Page 684 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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suffering adverse events in hospitals, or who are caught up in catastrophic events, is the desire to safeguard against such events in the future. This makes the quality of our statutory oversight, service improvement and complaints agencies crucial.

It is worth remembering that, following the board of inquiry, momentum built for a review of the complaints and oversight organisations, which was supported and pushed along by many disability connected organisations and individuals in the community sector and by the Greens through Kerrie Tucker here in the Assembly.

The government commissioned a review of statutory oversight and community advocacy agencies by the Foundation for Effective Markets and Governance that reported in mid-2003. In its response to that report, in August 2004, the government proposed more effective protection for vulnerable people in our community through the establishment of its human rights and service review commission, which incorporated the notion of a disability commissioner, similar to one proposed by Gallop, and other commissioners, such as a children’s commissioner, most recently supported by the Vardon report on children in the territory’s care.

In August, the ACT government released a discussion paper outlining its intention to create a new human rights and service review commission and, as part of that, a new disability services commissioner. I understand there is legislation to set up the commission, to be introduced next week or perhaps in April. As far as I am aware, there has not been any wide-ranging consultation or circulation of the legislation until now. So I am calling on the Attorney-General to present the bill to the Assembly as an exposure draft so that the community response to the legislation itself can help the government to get it right.

The proposed disability services commissioner, as described in the paper last August, is a case in point and is particularly relevant to this debate. The commissioner’s duties would be to inquire into matters relating to disability services, but not perhaps many of the broader systemic issues important to people with a disability, their family and friends.

Under this model, the commissioner would not be able to consider all the circumstances in the life of a person with a disability, to ensure that they are being appropriately cared for—for example, that their nutritional or medical needs are being met—nor would the commissioner be in a position to identify gaps in the provision of vital services or to identify systems failure by linking together a wide variety of issues and occurrences.

The commissioner’s lack of broad-ranging functions will have even greater significance in the future, as the government moves into the implementation phase of its future directions. The disability document referred to in this implementation report. The intention of future directions is to progressively shift support for people with a disability away from specialised disability services towards community networks, community services, family and friends and, in so doing, to create a society which is truly inclusive of the needs and interests of people with a disability.

It is hard to understand why the government has chosen to establish a commissioner focused on the quality and effectiveness of disability services when it is actively moving away from the use of disability services. Surely we need a commissioner with the mandate to monitor the impact of the proposed changes and to make it clear when

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