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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Friday, 23 April 2021) . . Page.. 1181 ..

Developing trust and respect is integral to getting good outcomes in any co-design process. When this happens, the outcomes can be fantastic. This is what we wanted for the NDIS. The NDIS was developed in response to people with disability asking for a program that would adequately meet their needs. People with disability were involved at every step of the creation and first stages of the scheme. Now, after seven years, the time has come for reforms to the NDIS to make it work better for participants. But people with disabilities are not being listened to.

In a letter that I received from nine local disability peak groups and providers from the sector, consultation was raised as a major problem with the introduction of independent assessments. They wrote that the NDIA has failed to meaningfully engage with people with disabilities and their representatives and has not adequately addressed the concerns raised since the announcement of the introduction of independent assessments was made.

People with disabilities have raised a huge number of concerns around independent assessment. In essence, it represents a move from the social model of disability to the medical model. There have been good examples of co-design in many jurisdictions around Australia, including within the ACT government. I saw firsthand the genuine commitment to true co-design in the development of the family safety hub. More recently, ACT Health have been co-designing safe haven cafes. I welcome Chris’s work on the access committee as well.

Co-design is not easy work. It can be messy, it can take longer, and the outcome cannot be predicted. Sometimes the co-design group recommend a solution that turns out to be hard to implement and we have to go back to the table for a conversation about an alternative solution. That is okay. If we really trust each other, if we build a relationship on the foundation that we are all here with a collective cause and we are committed to this journey together, then, with patience, we will reach the right destination and do justice to the issue.

If you are wondering where that trust comes from, it is love. Cornel West said that justice is what love looks like in public just as tenderness is what love feels like in private. I believe wholeheartedly in radical love and compassion as the basis for transformational change. To practise radical love is to respond at an emotional level to the pain of others, with no exceptions. It is compassion that is completely inclusive. It requires that we sit with our discomfort about the hurt that someone is feeling without defensiveness and listen when people are telling us their truth about how existing systems affect them. If we have the courage to look at those cracks in the system when they are pointed out to us, we might see the light getting in to show us a different way.

It is hard to walk a straight line with a crooked heart. If your heart is poisoned by fear and hurt, you will walk the path of anger and defensiveness. You will hoard what you should share and you will lock out those you should let in because you can see only what might go wrong and not the beauty of what is far more likely to go wonderfully right. You have to fix the heart first. But once your heart is right, and it is focused on love and compassion, your actions will follow. This is the path that I am trying to walk. I am grateful for the guidance of our community as I continue the journey.

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