Those people with a disability are among the most vulnerable in our community and advocacy groups are the point of call this sector turns to when something goes wrong.
Martin Butcher, CEO of Regional Disability Advocacy Service which has offices in Wagga and Wodonga, was in Cootamundra on Monday, together with Central Coast-based MP and seven-time Australian Paralympian Liesl Tesch and Information on Disability Education and Awareness Services (IDEAS) executive officer Diana Palmer.
They were joined by Shadow Minister for Disability Services Sophie Cotsis and Labor Candidate for Cootamundra Charlie Sheahan to call on the NSW Government to continue disability advocacy funding beyond July 2018.
Those present explained the state is currently proposing to roll this funding, worth $13 million, into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), however said the NDIS does not cover advocacy services.
Ms Palmer noted any cut to the funding would result in the loss of 16 full-time equivalent positions, affecting 27 people; most of these based in the IDEAS head office in Tumut.
IDEAS has requested a meeting with NSW Minister for Disability Ray Williams, however this is yet to be agreed to by the minister’s office.
Advocacy services become increasingly important, according to Ms Tesch, when a sector of the community, already disadvantaged, is singled out.
“Our NSW advocacy organisations hold a wealth of knowledge, have strong relationships with community members an are the first point of call for people with disabilities when they need additional support,” Ms Tesch said.
“We have a long way to go to achieve full inclusion in Australia, and disability advocacy organisations are the vehicle to help create an accessible and inclusive society,” she continued.
Mr Sheahan stated Labor’s commitment to continuing the advocacy funding and called on the Berejiklian government to follow suit.
“Losing local advocacy services like IDEAS will mean that people with disabilities will have fewer people in their corner fighting for inclusive transport, education and employment,” Mr Sheahan said.