questions.

Thanks Keran, given we started late I think it’s already past 5. I think I won’t go back to the floor if that’s okay. Not that there is not questions, more just time. I’m sure the panellists won’t mind being here a little after the session to talk to people. I might just ask the panel in 10 – 15 seconds if you have any special comments you would like to make, you might address the question Christian asked about influencing the public sector as well as private. Just some brief comments before we close and hand to Robyn.

I’ll talk about the private sector/public sector comment. It’s a great question, I think one of the issues for Government is it’s hard to go out and talk to the private sector when you’re not doing that well yourself. To try and engage a large sector of the community and get asked so how are you travelling, hard question to answer.

I think there was a firm view that Government needed to resolve a number of the issues for itself. It’s not to say a number of actions in there don’t also work with the private sector. That’s also within certain actions. I think we needed a start point, which was about Government getting its own house in order before going out and engaging with the private sector in a positive dialogue.

Laura any final comment?

I just want to encourage you to keep talking to us, telling us what your concerns are. Whether it’s the Human Rights Commission, us or attending our formal sessions. Change is happening and I assure you things are improving because of what you’re telling us.


I will go to the answer of the private sector as well. I am passionate about that area and I think it’s all about dollars. If they’re accessible they will get more people in their business and not only people with disabilities other people who may have access issues whether they’re parents with prams etc., etc.

I think to me it’s really about highlighting the benefit, and you and I know that Christian we’ve been out for dinner a number of times and spent a bit of money at restaurants. It’s not just restaurants but any area being accessible is really important.

I would also recommend through your networks I am sure you know someone who sits on the VDAC board, if there is issues you feel you can’t get traction with please bring them through your networks on to our agenda.

Thanks Liz, Keran.

Look just to say there is two parts to the plan and I often read the overarching document. The implementation plan is where there is a lot of detail. I encourage you to get on the website, have a look before you get into election mode. Have a look at the implementation plan that’s where I think you can pin politicians down.

Thanks everyone for your expertise and insights from the floor and speakers. The  take out for me is use the plan. As advocates take the plan and hold the Departments and Government bodies accountable for what they’ve committed to do and promised to do.

I think as advocates we should be holding then to task. Michael and his office will be taking on board the comments made today and using them in the action plan for the next stage, for checking how we’re going, looking at how we can report that better and so on. I’m sure if you wake in the middle of the night with a terrific idea Michael would like to hear from you. If you could just thank our speakers for their time.