Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004-2005 Week 1 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 90..
DR FOSKEY (continuing):
I can only assume that this is because it does not wish to answer questions about why these functions were not considered acceptable. The working group recommended broad reaching functions for the commissioner in the knowledge that the system for supporting people with a disability would likely be very different in the future from the traditional service provision model of the past.
The future directions document released by the government in July of this year confirms this. It is an inspirational document, which seeks to create a society in which people with a disability can live a life of their choosing in a city that is truly inclusive.
It makes clear that in the future the focus for supporting people will be on assisting them to develop networks and engage with community services in a similar way to other Canberra people, so that the use of specialised disability service provision will be the exception rather than the norm. These plans, while laudable, will require significant change both on a cultural and a practical level. They must involve those that they will impACT: 2004-2005 people with a disability, their families and friends, government departments, services, and the community.
The Greens are happy and proud to support the work necessary to achieve this change. At the same time, we recognise that change of this dimension is not easy. It will take direct and indirect action on a range of levels within and outside government. There will be many hiccups and faltering along the way. Those who dislike or do not understand the changes will resist, regardless of the merits.
We would like to avoid this. This means that, for the foreseeable future, while the changes are taking place, it is imperative that the oversighting mechanisms we establish are robust and comprehensive. In particular, we need a commissioner who can look at the totality of services and supports provided to individuals with a disability and make recommendations in areas where problems are found.
If the commissioner is limited to inquiring into disability services under the new schema, his or her role may become largely irrelevant, because the majority of supports and services being provided to people with a disability will not be disability services.
We also need a commissioner who will remind us when we are not progressing and who is not reliant upon the whim of government in deciding priority areas for investigation. The government has been courageous enough to accept the challenge laid out in the future directions document. I now urge you to be equally courageous in accepting the necessity of a strong, independent oversighting mechanism in the form of a powerful disability commissioner.
The natural tendency of bureaucrats and services is to fear such appointments. Instead, we should be welcoming the opportunity that they provide to better respond to the needs and desires of people with a disability.
I my speech I have focused on the disability services commissioner, because this is the first new commissioner to be appointed with a specific mandate to examine the community end of our service system. In the near future there are likely to be other similar commissioners for community services, and for children and young people. Let