Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1212 ..
MS DUNDAS (12.13): In rising to speak on this motion, that the inquiry into disability services report be noted, I want to state that what must be noted particularly in this report is those who were involved, the individuals who have been, who are, and who continue to be affected by the issues that are at the core of this report. I know that we have to be careful about talking about certain individuals mentioned in this report, but those I refer to are not named in this report, and will to many remain nameless-those with a disability who live in our community, their families, their friends and their carers.
This inquiry was sparked-and we cannot forget this-because the system failed, and the system failed these people. What this report finds, and what has been demonstrated since this report has been made public, is that, if we continue to do nothing, then the system will continue to fail at the cost of lives, livelihoods and quality of life. I am pleased to see that a number of recommendations in this report talk about individual needs and person-centred approaches. This is a very positive new way of looking at the disability sector.
When the Chief Minister tabled this report in February, he said that it was time to start the healing process, and we must, without a doubt, do this. Pettiness must be put behind us. We know that this report was a long time coming; it has been caught up by politics and the courts; and there was a delay of two months before this Assembly and the community were able to see this report. However, the key now must be to avoid the defensiveness of the past. While the minister has established the Office of Disability and the Disability Reform Group, I, like Mr Humphries, eagerly await the comprehensive response to be prepared with the full resources of government that the Chief Minister has promised will occur later this year.
This new phase of reform must not be allowed to perpetuate the very power imbalances that were raised as a matter of concern by so many community groups prior to, and through the process of, the Gallop inquiry. We have to incorporate into the process a recognition that people with disabilities and their advocates have not always been enabled to participate on an equal footing, and this fundamental flaw must be addressed.
While I understand the pressures and difficulties experienced in the disability support sector, I deplore a state of affairs in which operational expedience has continually been allowed to override client's individual needs, and the rights of parents and guardians to be involved in crucial decisions. That said, the recommendations contained in the Gallop report do present a bold vision of what could be achieved in the ACT, and specific recommendations do contain many positive ideas.
In particular, I am pleased to see the recommendation that complaints mechanisms should be regularly reviewed because, as has been discussed in this Assembly when the Democrats brought forward this issue for debate, effective complaints mechanisms have an important role in empowering the users of services. In the disability sector, where clients are already vulnerable and heavily reliant on services, such complaint mechanisms are vital, and any mechanism that is then put in place must work to ensure that problems that come to light with the systems can be, and are, addressed.
I am also pleased to see recommendations 21, 22 and 23, about early intervention transition programs, and support programs for those people with disabilities over the age of 20. Children's mental and educational disabilities must be diagnosed early, so that