5.9 Issues on the horizon

To ensure DARU is aware of any future issues of concern or importance to the disability advocacy sector, organisations were asked to consider what they thought the big issues would be over the next one to two years for the disability advocacy sector, as well as for their organisation.

Initially, most organisations could not think beyond their day-to-day activities and needs, a response that reflects a stressed sector that requires capacity building. On prompting, most highlighted the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or the FaCHSIA Quality Assurance (QA) system as being the big issues for the sector. Other issues raised included the need for systemic advocacy, changes to guardianship laws, public transport, access to education, and human rights.


National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)

Discussions in interviews on the NDIS generated the biggest range of responses and comments from organisations. Most noted that the NDIS would be a major issue, largely in terms of increased demand on the advocacy sector to assist people with a disability to establish and access their packages. Much discussion also focused on the lack of clarity around how the NDIS will be funded and implemented, what services (if any) will not be available once it comes in, and how relationships will develop between the advocacy sector and the NDIS brokerage services.

There were two common themes in the discussions:

  1. The need for NDIS advocacy resources, which are fact-based and consider both its impact on people with a disability as well as the relationship between advocacy and the NDIS. Eleven organisations called for DARU (or other advocacy organisations) to support the sector get up-to-speed on the issues for advocates, as an information service and to host forums for discussion.
  2. The perception that advocacy funding may be at risk from the NDIS, and that advocacy funding should be separate from the NDIS to ensure independence. Such concerns were raised by seven organisations.

The range of comments included:

  • “I don’t really understand what the NDIS will be or what it will mean for advocacy.”
  • “We have hired someone to work on the NDIS.”
  • “There should be less need for advocates when the NDIS comes in.”
  • “We don’t know what is in, what is out, or if people will have to pay for advocacy out of their packages.”
  • “We are actively campaigning on the NDIS and providing our own submissions.”
  • “There will be a much bigger need for advocacy once the NDIS comes in, because people will need more support to understand what it means for them.”
  • “Advocacy needs to be separate to the NDIS.”
  • “Are services going to disappear?”
  • “It’s a big opportunity for us.”
  • “AFDO [the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations] is informing the sector about the NDIS.”
  • “DANA [Disability Advocacy Network Australia] should do systemic advocacy on the NDIS because it’s a national issue and they are the national peak.”

Few organisations had considered the relationship between advocacy and the NDIS, with a number reporting that the Commonwealth expected the new brokerage services to also provide advocacy. Discussions with DAV revealed that it is beginning to position itself to become active in the NDIS, but there were administrative issues preventing this from occurring.

Four advocacy organisations are operating within the Barwon area catchment of the Victorian trial of the NDIS:

  1. Assert for All
  2. Colac Otway Region Advocacy Service
  3. Regional Information and Advocacy Council
  4. Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service.

The first two organisations are active members of VicRAN and the latter two are board members of DAV. All four were open to sharing their experiences and lessons learnt with the Victorian disability advocacy sector. Together their networks could reach the majority of regional and metropolitan advocacy organisations. However, a few organisations still fall outside VicRAN and DAV – in particular, citizen advocacy organisations, advocacy organisations associated with service providers, and mental health advocacy organisations.

Therefore there is a role for DARU to act as an information resource for Victorian disability advocacy organisations. This role could take many forms, such as:

  • sharing the experiences of the four organisations located in the trial catchment with the sector
  • providing a secure blog on the DARU web page for advocates to discuss issues and share information
  • providing a fact-based information page, with links focused on issues relevant to advocates and alerting organisations to new information
  • providing a dedicated section of NDIS information and alerts in the weekly email update
  • collaborating with AFDO and DANA to share information amongst the Victorian organisations
  • hosting forums for advocates and advocacy organisations to discuss the role of advocacy to the NDIS.


Commonwealth QA requirements

Of those 17 Victorian organisations funded under the Commonwealth’s National Disability Advocacy Program, 15 were interviewed and 11 commented that the new QA requirements were the big issue on their agenda for the next 12 months. Two of the 13 had completed their accreditation for the QA. The situation for each FaCHSIA-funded Victorian organisation is described below, where this information was made available:

  1. Leadership Plus Inc. – not mentioned as an issue.
  2. Action for More Independence & Dignity in Accommodation Inc. – not mentioned as an issue.
  3. Action on Disability within Ethnic Communities Inc. – comfortable with developing its own QA system.
  4. Association of Employees with Disability Inc. – not interviewed.
  5. Melbourne East Disability Advocacy – in the process of establishing its QA system, no further assistance is required.
  6. Citizen Advocacy Sunbury and Districts – will adopt the QA system developed by NECA.
  7. Colac Otway Region Advocacy Service – a member of the Quality Advocacy Network, which is supporting each other to develop QA systems for the Commonwealth. Interested in discussing the NECA QA system.
  8. Disability Advocacy and Information Service Inc. (DAIS) – developing its QA system and participating in the QIP learning network with RIAC.
  9. Disability Justice Advocacy Inc. – not mentioned as an issue.
  10. Gippsland Disability Advocacy Inc. – actively being assisted by NECA to develop its QA system.
  11. Grampians Disability Advocacy Association Inc. – have hired support to develop its QA system.
  12. North East Citizen Advocacy (NECA) – has developed a QA system, and is actively assisting other organisations to adapt this to their systems, particularly for those organisations within the Citizen Advocacy Network.
  13. Regional Information and Advocacy Council Inc. – has been accredited, as it was part of the trial and is supporting other organisations across Australia through QIP.
  14. Southern Disability Advocacy – has been accredited.
  15. Southwest Advocacy Association Inc. – is part of the QAN, which is supporting each other to develop QA systems. Interested in discussing the NECA QA system.
  16. Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council – developing own QA system. 
  17. Villamanta Disability Rights Legal Service Inc. – not mentioned as an issue. 


Other issues

A number of other issues were raised as areas where DARU could or should keep the sector informed:

  • lack of systemic advocacy within the Victorian disability advocacy sector
  • implementation of changes to the guardianship laws
  • access to education, particularly for children
  • establishment of advocacy networks
  • public transport in rural areas
  • review of the Mental Health Act
  • review of the Victorian Charter on Human Rights
  • outcomes from the State Government’s Taxi Review
  • gender and disability.