UN FIFTH CONFERENCE OF STATES PARTIES TO THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
12 September 2012
Statement by Mr Evan Lewis,
Group Manager, Disability and Carers
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
It is an honour to represent Australia at the fifth session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
I would like at the outset to commend the work of the Committee and the Chair, Professor Ron McCallum, for their outstanding work over the last year to promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
Since ratifying the Convention, Australia has continued to progress significant disability reforms across our disability service delivery, our welfare payments, and our specialist disability service system.
These reforms are fundamentally changing our policy settings to improve outcomes for people with disability, and to meet our commitment to the Convention, to improve the lived experience of people with disability.
Australia is working to ensure that mainstream services, programs and infrastructure are responsive to the needs of people with disability, their families and carers for the decades to come.
Launched in March 2011, the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy is the nation-wide mechanism to ensure that the principles underpinning the Convention are mainstreamed into all policies, services and programs affecting people with disability, their families and carers.
The Strategy outlines a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation, and create a more inclusive society.
The National Disability Strategy brings together disability reforms that are fundamentally changing public policy, programs and services for people with disability, their families and carers in Australia.
Another key component of our reform is Australia’s commitment to a new National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme will ensure people with disability, their families and carers get the care and support they need to participate, as much as possible, in education, work and community life.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme will involve a major change in the way that our State and Federal governments work with people with disability, their families, carers and service providers.
The core of the scheme will be a lifetime approach – enabling choice and control; a focus on early intervention; a comprehensive information and referral service including to mainstream disability and community supports; and support for social and economic participation.
Under our National Disability Insurance Scheme people will have genuine control over the support they receive. They will choose how they get support and have control over when, where and how they receive it. For many, there is the potential to manage their own funding. People will have a long-term plan so that the support they receive can be adjusted as changes arise, or as transitions are successfully implemented over their lifetime. People will be supported in understanding how to take advantage of choice and options.
Australia has committed $1 billion over four years to start rolling out the scheme from July 2013.
In Australia, labour force participation is 54 per cent for people with disability compared with almost 90 per cent for people without disability.
Some people with disability are not able to work, however many do and they make a valuable contribution. Most people on a Disability Support Pension (our income support payment for people with disability) are not working, and for many of those who do work, income is low. Most of those who are on the disability support pension are on it for a long time.
The Australian Government has introduced reforms to increase participation to ensure people with disability have the same opportunities to work as others, and to strengthen support for those who can’t work by improving the quality of assessments for the disability support pension, and supporting people with disability who have some capacity to work into employment wherever possible.
Australia is also committed to upholding and advocating for the rights of people with disability internationally. Australia is a committed contributor in both funding and policy in the field of disability inclusive development. Enhancing the lives of people with disabilities is one of ten key objectives for Australia’s aid program and we are committed to ensuring our aid reaches, includes and benefits equally, people with disability.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides the conceptual basis and guiding framework for Australia’s disability-inclusive development policy, entitled the ‘Development for All Strategy: Towards a Disability-Inclusive Australian Aid Program 2008-2014’.
A recent mid-term review of the Strategy found that the first years of implementation have been ‘considerable and impressive’. Australia’s support enables people with disability in our partner countries to advocate within local communities, national governments and at international forums for their rights as citizens. In 2011, Australia provided $2 million to the UN Partnership to Promote the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to assist States join the Convention where they have not already done so, and to assist governments and disabled persons organisations effectively implement their obligations under the Convention.
But more remains to be done. In June this year, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, announced new initiatives to improve the rights of people with disability in developing countries. This includes $3 million to the Disability Rights Fund and a $4.5 million partnership with the Pacific Disability Forum from 2012-2016 to assist disabled persons organisations to advance the rights of people with disability.
Australia remains firmly committed to fully implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and to assist other countries in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention. We look forward to reporting on our continued advancements at next year’s Conference, including particularly on the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the implementation of our employment participation programs.