Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1255 ..
MR WOOD (continuing):
Finally, I want to raise one point that was not considered in the report, which I believe was an omission-that is, that the real difficulties of working in this area were not taken into account. I think these would be the hardest jobs in Canberra, requiring the most dedicated people, and I had expected that my support for the report would bring this aspect out.
The report is often critical of people working in the area; I believe it should have taken more into account how difficult it is to work in it. There were certainly omissions and problems, but there should have been an acknowledgment of the very large number of people who have been working in disability services for a long time and who are absolutely dedicated to their work, in the most difficult of circumstances. The report would have been more balanced if it had indicated that and given respect to all the people who have put a lot of effort into caring for the disabled.
MS GALLAGHER (4.54): I wanted to make a few comments on the Gallop report. I spent eight years working in the disability sector: four years as a support worker providing hands-on support to people with a disability and four years as an advocate with an organisation called People First ACT.
People First is an unusual organisation in that it is very small and it is the only one of its kind in the ACT where the work it does is solely as an advocate of people who have an intellectual disability-not their parents, not the staff, not the service provider. Looking at the many different groups in our community, I would argue that those people are probably the most disadvantaged.
Back in 1986, when the federal Labor government brought in the Disability Services Act, People First heralded a new approach to the treatment of people with disabilities in our community. Disability standards were followed up as part of that legislation, and later came the Disability Discrimination Act. Great legislative change was made to protect the human rights of people with a disability and to ensure that quality services would be provided to them.
At the same time this legislative change was made, for many people with a disability life went on pretty much unchanged. In relation to the disability program, which is the focus of the Gallop report, the closure of Bruce Hostel and, several years later, the John Knight Hostel meant that many people who had lived in a large institution were moved into small suburban houses within the Canberra community. The reality for many of those people was that, while their institution had been closed, life was still very institutionalised within those group homes. There have been significant problems over many years, and I have seen things that I hope people never have to see.
Disability service provision, like any human service provision, has always been fraught with difficulty. Providing services to people who may not be able to articulate what services they would like is difficult; balancing a person's dignity of risk with duty of care issues is extremely difficult; making decisions about other people's lives-usually very difficult and personal decisions-is very difficult; and balancing the needs of individuals and individuals' advocates with their families' needs, the service's needs and the service's ability to provide a service is also difficult.