Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3387 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
I will conclude with a short discussion on a significant issue that was raised at the annual general meeting - that is, the difficulties of accessing legal advocacy by disabled people and advocacy services on behalf of disabled people. The ACT Disability Discrimination Legal Service provided by the Welfare Rights and Legal Centre has been set up under the Disability Discrimination Act to provide specialist advice but has such limited resourcing and funding that it can provide very little support. There are very significant matters occurring in the ACT in relation to the rights of disabled people. We are probably aware of the recent decision by the president of the AAT in the matter re Hill in which People First provided the most significant of the advocacy services for the clients in that case.
This interesting case raises, I think very starkly, the ease with which we dismiss the rights of disabled people. The case went to the right of intellectually disabled people in a group house to have some say in the allocation to that house of a further intellectually disabled person. The group that had been living together in that house for some time as a unit felt that they had a right, as the tenants of that house - their guardians and their advocates felt that they had a right - to be consulted about the addition of a fellow tenant to that house.
The AAT's decision was interesting and significant. In effect, the case mounted on behalf of the residents was dismissed on the very interesting and significant basis that the community care was not covered by the particular provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act under which the tenants were seeking to bring the action because the care was being delivered to a special group.
I will not go on any further. I know there are other colleagues who wish to speak in this debate. That case is a matter which I will be pursuing further in this place. It does highlight to me some of the very significant issues that we have to face in relation to the provision of disability services.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (4.32): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, I start by saying that perhaps the title which Mr Wood chose for this matter of public importance - "The needs of the disabled" - could have been a bit better. It would have been better had it been entitled "The needs of people with disabilities", or even "People with varying abilities". I think that would have been a lot more appropriate.
The needs of people with disabilities are very important to this community. It is a very sensitive issue. The needs of students, children and young people with disabilities are probably even more sensitive. It is certainly a matter of great concern to this Government and to me in my role as Minister for Education with responsibility for youth.
It is very difficult to put a dollar value on how much is enough to meet the very complex needs of people with disabilities, and especially students with disabilities. Also, as Mr Moore has indicated, we do need to look at the issue realistically in the context of the total funds available. Of course, the Auditor-General's report tabled in the Assembly yesterday made some very pertinent points in relation to that. I will come back to those later.