Q&A with the Office for Disability

Disability advocacy can and should play a role in supporting people to plan and argue for the NDIS supports they need.  This session was part of the advocacy Sector Conversations forum held at the Jasper Hotel on 1 March 2016 which was designed to give disability advocates an understanding of the NDIS planning process, the plan review and complaints handling process and how  disability advocacy organisations can prepare for the NDIS.

Other sessions included:


This session was a conversation with Fleur Campbell, Senior Project Officer, DHHS Office for Disability. The Q&A is a standing agenda item for this forum series.








Fleur Campbell, Senior Project Office at the Office for Disability is standing in for Michael Cromie. We’re going to end our session with our usual Q&A session with the Office for Disability. Before Fleur makes herself available before taking any questions from you she has a couple of updates to run past you.

Thanks Robyn and thanks everyone. Sorry I’m not Michael. I know he is probably much more exciting than I am but I will do my best. I am here from the Office for Disability and some of you may have run into Meriam during the break, I think she chatted to some of you at lunch time.

There is a broader audience than just the organisations that the Victoria Disability Advocacy Program funds. But hopefully what I have to say is relevant to everyone and if not I will try not to be too long.

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to DARU for organising today. Today’s session has been so useful. I know a lot of you have probably been in sessions where it’s been a lot of big picture talk about the NDIS. Today was really great at bringing it back to the personal level and making it make sense for how people will experience changes to their plans and the complaints processes and what have you.

I also wanted to say a massive thank you to Robyn for all of the hard work that she’s done in coordinating DARU over the last three years. We will miss her. AFDO is lucky to have her. The DARU is in a much better position now than three years ago thanks to the hard work that Robyn has put into the organisation. Big round of applause.


Okay this is almost embarrassing. There has been another restructure at the Department of Health and Human Services, which some of you may or may not know and it may or may not be of interest to people. I don’t think we could have a screen big enough to show you where we are in this new structure. I will try and point it out.

Can we get a copy of that?

YYes, of course I will send a link to Robyn, it’s available on the DHHS website if you want to Google organisational structure. You big nerd.


So we are, Anne Cogniton is the Deputy Secretary of our area, which is called Community Participation Health and Wellbeing. The Office of Disability has now separated from Office for Disability and Office for Youth which some of you will know. We now sit in the Diversity Unit, which is managed by Martin Turnball. The unit has a focus on whole of government, whole of department policy. It also includes cultural diversity, migrant and refugee resettlement and gender identity. Potentially some interesting cross overs for our work but definitely a new part of the department for us.

Claire Thorn who many of you know from her involvement I think 6 years ago in setting up the Office for Disability, she has been back the last 9  months. She will be going on to take up other opportunities in the Department. Also many of you will know that Arthur Rogers who is kind of the grandfather of disability services at DHHS, is leaving, I think his last day is Friday. He’s going to take up a special advisor role at the Department of Premier and Cabinet in the NDIS reform area.

I will just give a really quick update as well. The organisations funded through the Victorian program will have recently undertaken a survey. Minister Foley is really keen to work with us and with the sector to ensure that we have a strong advocacy sector moving towards the NDIS. Also, recognising that whilst there is about 100,000 people in Victoria who will be eligible for NDIS supports, that leaves I think about 900,000 people who have a disability who won’t be eligible for NDIS support. We need to make sure that advocacy is strong and that people with a disability are able to access quality advocacy support whether they are in or out of the NDIS.

The survey was one of the first kind of steps for us in identifying what are some of the key themes and areas we need to work on improving and what are the opportunities that the sector identifies. We had a 100% response rate for the survey. Any of you who received emails or phone calls from me hassling you will know why. The key themes were even though we mostly fund individual advocacy in Victoria, many organisations prioritise systemic and self-advocacy work and do that work within their funding allocation on top of all the other work they do.

There is gaps in service delivery especially around specific groups including Aboriginal, LBGTI and also in terms of key themes like education, and employment. Also, organisations vary in terms of the operational systems and processes they have in place. There is a wide spectrum when it comes to how advocacy organisations are delivering services.

I apologise for the inaccessibility of this. I thought I was being clever creating a word cloud but it’s wasn’t really accessible. We asked advocacy organisations what are the top advocacy issues for people with a disability. There is no surprises that the top three issues were firstly housing, education, and then disability services. Followed by abuse and neglect, employment and access to supports. I think most of you in the room would have been able to reel off that list without even thinking about it.

In terms of strengthening advocacy we asked for feedback to the Office for Disability about what the key issues for organisations are. No surprises there was a lot of commentary about future uncertainty and transition to the NDIS. There is a need for a greater funding given there is increased demand, complexity of cases, staff workloads that kind of thing. That we need a better approach to systemic advocacy and mechanisms for sharing information. That the performance targets so the QDC and reporting is inadequate and currently doesn’t give an accurate picture for organisations trying to share what they do in their organisations. And the lack of coordination between the State and Commonwealth particularly in terms of data collection for advocacy is problematic.

We thought that the survey results were great and really give us a strong basis for moving forward and where we need to focus our attention. The next steps for us are to enlist the support of an external facilitator who will do some work with the sector independent of us. To do some consultations and hear your thoughts moving forward.

That’s it, do people have questions?

Make sure you have a microphone for your question.

Thanks Fleur, that’s great. The survey is a really great way of collecting the information from the State funded groups. I’m wondering if you will be feeding it into the review that I believe is happening Federally around the National Disability Advocacy Program?

That’s a great question. Caroline Wilks who I’m not sure of her exact title, Rebecca might know sitting at your table. But Caroline Wilks looks after the National Disability Advocacy Program and the review of that program and the review of the National Disability Advocacy Framework. We have been talking more and more with Caroline about opportunities for there to be A, information sharing but also for us to combine our efforts when looking at how to strengthen advocacy. Whether it’s around looking at impact and outcomes and that type of thing. Recognising that because there is two programs that fund organisations in Victoria, without working together we’re only ever telling half the story for advocacy.

As you’re aware there has been a lot of reviews and enquiries around abuse and neglect. All those enquiries have made the same recommendation around the need for more advocacy for people with disability. Is it the purpose of this survey and of the Minister looking at it to look at funding it or is it just so he looks like he is interested.

All indications from our Minister in all the places I have heard him speak about advocacy and George you’ve probably heard him speak about advocacy more than I have, have been that he is truly committed to strengthening the sector. What that looks like who knows but there is a commitment, not just a tick a box exercise to try and make improvements and make Victoria stronger in terms of rights for people with disabilities.

Has anything gone to the economic review committee in terms of the budget process? Has OFD put the case to the ERC about the need for more funding for advocacy?

I’m not sure, looking at Merriam. I guess all departments are looking at their budget bids at the moment. As part of a broader bid there’s things around strengthening rights for people with a disability.

Is that a yes or a no?

I don’t know if I’m supposed to answer that question. Send me an email.

Okay fine.

So no more questions. Thanks Fleur, thank you so much, Fleur Campbell, Senior Project Officer Office for Disability.




Date published:
Fri 11th Mar, 2016